For Women’s History Month, MendIt is hosting a blog series titled Women in Sustainability. Learn about a few amazing, passionate, and sustainability-focused female founders and the legacy they are creating to make our world a better place.
In this post, we had the opportunity to interview the lovely Elizabeth Berg and learn more about her newly launched sustainable fashion boutique, Oak + Sparrow, located in the Houston Heights at 1051 Heights Blvd, Suite 130, Houston, TX 77008.
Elizabeth holds a BA from University of Houston in Consumer Science and Merchandising. She worked in a number of boutiques before joining her mother to open Tres Chic in Upper Kirby. Elizabeth and her mother grew Tres Chic for over 15 exciting years, and she has now branched off to open her own boutique, Oak + Sparrow.
Q: What is the story behind Oak + Sparrow?
A: As I was planning to open a second Tres Chic last summer, I watched a documentary called The True Cost, which opened my eyes to the sprawling atrocities of the fashion industry, both on garment workers and our world. As I did a little more research I was deeply convicted that I needed to work towards bettering the fashion industry in this new shop. It began to take on a life of it's own, and the vision for Oak and Sparrow was birthed. Six crazy weeks later, I opened my doors in the Houston Heights offering ethical and sustainable women's fashions and home goods from vendors working to change the industry.
Q: How did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
A: With knowledge comes great responsibility. We are accountable to the things we know. Ultimately, I believe God directed the vision and has taken me on this adventure. It was a collaborative effort between me and God from the inception of the idea.
Q: What makes Oak + Sparrow different from other boutiques?
A: I vet all of my vendors to make sure they are paying fair wages to their workers and working towards making products more sustainably. You can walk in and be certain that you are buying products that are not contributing to the exploitation of people. In fact, many of my brands are Fair Trade Certified and/or charitable in some way. Some are helping women and girls out of a life of being trafficked and giving them opportunities and dignity, others are fighting poverty, and some handmade by artisans all over the world. Click to read more about Oak + Sparrow's values.
Additionally, I have added a thrifted section to my assortment, which has been taking off. Second hand is such a pivotal piece of the sustainable puzzle, so I offer carefully curated thrifted and vintage clothing, accessories, and home goods as well.
Q: What are some of the biggest barriers you had to overcome when launching your business?
A: Getting the word out. Marketing has been slow going. I have been working alone but just signed with a marketing agency to give me a boost, so I am hopeful to see what we can do together.
Q: As a female founder in the sustainability market, what do you think about your legacy and future generations?
A: I am excited to be part of the group of people promoting a better way for a better future. It is a small part that I play, and I am learning while I go. I believe when you have a lot of people doing small things, you can implement significant and lasting change.
Q:How has the pandemic affected your business? How have you had to adapt?
A: The week before I opened 80% of my displays were empty. It was terrifying. I had an opening party planned and thought I may not have merchandise in the store for the opening. The supply chain was really tricky to navigate, but everything came in at the last minute and we had a fantastic October!
Q: What is your favorite piece/brand that you carry in Oak + Sparrow? Why?
A: Right now, I am obsessing over Starfish Project. They are a 501c3 nonprofit and Fair Trade Certified. I still get tingles when I talk about the brand. They are making relationships with women in the sex trade overseas. They offer them a different life, giving them job training, educational and housing opportunities that they would not have otherwise. Women being courageous to give dignity and new life to these women stuck in desperate situations. On top of that, the line is gorgeous. I find that often, ethical and sustainable fashion has the heart but not the fashion sense. It has been a huge uphill battle to find brands that are BOTH ethical AND beautiful. This, and many of my other lines, are both.
Check out just a few of the many beautiful pieces from Starfish Project, available at Oak + Sparrow: