Chrissy Ries, female entrepreneur and mom of six, is bringing ethical fashion to the streets of Rochester. Just last month Chrissy opened eth'tique, the first mobile clothing and accessory store in the city.
eth’tique is an “ethical women’s boutique,” selling clothing, jewelry, shoes, and handbags from small business owning mothers across the world who are making social and economic impact. A purchase from eth’tique guarantees that no one in the line of product production was victimized or exploited. If that’s not novel enough for you, Chrissy runs eth’tique out of the back of a truck.
As a stay at home mom, Chrissy first cut her teeth in retail selling fair trade jewelry. “Then I became aware, through [the jewelry company] of a problem worldwide, where there’s these women that have these amazing skills, and men, that have these amazing skills and amazing talents and creativity that I don’t have. And yet, they’re struggling to keep their children and their home and feed their children and send anybody to school and fight poverty because they don’t have the market where they’re at to sell what they can make,” she explained.
Chrissy saw a drastic need to create alternative economic possibilities for these mothers who were living in impoverished areas where there was just no spending power to purchase their products. She also realized that people who did have this spending power often wanted to use their money in socially conscious ways, and use the funds to do good. But as far as women’s fashion was concerned, “there’s no local option to try things on, to feel things, to touch things.”
Enter eth’tique. (Pronounced eth-teek).
Just last month, Chrissy launched eth’tique, her very first company, with the goal “to make stylish and ethical fashion accessible while empowering others around the globe”. With eth’tique, she’s created a marketplace for mothers living in economically limited regions to sell their responsibly produced wares in areas with expendable cash flow. Chrissy serves as the middleman, purchasing the fashion items from the women and bringing it to the American marketplace with eth’tique.
“So [these women] have their own companies and they are driving social change in their own countries within, with them leading that change. They know what they need. They know what matters. …They know what their biggest needs are. They just need to be able to make their business thrive so that they can drive that change themselves. And so that’s where my role is.”
Chrissy herself is the living manifestation of the eth’tique brand. She is a small business owning mother, working to support her own children and effecting change for many other mothers whom she will never meet. And she handpicks all the items sold by eth’tique. Every time I’ve met her, she’s been wearing only eth’tique carried brands.
eth’tique sells fashion products from all corners of the globe. One eth’tique carried brand, called The Root Collective, produces hand-made Guatemalan shoes and provides jobs and opportunity to that region of Central America. The shirt Chrissy wore on the day of this interview was from the Nepali based elegantees, a company launched by a victim of sex trafficking. The eth’tique carried JOYN handbags are made in India. “They’re all hand printed leather and hand signed by each person. And they come with a little card that says this many jobs were created by this bag being made,” Chrissy explained.
Chrissy is constantly adding to the brands that eth’tique carries, helping to form a link in this chain of mothers to bring some piece of hope and change to even one life. eth’tique also carries American-made brands, most of which are manufactured in the Los Angeles region.
While eth’tique is a mobile fashion store, Chrissy also provides an online ordering option for those looking for streamlined convenience. She also drives the truck in and around Rochester, traveling up to two hours outside of the city, for private parties. With only eight RSVPs (in the Rochester area), eth’tique can drive right up to your doorstop to provide an afternoon of ethical shopping.
“But the neat part that I’ve instituted as far as my private parties is trying to equip and enable people to give back to their local community or to Rochester.”
Each time you host an eth’tique private party, you receive 10% of the total revenue of that party as an in-store purchase credit. Which is great if you’re eyeing up a more pricey item.
However, you can also choose to have that 10% revenue donated by eth’tique to a local charity or non-profit. Or maybe you want to contribute to somebody’s adoption or mission trip. The main goal is just to get people to start seeing need in the community and give back.
Opening eth’tique was a huge risk and life change for Chrissy. She’s actually a trained nurse. Besides her brief stint in direct jewelry sales, she had no other retail experience. And she’s a very busy mom of six children, so a transition from stay-at-home-mom to small business owner was a major life decision.
Chrissy explained that she didn’t have to work if she chose not to, a decision she recognizes is not the case for every American woman. But her world would not have been impacted if she worked or not.
“And so there’s all these people across the world that want to work and can’t because nobody will buy what they can do. …If I was going to work, I wanted to make it work for somebody else as well.”
The idea of ethically manufactured women’s fashion, sold out of a truck, seemed like the perfect solution. A mobile clothing boutique in Rochester is certainly a novelty. The truck allowed for less overhead for starting a new business. But more importantly, the truck allowed her more flexibility to be that mom to her children. With the truck, she could set very flexible hours and work both from home and on the road.
I first met Chrissy at the eth’tique grand opening on June 18th in the Forager Brewing Company parking lot. Her time as a female entrepreneur so far has been “very, very busy. It’s been fun. There’s been a lot of things I didn’t know.”
The biggest thing she’s had to sift out: figuring out what products will be good sellers. Finding a balance between home and work life has also been no walk in the park.
“I carry a big load between everything on my plate. And I want to. It’s making me a more complete person, but it’s still a lot to figure out.”
Want to find the eth’tique truck around Rochester or book a private party? Check out the eth’tique website and Facebook page for the latest information.