robin's egg blue doors beckon passersby into the Studewood Street bungalow that houses Kind Collective, a new Heights boutique opened this summer by longtime friends Rachel Levine and Kelly McGill. The charming converted home is full of giftable treasures, most of which support charitable causes and social enterprises around the world.
Which makes it that much easier to shop the carefully curated inventory, everything from cozy knit blankets and dainty gold jewelry to hand-painted ceramic dishware and sweet baby apparel.
"We wanted to do something that would bring people in and provide a sort of purpose for their purchase," says Levine, who oversees day-to-day operations at the store and handles the buying. "It's nice to be able to introduce people to brands they haven't heard of before that are doing really good things and also have really wonderful craftsmanship."
As more shoppers become increasingly conscious with their dollars, eschewing fast fashion and prioritizing sustainable and ethical brands, local shops like Kind Collective—and the artisans they carry—benefit. The boutique stocks several brands that are actually social enterprises and non-profits, providing fair wages and safe working conditions to empower artisans in marginalized groups or underserved areas in the U.S. and overseas, and investing profits back into the communities they employ.
And their work is beautiful. "I like a lot of the brands that focus on traditional craftsmanship," Levine says. Like vibrant, one-of-a-kind rugs hand-made by women in Guatemala with traditional backstrap weaving—so a runner is only as wide as the artisan's hips who crafted it.
Levine also stocks Collective Humanity, a non-profit that works to bring dignified economic opportunities to impoverished communities around the world. You'll find buttery-soft blankets and hand-woven throws from a women's co-op in Cambodia, and every textile includes the story—and photo—of the woman who made it. "We have some people that come in just and want to buy something really pretty," Levine says. "They take it home and they're like, 'oh, this is really cool—I know where this came from; I know who made this.'"
Then there are accessories—leather bags, horn and bone earrings, and more—from Haiti Design Co.; colorful, lightweight knits from Ursa Textiles; elegant Moroccan ceramics from Chabi Chic; and unique jewelry from MÂKUA made by indigenous Colombian communities.
Levine wanted inventory to be accessible: Prices range from $6.50 for a small engraved dish to $280 for a wool blanket. She often consults with her sister, Sally, who's seven years her junior—and who also helps manage the store—to ensure they're not isolating an audience of, say, recent college grads with tight budgets who still want to shop for something nice. "You could definitely come in and spend $20," she says.
Both co-owners are Sugar Land natives, and Levine has lived in the Heights for three years. "We knew we wanted to do something in the neighborhood," she says, "and I knew I wanted to have that Heights vibe—it's just a really cool community."
And as for the store itself—which officially opened in July—it's the realization of a longtime dream. "I have always wanted to open a boutique," says Levine, who previously worked in sales for an industrial chemical company. "My family was like, 'you should do it. You'll always regret it if you don't.'"
Though they carry accessories, a simple women's apparel selection, and a burgeoning kids' section, Kind Collective is concentrating on home goods, which make up the bulk of the artfully arranged product: Glass vases, wooden cutting boards, and ombré throw pillows abound here. "There are a lot of really cool stores in the Heights, but not a ton that really focus on home goods," Levine says.
There's plenty of Texas love in the shop, too, including handicrafts from Austin and here in H-Town. "But I'd love to find more Houston brands to carry," says Levine. "We're definitely looking for more—we're always open."