We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Berg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
Only 2% of garment workers are actually paid a living wage. I’ve been in the fashion industry for 20 years, and had no clue until I watched a documentary entitled The True Cost outlying the harrowing damage that is being done to both our earth and the people in it. I was flabbergasted that I was so unaware and had been a consumer of fast fashion for so many years, contributing to the problem. As we know, with knowledge comes both power and great responsibility. I was now accountable to this knowledge. What was I going to do about it? I decided to leave the boutique I had been running with my mom for many years and open a shop that focused on ethically and sustainably made goods. It was a whirlwind as I signed the lease and 6 short weeks later had my grand opening in the Heights. There was a very steep learning curve for me learning what questions to be asking my vendors, and how to find people that were doing business differently and ethically. I am still learning, but so thrilled to be a part of the change.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
After getting a degree in Consumer Science and Merchandising from the University of Houston, I worked a few jobs at various boutiques around Houston before deciding to join my mom in operating Tres Chic in Upper Kirby. She had been doing trunk shows with friend, and decided to expand. I came alongside her and grew the boutique with her. We worked together for 15 years before I decided to branch off on my own with Oak and Sparrow Boutique. Oak and Sparrow is unique in that it offers exclusively ethical and sustainable fashions and home goods. I vet all my vendors to make sure they are treating their workers fairly and working towards a more sustainable way of making clothes and jewelry. The shop also has a thrifted section. If you know anything about sustainability, it follows the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle model. Second hand and vintage goods are a great way to work toward living more sustainably. When visiting the Pacific North West last summer, I noticed some boutiques were offering some vintage in their mix of new items, and it became a part of my vision. I was excited when I dipped my toe in and people dug it.
It has been a tough journey. It was certainly not an “If you build it, they will come” scenario. Getting the word out that I am here in the Heights, nestled between tasty goodness of Dish Society, Clean Juice, and Tiff’s Treats has been an uphill battle. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I have been connecting with my neighbors and hosting private shopping parties which has been a fun marketing and networking opportunity. I also do some pop-ups. I am four months in and have a long road ahead of me, but it is an exciting road full of adventure that leads to a better world.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
YUM! So the visit would definitely center around food, since I am thoroughly convinced that Houston has some of the best food in the world. I would take them to Anvil and Captain Foxtrot’s Bad News Bar for epic libations. Bad News Bar is fun because it doesn’t have a sign so you have to have the inside track, but they have a great view of downtown from their second story balcony. We would visit Oporto on West Grey for great ambiance and sharable dishes. Kiran’s for epic Indian fare. Coltivare for a farm-to-table dinner and Squable for the Dutch Baby for desert. Drooling as I type over here. And of course brunch would be a must. Common Bond in the Heights of course for brunch/pastries and Tiny Boxwoods for coffee and the best cookie in town. To walk off the calories, we would go to the Arboretum. Coffee at A 2nd Cup fighting human trafficking. Shopping 19th Street, Height Mercantile and of course Oak + Sparrow.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
When I look around at this gorgeous boutique and all the design and elements that came to life in the short 6 weeks we took to open, I see the hands, hearts, creativity and sweat of so many people in my community. Friends and family banned together to contribute in impressive numbers. We had a number of work hard/play hard days where people came with smiles, willing to help with whatever loose ends needed to be worked out that day. I had friends, putting together fixtures and furniture, creating art installations, and even gold leafing my logo that is above my desk. As a result, I felt like I wasn’t alone. Each person became a partner or stakeholder with their sweat equity. It was a beautiful time that has impacted my business and the way I operate. I bring my social media followers in too, with polls on what to buy or what to pass on and other business decisions, so we are all in it together.
Yelp: Oak and Sparrow