Dig Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge’s first benevolent boutique

The holiday season is all about giving, and local boutique Southern Sophisticate makes charity its number one priority. Owner Rachel Vielee, originally from Zachary was looking for a way to pair her passion for fashion with her desire to help others.

A little over a year ago, Vielee’s dream vision broke ground in Baton Rouge as its first benevolent boutique, established on a strong foundation of faith and her southern roots.

“I noticed when I was shopping that I would see maybe one thing in a boutique that gave back,” said Vielee. “I don’t think Louisiana has a boutique with various options, where you can just go to one store and everything gives back.”

Southern Sophisticate boasts a long list of charities it benefits, on top of an on-trend inventory competitive with other local boutiques. Vielee takes great care in researching different organizations to partner with, and ensures that a good portion of the proceeds from the items give back to the respective charities. Not everything in the store gives back just yet, but it’s a mission that Vielee is hard-pressed to complete. Every charitable item has a story, and most carry personal touches from the artisans who made them.

Brands like Elegantees and Purpose Jewelry are made by those rescued from of human trafficking, and the proceeds go towards education, health care, counseling, and empowering women. Roma Boots operates on a one-for-one ratio, plus an added 10 percent. The purchase of small soaps helps to bring clean water and soap to developing countries, and Bridgewater Candles donate meals through Half United. Lunchboxes made by DamnDog, a brand native to Louisiana, benefits Louisiana SPCA.

Other organizations, like The Shine Project, work to send first generation students to college, and Southern Sophisticate offers a wide variety of dainty, handmade jewelry to benefit this cause. Natural Life, which supplies clothes with a happy message, promotes mental health awareness. Also available are a number of fair trade and cruelty free items. One of their newest brands, Synergy, is made from pure, organic cotton.

“I feel like we’re changing lives every day, just by shopping,” said Vielee. “Just by doing something you already do.”

One of the newest projects at the store is called The Stitch. With the purchase of a small stitch kit, 100 percent of those proceeds are donated to fight child sexual abuse. They encourage buyers to stitch an orange zig-zag onto a piece of clothing, snap a picture, and share it online to spread awareness.

Southern Sophisticate sets itself apart from numerous other boutiques in Baton Rouge, according to Vielle, because not only do the majority of the products benefit others in some way, but it’s the perfect opportunity to give back for those who may not normally be able to.

“So many people have that desire to give in their heart, but they’re living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “So, if you were going to buy a Christmas present for someone anyway or you were going buy a new blouse for an interview, you purchase here, and you know you’re giving back without writing a big check.”

Shoppers can differentiate how the items they purchase give back through Vielle’s tagging system. On every tag, she marks by hand exactly how that particular item benefits the community. This way, shoppers will know for certain just how their purchase will help someone in need. Vielle also keeps pamphlets at the register with more information about the organizations she’s partnered with, which contain more ways to get involved in the causes that matter.

Southern Sophisticate is located on 7685 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. They’re open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Stop by and discover all of the ways you can give back to others at Baton Rouge’s first benevolent boutique.

Images: Mandy Samson

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