FashionABLE is a socially conscious accessories brand based in Nashville, Tennessee dedicated to empowering women who have overcome challenges such as addiction and prostitution. FashionABLE started by Barrett Ward when living in Ethiopia with his wife and met women coming out of commercial sex industry who wanted jobs. Hearing from these women that it was often difficult to get jobs, they started creating and selling beautiful scarves, leather goods and adding jewelry by Miriam Collection to create opportunity for the women.
Tell us about your journey starting FashionABLE
The concept for Fashionable began in 2008 while me and my wife, Rachel,were living in Ethiopia. At the time I worked with Mocha Club, a nonprofit organization I cofounded in 2005. I learned that women who might otherwise resort to prostitution due to lack of opportunity could be trained to weave scarves and sell them for a profit. I then started the Ethiopian business, which became the first product manufacturing supplier for FASHIONABLE. Today FASHIONABLE works globally with women coming from many diverse backgrounds, all looking for opportunity.
What does “slow fashion” means to you and how does FASHIONABLE engage in it?
Slow fashion to us can be broken down into 3 areas — sustainability, supply chain, and story. Sustainability: We believe that the solutions to ending poverty lie in creating economic opportunity and that lasting change happens when we move beyond charity and focus on providing jobs that promote dignity. Supply chain: From sourcing to shipments, we require all manufacturers and suppliers we work with to employ with fair wages and fair hiring practices, and only use ethically sourced materials. Story: Every product has a story behind it. The women who so carefully and lovingly craft our items are now ABLE to do something because of your purchase... from feeling confident, to sending their kids to school, to having dreams for their future.
Why is it important to develop relationship with your manufacturers?
We believe in directly working with manufacturers so they can be responsible for fair wages and working conditions. We also believe this is the most strategic way to grow a business long-term, helping them to build capacity and credibility in their industry.
Tell us about your collaboration with Miriam Collection.
For the 1st 5 years of our company, we were focused on creating sustainable business in Africa. We originally started with a group in Ethiopia who we helped begin a business and teach women transitioning out of the commercial sex industry how to weave beautiful scarves. Then over the next few years we began expanding both our business model and our product line. Where women often lack opportunity, we identified other groups in both Ethiopia and Kenya to partner with, looking for those who were employing women with fair wages and fair hiring practices. All along, our motivation has been that we believe the solutions to ending poverty lie in creating economic opportunity, and that lasting change happens when we move beyond charity and focus on creating jobs that promote dignity. In August 2015 we expanded that work back to the U.S., as we brought the Miriam Collection into our business. Miriam was working with women who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to homelessness to addiction to a lack of opportunity, which matched perfectly with our mission and model. This allowed FASHIONABLE to then become both a LOCAL + GLOBAL operation, knowing that every one of us understands what it means to overcome, and we are all ABLE to find purpose in the work we do.
What are the greatest lessons have you learned working in this business?
I feel so grateful to be able to do what i do. I genuinely believe we are changing the lives of women who have overcome extraordinary challenges, and that is fulfilling. With that said, the thing I've learned most from my work is that nothing could, or should, replace the daily love I share with my wife and four daughters. And that love grows because of a commitment to getting through the hard stuff with both asking for, and receiving well, forgiveness. I feel like if I can work out true love in the home, than the depth of my love is stronger outside of the home.
What is the future like for FashionABLE?
2017 will equal increased accountability with our manufacturers. And denim too :)