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Fashion Impact Fund & Building An Inclusive Workforce



NEW YORK - New York's Fashion Week recently witnessed a powerful initiative championing gender equality in the fashion industry. The Fashion Impact Fund unveiled their latest Conscious Fashion Campaign, spotlighting women founders taking significant strides toward building an inclusive fashion workforce.


So, what does the Fashion Impact Fund do?

They're at the forefront of creating change in the fashion industry, offering grants for training programs tailored for women. 





Their aim?

Helping women secure decent jobs and attain financial independence. They're actively tackling women's challenges, such as poverty, discrimination, and gender-based violence.


The Conscious Fashion Campaign, a joint initiative of the Fashion Impact Fund and the PVBLIC Foundation, draws attention to the commendable work of these female founders. Given that women only receive about 25% of global news features, this campaign is crucial. It's made its mark with eye-catching digital billboards in prime NYC locations like Times Square and the United Nations Headquarters.


Honoring the outstanding women in this initiative, the campaign showcased the recent grant recipients of the Fashion Impact Fund. The campaign aspires to create a media landscape's contribution to the fashion world by sharing stories that accurately represent women.


Kerry Bannigan, the brain behind the Fashion Impact Fund, believes in the fashion industry's potential to bring about real change. She emphasizes the need for a narrative that's inclusive and celebrates equality.


The underlying message? 

By championing gender equality and promoting economic inclusion, we're setting the stage for a more equitable and sustainable future. Resources and visuals are available for those interested in diving deeper into this campaign or knowing more about these trailblazing women.


Honorees of the Conscious Fashion Campaign 2023 include:

Ayesha Barenblat, Founder and CEO, Remake | www.remake.world | USA

Jennifer Holloway, CEO, Fashion Enter Ltd | www.fashion-enter.com | UK

Madhu Vaishnav, Founder and Director, Saheli Women | https://saheliwomen.com/ | India

Devon Feldmeth; Okello Catherine “Ketty” Promise, and Lauren Shipley, Co-Founders, Artisan Global | https://artisanglobal.org/ | Africa


Ayesha Barenblat

Founder and CEO, Remake



Bio: Ayesha is a social entrepreneur with a passion for building sustainable supply chains that respect people and our planet. With over 15 years of leadership to promote social justice and sustainability within the fashion industry, she founded Remake to mobilize citizens to demand a more just, transparent and accountable fashion industry. Remake’s films, free educational resources, advocacy campaigns and sustainable brands directory are focused on making fashion a force for good. Ayesha is passionate about rebuilding human connections with the women who make our clothes. She has worked with brands, governments, and labor advocates to improve the lives of garment makers.


Organization overview: Remake is a global advocacy organization fighting for fair pay and climate justice in the fashion industry. Remake leads collective action to disrupt the $2.5 trillion dollar clothing industry and has built an international network of citizens, press, legislators and union leaders to connect the industry’s biggest problems with viable solutions. Remake’s Theory of Change is that by paying garment workers a living wage, both the social harm and the environmental damages caused by the fashion industry are reduced. Higher wages would change the business model in fashion, leading companies to slow down and make less.


Remake has teamed up with the Fashion Impact Fund and award-winning Director Lorna Tucker to create a feature length documentary on a women led movement to dismantle systems of oppression and change the future of fashion. This is a story of connection in a disconnected world, of true female empowerment and building grassroot power. Spanning 4 continents, this is an inspiring story of the women on the frontlines of demanding change and winning.




Jennifer Holloway

CEO, Fashion Enter Ltd



Bio: Jennifer Holloway brings over thirty five years of extensive experience in the fashion industry, firstly in the private sector and then more latterly in the public/education sector. She kick-started her career as a buyer for well-known brands such as Littlewoods, M&S, and Principles for Women before venturing into entrepreneurship with her own label, Retro.


For nearly a decade, Jennifer served as the Director of her successful business, Retro UK Ltd. The company flourished with its retail boutiques, party plan offerings, and wholesale collaborations with renowned retailers like John Lewis and independent boutiques. Additionally, Retro UK established a strong presence in international markets, with key accounts in the Middle East and Europe.


In 2000, Jennifer embarked on a consultancy journey and was soon recognized as an industry advisor for various Government-funded initiatives. In March 2006, she incorporated Fashion-Enter Ltd, a not for profit social enterprise aimed at providing comprehensive support and guidance to the fashion industry.


Today Fashion-Enter is a leading quality garment manufacturer operating in Wales and London and has an OFSTED audited Fashion Technology Academy that caters for qualification attainment for level's 1 - 5 in garment manufacturing skills such as stitching and pattern making and apprenticeships.


Employing over 150 people from their sites in Haringey, Islington, Leicester and Wales FEL is currently making 20,000 garments a week within the UK for clients such as N Brown, The Very Group and Community Clothing as well as supporting over 70 smaller brands such as Louise Laing at Phygital Twin and Louisa Parris.


Organization overview: Fashion-Enter Ltd (FEL) is an award-winning social enterprise which is a centre of ethical garment manufacturing with a leading status in the Fast Forward audit and is also SMETA audited. FEL has a minimum order quantity of 1 for their Fashion Studio service and currently produces up to 30,000 garments a week for speed of response fashion from their three units in Haringey, North London and Wales. Clients include ASOS, Simply B, Very.com, Community Clothing, JD Williams and brands such as Louisa Parris and Gormely and Gamble. FEL has two mission statements + To be a centre of excellence for design, patterns, grading, production. FEL's services can offer a client a one off sample to 30,000 garments a week. + To be a centre of excellence for education and learning from their sites in London, Islington, Leicester and Wales. Qualification attainment from level 1 - 5 plus apprenticeships.




Madhu Vaishnav

Founder and Director, Saheli Women



Bio: Madhu Vaishnav grew up in a traditional Brahmin family. In some parts of India, the darker you skin, the less beautiful you are, Madhu was born with a dark skin tone. Considered a burden to her family, Madhu’s mother tried to marry her off many times, but was always rejected because of her dark skin colour and lack of dowry. Madhu was finally married, bound by a marriage contract which prevented her from working and was made to agree that she would be the ‘ideal’ house wife. For the first few years in her marriage, Madhu stayed true to the marriage contract, but she felt like an internal drive to educate herself and provide for her family and community.


Madhu enrolled her sons in an English medium school, at the enrolment interview, the principal was so impressed with Madhu’s persona, the school offered her a teaching job. Her family forbid Madhu to take the job as it violated the marriage contract – Madhu was being the opposite of an ‘ideal wife’. After months of arguments, she convinced her family to allow her to teach during the day and learn English in the evenings.


Four years later she began working in the slum areas outside Jodhpur as a program coordinator with an American NGO. There she assisted with supporting various female empowerment projects. She saw there was much room for improvement so in 2014 she decided to enrol in a diploma of social development at the University of California Berkeley This again posed significant challenges for Madhu and her family. Her husband agreed to look after the two young kids while Madhu lived in California for the duration of her study – almost unheard of in the village.


In 2015 Madhu started the Saheli woman centre. This centre was built on the foundations of empowering women and slow fashion. Madhu started with five woman and start up budget of $100, 7 years later in 2022, the organisation is thriving with two Saheli centres employing more than 100 village ladies, three local artisan communities and partnerships with over 20 Global fashion brands. Many ladies working at the centre are the families primary bread winners. The Saheli centre also sponsors childcare and the workers children’s education. The key barriers Madhu faced was recruiting women to the centre, she had to break the all too familiar cultural barriers and seek permission from the women’s families to allow them to work at the centre.


In 2022, Madhu was appointed to be an advisory member of the Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network Advisory Committee in partnership with the United Nations. Saheli woman aims to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a primary focus on SDG 1,4,5,8 and 12. Madhu’s dream is to continue to empower women through fashion and ensure all village children get access to an education.


Organization overview: Saheli Women is a social enterprise that aims to financially empower marginalized and rural women living in India. We achieve this through the facilitation of skills development programs, and through the creation of sustainable and meaningful livelihood opportunities.




Devon Feldmeth

Okello Catherine “Ketty” Promise

Lauren Shipley

Co-Founders, Artisan Global



Devon Feldmeth: Devon Feldmeth is a designer, creative activist and social impact entrepreneur. She co-founded Artisan Global to advance creative opportunities and support young visionaries and artisans in Uganda. She’s committed to using storytelling as a call-to-action to inspire citizens and brands to partner with underserved communities and contribute to the end of extreme poverty. Her background includes redesigning a recreation center in Watts, CA, developing branding for advocacy campaigns, and launching creative spaces for youth, locally and globally.



Okello Catherine "Ketty" Promise: While navigating living in a region heavily impacted by decades of conflict, Ketty became one of the first local entrepreneurs to reimagine fashion as a vehicle for societal change in Northern Uganda. Since 2014, she has been committed to bringing high quality training and mentorship programs to economically disadvantaged women. Her dream started with one seamstress and one sewing machine in one small hut, today she is leading a team of talented artisans that teach community courses and workshops at the co-working space, the Artisan Center, established in 2020.



Lauren Shipley: Lauren supports women by using fashion as a pathway towards revitalizing economic opportunities and celebrating cultural heritage in communities impacted by conflict. As the co-founder of Artisan Global, she is driven by a passion to integrate sustainable practices into the fashion sector and revive traditional techniques such as East African batik. Lauren leads the team in building regional collaborations and hosting trainings with industry experts. She has also provided pro-bono consulting for sustainable fashion brands such as the MOO brand - featured in Elle magazine - connecting them with master artisans in Uganda and together launching the first luxury handbag made entirely of upcycled cowhorn. In addition to her work with Artisan Global, Lauren is also a consultant for the World Fair Trade Organization, supporting field coordination for MADE51 - an initiative of the UN Refugee Agency that brings refugee-made products, such as jewelry and accessories, to the global market.



Organization overview: Artisan Global is a 501c3 nonprofit that was established to develop the creative industries with local artisans and entrepreneurs in post-conflict Northern Uganda. Starting with fashion programs that launched in 2014, their main focus was to build accelerated vocational programs that would lead to job opportunities and address generational cycles of poverty that were exacerbated by the effects of war.


In 2020, their team launched the Artisan Center as an inclusive coworking space for the community to access trainings, shared creative equipment, WiFi, mentorship, and market opportunities. As a defining value of their model, they are committed to building capacity within the community in order for the center to be entirely led by locals. The 9-month fashion and design course is led by two talented Ugandan designers, while all storytelling is created by local photographers and videographers who are also enhancing their skills through the center’s media program - a full circle of impact told through the lens of the community.




To wrap things up, a note on the Fashion Impact Fund and the PVBLIC Foundation:

The Fashion Impact Fund supports women founders driving fashion workforce development. They believe we can enact positive change by investing in women's education and employment. PVBLIC Foundation is a dynamic non-profit merging media, data, and technology to foster sustainable development worldwide. They're experts at building bridges between various sectors, ensuring maximum social impact.


 

For more information about the Conscious Fashion Campaign, please visit:



Photo/video credit: Ryan Carl and Sara Van Eerde



 

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