Total loan: $5,000
Detroit, MI, United States / Clothing
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A loan helped begin hand-dyeing our garments with natural dyes, ultimately generating the income necessary to hire men who have been trained to sew while in prison.
Two years ago, I was finishing up my senior thesis on prison policy and preparing to graduate from Princeton with a degree in politics. My research was inspired by time spent tutoring in a New Jersey prison, where interacting with inmates had increased my awareness of the injustices within the American prison system. It is safe to say that starting a menswear company was the furthest thing from my mind when I agreed to model in a sustainable fashion show. However, I was frustrated by the limited menswear offerings; I started looking for clothing I wanted to wear, made in a way that I wanted to support. Soon after, a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over a thousand workers, shedding light on industry abuse overseas. While I was working towards social and environmental causes, I had a closet filled with clothing that had been made by exploiting workers and the environment. Surely there was a better way. I had been seeking creative solutions since a young age, when my sister and I founded a lawn service using a pony-pulled mower after discovering how many more emissions came from lawn mowers than cars. I had gone on to work abroad—in post-war Liberia with disabled civil war victims, and in Mexico with former President Vicente Fox’s program to empower rural youth. The pieces began to come full circle when I noticed the consequences of fast fashion here at home in the heart of American manufacturing, which was trapped in a cycle of poverty and incarceration after industries chased cheap labor overseas. I knew from my thesis and from speaking to inmates that the challenge after incarceration is finding employment. All of this sparked an idea about how I could generate American jobs while producing high-quality sustainable clothing.