I am writing today with a recap as we say “goodnight” to 2017. It was not an easy year, but we accomplished great things together. In January my grandmother, the woman of steel, champion of women’s power, who had unwaveringly supported my work passed away at 89 right before the giant women’s march in January. So I took to the street with her words “Our time has come” on my sign and marched, shouted, and let loose on the deep well of emotion and frustration. I felt an intense anger for all the women who are held back and hold themselves back, who are not able to shine brightly and lead our world to a better place. Did you too feel a wellspring of anger pour out? Did it energize your work or wake you up to the reality of our situation?
In the same month I tapped into an amazing group of local women entrepreneurs, each boldly marching towards their own cause to use entrepreneurship to make the world better, be it Fillaree with body and cleaning products in refillable containers, or GreenToGo’s subscription for reusable takeout containers, or by making bouquets from local, organic, bee-friendly flowers, or the ethically minded local boutique, Liberation Threads which began carrying my U.S. made, limited edition Riding Denim in May. I had found my tribe of women who get as bent out of shape about waste and environmental degradation, or the ethical treatment of workers and were courageously taking action to make it better.
And I became more determined to build a model that employs technology for custom-making womenswear with the intention of making apparel production more sustainable and creating high quality sewing jobs in the U.S. I connected with Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover, North Carolina to identify the groups to build my made to measure production model. Sew Co. in Hendersonville, North Carolina, demonstrated that they could make my Riding Jacket with high-quality sewers who are well-paid and can pick their children up from school each day. I found a wonderful group, Omega Apparel in Tennessee with a computerized cutter, and APADS in Pelzer, South Carolina for the digital pattern adaptation work.
But how could I afford to run such a test? Friend, long-time supporter and start-up guru, Lizzy Hazeltine says to me, “hey, how about the crowd-funding platform iFundWomen?” And so all the pieces were there: the vision, the partners, the process, the strategy, and all that was required: take action. Do it. Try it. Take the leap. And in spite of my fear of the uncertainty, the risk, in July I began putting together my campaign. I decided on the last week of September to launch.
I knew I needed help. A videographer. Someone to help with the PR and social media. I had done a Kickstarter before and learned that it is not something one person can do unassisted. And I had to have faith that if I had a positive attitude, worked hard everyday and believed the right people would appear to help me, this would indeed be the case. It was a level of faith that I had never experienced before. And it worked. I told people my plan: to use the iFundWomen crowd-sourcing platform to test out my custom-made womenswear production process in the Southeast and bring people along via video clips of the process. People with skill sets from video production to marketing, to graphic design, heard my idea and generously donated time to help me make it happen. I found a videographer and PR intern who passionately believed in my work and were willing to take a risk to help.
It was extremely difficult to pull off, punctuated by a gorgeous event midway through the campaign at the Durham Hotel. With a will to make it happen and community collaboration with Liberation Threads, the Durham Hotel, Hana Lee Flowers, and heavy lifting by my partner, Drew Marticorena, we created a Launch Party event that shined with abundance. Smelled of flowers. Glowed atop a golden carpet. I got to see and feel my vision for an apparel line that helps women recognize their power. I got to watch women connect with my apparel and animatedly talk with each other about their deep-seated passion and the work that moves them in an environment where we felt that anything is possible.
Alongside all this work we saw an ever-increasing number of natural disasters. We felt the differences in a changing climate. We heard and continue to hear a laundry list of men who have made our places of work inhospitable. Corporations continuing to hold our democracy hostage. It was a really tough environment to find the hope to work towards something better. However, keeping my head down, I learned the power of making light in the darkness. There is plenty to fight for, to bemoan, but what sort of beauty and transformation can we create in its midst?
And we did succeed. On October 26th, we successfully raised $15k. And I finally got to try out my solution, custom-making apparel for women. I got to play with a different type of messaging that says that women are awesome and powerful just the way we are. I got to really let myself be supported by faith, knowing that things would come together to make it happen if I brought a positive, determined mind-set to each day.
And that was my gift in 2017 to myself, and you, my awesome community of supporters. I want to share this with you. As our days begin to get longer, and we plan for 2018, faith in the transformative power of our dreams, creating beauty, and bringing light into the darkness will be our biggest assets to build the sort of work we need to right the world. I am only about halfway through the made to measure testing, and much faith will be required to finish it and use it to build my custom-made womenswear company. I do not get to choose when this will happen, but with a positive mindset, and determination to bravely take each small step, it will be.
THANK YOU for your support on this crazy journey.
I wish you and your loved ones a beautiful holiday. Looking forward to picking it up again and continuing our march in 2018.
The Weekly Letter will continue on Tuesday, January 2nd.