The Journey Begins

My name is Olivia and I have been working to launch a socially motivated, contemporary dress brand in New York while earning my MBA.  As a result of SIIF, I can finally work full-time on my venture this summer!

The dress collection is rooted in a forward-thinking philosophy that unites the spirit of ease with the heritage of classic tailoring.  The result is a design aesthetic that embodies both grit and grace.  Silhouettes are smart yet effortless, clean yet cool.  Driven by quality and design, our dresses function interchangeably between non-traditional work environments and life outside of the office.  We design for modern-day thought leaders who are as influential as they are aware.

For every dress sold, a school uniform will be given to a girl whose access to education is threatened.  Our uniforms will be given to schoolgirls in regions that are highly affected by gender inequality and poverty.  In these regions, the cost of a school uniform can be the difference between a girl going to school or missing out on yet another year of education.  Missing even just one year of education decreases girls’ eventual wages by ten to twenty percent.  When girls are denied an education, their communities are more likely to face societal threats such as gender based violence, extreme poverty, HIV, infant mortality, social exclusion and child marriage.  Economists have found that educating girls is the most effective combatant of gender inequality, poverty and extremism.

This summer, product development and supply chain management are key focal points.  I am lucky to be building a fashion brand at a time when transparency has emerged as a crucial element of healthy supply chains.  However, it is undeniable that exploitation and hidden mistreatment continues to poison the apparel industry.  Choosing the right suppliers and production partners is vital.

Another SIIF fellow (and friend), Brendan Murphy, recently introduced me to a supplier of horn hardware called Olivia Knox.  Olivia Knox horn is sourced from female artisans in Uganda (where employment options for female artisans is limited).  Her Ankole Horn is beautifully unique.  Ankole horn presents a wider range of color than other forms of horn.  During our meeting, we discussed everything from order minimums to delivery dates to product range but what I really took away was the comfort of meeting another female entrepreneur who I had so much in common with.  Aside sharing the same name, Olivia Knox’s founder Olivia Byanyima and I share an almost identical vision for a new culture of luxury consumption.  I look forward to building more partnerships with likeminded suppliers throughout the rest of the summer.  Stay tuned!

— Olivia Fay

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