Studio One Eighty Nine NYFW presentation

October 14, 2014
Today I bring you a Behind the Seams™ feature with my good friend and photographer extraordinaire, Sophie Elgort.  Sophie accompanied me to (and snapped all of the pictures at) my other good friends, Rosario Dawson's and Abrima Erwiah's, Studio One Eighty Nine presentation for their Fashion Rising collection during Fashion Week.  It was really special to be there for Rosario, who has always been so supportive of my line and who has attended my NYFW shows whenever she's been in town.  I interviewed these talented ladies to learn more about the essence of their new line.
Rosario and Abrima talking about their amazing initiatives!
Fashion Rising’s collection is a celebration of brilliant color, artisanal craftsmanship, and the effortlessness of warm, sunny days. The collection comprises 15 looks in a palette of crayon-bright blue, yellow, and green, with touches of bougainvillea and lilac. Silhouettes are clean, easy, and versatile: kimono tops, button-front shirts, high-waisted shorts, and A-line skirts are designed to be mixed and matched; classic sundresses, caftans and a flowing slip dress are sensuous and simple. Fabrics include crisp cotton calico (locally sourced), stretch cotton twill, plush cotton terry, and feather-light crepe de chine, all batiked by hand. In fact, each garment is entirely handmade by artisans in Ghana!

Creators Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah photo c/o Edith Altamiranda

Stacy Igel: Can you tell me more about why you both got involved in this initiative?

Rosario & Abrima: 
Because we believe that fashion and creativity can be an agent for social change. We have both been very fortunate in our very experiences - Rosario through Film, Media, Entertainment, Activism, Philanthropy and Abrima through Luxury, Fashion, Marketing. we have the network, the skill set and we are just at a point in our lives and careers where we would like to make this happen. Also, it's the right time - as Africa is home to some of the fastest growing countries, with incredible talent, creativity and people on the continent... that have centuries-old experience. 

It starts there. With the people. We are doing this because we believe in the artisans and communities that we work with and we have seen first hand how fashion can make a difference. We took a trip a few years ago to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Vday - Eve Ensler's organization to end violence against women, where Rosario sits on the board. The trip took us through Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo and completely changed our lives. We were there for the opening of the city of joy, a leadership center for women who have been the victim of rape and sexual violence. We met women that had been through so much... and were so beautiful and strong. Women who had been raped and violated and yet found the strength to not only survive but excel. They built the city. These are women that were doing amazing craft and fashion and would take proceeds from that and invest in farming... they would then farm cassava (for example) and feed their families and what they sold they would use to pay their kids school fees. That is the power of fashion and craft. The circle was empowering and beautiful and it's a model that has proven sustainable... 

The women asked us in the congo and throughout our travels to help them do more. We have an amazing batiker that we work with in ghana who is very clear about her request to us to get more orders. The more orders we generate, the more work she gets, the more she can grow the work in her own community and invest in her own small business. See video here. 
1.     Our artisan Aggie talking about her work
2.     Our artisan Aggie batiking
We worked with girls in Uganda that were pulled out of school as kids to become cleaning ladies and the only thing that would get them back to school is their interest in studying fashion.

We just had a student Sammy that we met in Ghana a year ago and that spent months begging his father to send him to fashion school. His father ultimately accepted and sent him to a vocational school... which is fantastic. But it's not enough. We love the students that we work with to have a broader training and to receive credits from accredited universities that can be applied towards a degree. It's a chance at a brighter future. Sammy came here to give me a hug and say thank you in person and let me know that his father finally agreed to send him to university. That took a year. It took support from the university, his dad etc... But now he has a chance at a better future. This is something we all do together. 

We - Rosario and I - have been very lucky to have a strong community and support system. We believe in that. We believe in working together and the power of collaboration. We often refer to a traditional west african symbol called "boa me na me mmoa wo "... "it means help me and let me help you"... which is how we work. 

Stacy Igel: What are you most excited for as you embark on building this concept?
Rosario & Abrima: 
Creating. Working together. Traveling. Africa. Growing. Building. Evolving. Preserving crafts and artisanship. Honoring the artisan. The hand behind the product that is made for us to wear with style. Art. Telling their stories. Sharing our stories. Being business Women.  

What we do is very special. We are vertically integrated. We look at the value chain and we work from the first point with the artisan making textiles to designing to manufacturing until it reaches the end consumer. We spent time building that foundation, doing the groundwork and forming relationships with great partners... such as working with the United Nations International Trade Center Ethical Fashion Initiative... and most recently working with Vogue.

It's been a true blessing. 

We get very excited when we see each other. I am so proud of this incredible WOMAN!
Baby Bump was excited for the collection and to see Ro too!

Thank you Sophie for capturing the beautiful presentation with me xo

Make sure to follow Studio One Eighty Nine and SHOP too
Instagram: @studiooneeightynine
Twitter: @studio189NYC
#StudioOneEitghyNine #Studio189 #FashionRising #AbrimaErwiah #RosarioDawson 

Also check out Rosario's Quarterly box #18902 here!


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