Anna Malika had a dream since childhood to have her own clothing line. It didn't flourish due to childhood abuse and trauma which led to being trafficked during high school. Despite the odds, she is a new creation today. Her passion now in awareness, advocating for other survivors, and fashion has brought together a friendship between her and our team. As we learned more about her desire to design, we offered Anna the opportunity to try designing a collection for Elegantees. Anna flew to New York, met with us for fittings, and came back again for a fashion show during Fashion Week last month. A dream finally came true to a well deserving gem! Each of Anna's pieces were made in Nepal in our sewing center. The collection got a lot of buzz from Refinery 29, NET NY, and LifeSite News. It's already making our sewers very busy, which means we may see more restoration for more ladies in Nepal as it keeps going. Now, it's here for purchasing on our recently re-designed website!
I'm thankful for the good moments come when our amazing volunteers come together and are inspired with ideas. These women believe in Elegantees so much that they continue to offer their time and gifts for growth (yep, they work for free!). They each have specific roles they are embracing. For me, as the Founder of Elegantees, I'll be less involved in certain areas, in order to focus on leadership and making more of our sketches a reality! Next year, we plan to make lots more designs such as skirts, cardigans, clutches, and more dresses.
I'm also thankful for the scary moments. Since I started basking in the joy of becoming a mommy last December, I hadn't been giving Elegantees as much attention as I could have. I hadn't delegated the tasks that needed the most attention until a recent scary moment. The sewing center in Nepal informed us they are struggling and considering closing the doors. It was scary to think that for a moment, that could be the end of a dream. It was a good thing in disguise because it's unified us as a team and we're setting goals, and more importantly making tangible plans to achieve the goals. I had no choice but to let go of details in order to revamp the big picture. Some of our team picked up those details, and I'll continue focusing on the big picture. Everything is looking optimistic now, and we're very focused on and excited with the goal to fight, protect, restore.
I'm thankful for you, your support, and finding the mission to restore women something to work toward everyday. Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving.
We were honored to speak at the Mujer de Proposito conference in New York City over the weekend. Telling the stories of the women who make Elegantees while presenting a fashion show that is fun, stylish, and modest is just awesome!! It made our hearts so full of joy to share. Hope you enjoy the video recap =)
A vision of Elegantees is to see every sex trafficking victim in New York City receive a safe housing option and an employment opportunity. The tool is through fashion and retail. We are compelled to this dream because of the stories we hear. One of them includes a high school student who was kidnapped at age 9, and sold for sex against her will. When she was 12 years old, NYPD Special Victims Unit came to the rescue, but the cop and his partner betrayed her and took advantage of her vulnerability. This damaged her, but today she is overcoming her past. She now attends church at The Brooklyn Tabernacle, lives in foster care, and is bravely working on her high school diploma. During those years, she met hundreds of girls around her age that were also in "the life" and many times would talk about how they wanted out. These young girls are working in strip clubs, and selling their bodies because they were runaways, abandoned, or abused. Their pimps offer them a false sense of worth and love that they never had before. What if someone offered them an alternative that was solid and trustworthy? Jesus is the answer, however, there are things that need to be given first to provide a feeling of safety and trust before seeing glimpes of the truth in God's love. They need provision through housing, friendship, and meaningful employment.
The tool is through an Elegantees store, which is a dream of ours that is watered and growing often. The ambitions of the store and its success will directly benefit survivors to become overcomers and start a new life! It's been more specifically revealed in three stages. If we focus on it step-by-step, we will be most likely to succeed.
To open the store in NYC and hire survivors of sex trafficking to work in it. There are thousands of teen girls and young women who are in "the life," and we want them to have an opportunity. The store would also be equipped with volunteers to mentor and help encourage them in their working ability.
To open a space in NYC for survivors to gather and learn to sew, and make basic elegantees for the store. This step would be reached as capital allows us to build the sewing shop. Simultaneously, the current sewing facility in Nepal would also expand. In New York, it is ideal for a newly rescued woman to do something creative to help her mind recover from the physiological damage.
To expand safe housing for victims. There is a high need for housing. This goal will be reached through directly transferring a large percentage of the store's sales to organizations such as Restore NYC to build more safe houses in NYC.
I'll admit I've been sleeping in late these days, which is funny because I was born and raised on a farm. During this season, I'm a stay at home mom to the cutest and most curious 9 month old girl, so I tend to do the most work when my husband is home in the evenings. Sometimes I'll stay up [really] late. Our daughter still wakes at night up to nurse, but since I don't have to get up early, I don't mind. Thankfully, I can be flexible and sleep in until 10am.
Well this morning, I got up [really] early. And not that early compared to everyone with a 9-5 schedule, but the struggle was real! I went to a terminal at JFK airport because our Nepali friends were passing through and had an hour to visit with me. I couldn't pass up on that. I felt out of it, but the moment I strolled into the arrivals, a joyful spirit took over me. I then saw my beautiful friend (pictured above) who runs the sewing center. Along with her was Ramesh, a man I respect very much. He wears a lot of hats, all with excellence, and his presence inspires me when I see him. He is a pastor who teaches Bible to many people and nations. Ramesh is also the man who started rescuing girls from sex trafficking in Nepal over 20 years ago, and now today rescuing over 20,000 per year. He loves seeing the rescued girls become restored and independent, so they are no longer vulnerable to poverty and traffickers again. His dream is the reason why the factory in Nepal is a reality.
It was one of the most encouraging conversations I've had in months. You see, behind the scenes, along with designing new elegantees, some of our team has been developing a new brand with a plan to present it to a large company for distribution. It would mean consistent work for the Nepali sewers, as well as the opportunity to employ so many more. I know with my production and business background in fashion, one of the biggest obstacles to being successful at mass retailing would be price. Ramesh and I were just chatting about the possibilities should the order arrive, and if so, how the increase in quantity will help significantly with pricing and logistics. Just so encouraging we're on the right track!
Aside from the seeds of hope for current business goals, I left that airport thanking God for placing into my life and Elegantees my husband, family, Wildy (our designer), our other volunteer staff, and also our friends in Nepal. They have also taken risks to make this opportunity possible. Being entrepreneurial minded with a mission that has money toward the bottom of the priority list has made these past 4 years of this journey a step of faith indeed. Many times we made decisions with a bottom line that didn't make sense, but did them anyway because of our mission. But we are still going, and hope is our anchor.
"Sometimes business goes up, sometimes down, but God is always making a way. No need to give up hope ever." - Ramesh (paraphrased)