Fashion Rising: Bridging Craftmanship, Activism, & Creativity

Created by actress Rosario Dawson and longtime friend/ business partner Abrima Erwiah, the mission of Studio One Eighty Nine and the inspiration for the Fashion Rising Collection, took form following a trip with V-Day in February 2011 through Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the opening of the City of Joy. For context, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness, with the most recent global campaign being One Billion Rising that has galvanized over one billion women and men on a global day of action towards this cause.

Seeing the difficulty of finding long term sustainable success stories in the African textiles industry where artisans were working through the whole value chain, ‘Fashion Rising’ was birthed to extend the movement pass a one day event by creating an impactful and long term platform. Fashion Rising impacts the community by creating opportunities for employment, empowerment, and education for African artisans and creatives. In an interview with Pret-A-Reporter, Erwiah says “By creating this platform that creates a demand, we’re then  able to benefit the community by creating jobs because that’s an order, not just for sewing and cutting, it’s an order for every step on that chain.”
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The Fashion Rising collection of ready-to-wear, bags and accessories for both women and men focuses on the theme of travel, a reflection of the diversity of journeys so many women take in their quest to rise in the face of adversity. The Fashion Rising items have been produced in Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, Azerbaijan and Brazil, and combine traditional techniques and methods of construction with a vibrant palette and contemporary design. There are African prints, patterns, and symbols batiked or printed on fabrics including lightweight cotton, canvas, and silk. There are innovative, recycled materials, including glass beads from Guinness bottles in Ghana, dried palm leaves from swamps in Uganda, and recycled aluminum ring-pull can tops from Brazil.
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“Every piece of the Fashion Rising collection represents the talents and efforts of an extraordinary accumulation of creative talent. There is Nigerian designer Emeka Alams, the founder of Gold Coast Trading, who designed t-shirts produced by the artisan Fair Trade collective One Mango Tree, based in Uganda, and the Liberian-based Fair Trade apparel brand Liberty & Justice. Kimonos and pants were designed and produced in Uganda by Anna-Clare Lukoma, known for her Lulu fashion line, using materials out of East and West Africa. Ugandan social business AFRIpads (recipient of a PPR Foundation for Women’s Dignity & Rights Social Entrepreneur Award) worked with Studio One Eighty Nine and designer Menzer Hajiyeva to create a stylish cosmetics clutch for carrying the cloth sanitary pads that can enable a girl in Africa to finish her education. ” [Source: One Billion Rising Fashion Tumblr]
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In addition to showcasing the website,, Erwiah and Dawson teamed up with Quarterly, a subscription based service if curated box-filled goods, to provide interested buyers pieces from the collection, as well as other surprises.
Erwiah and Dawson’s Fashion Rising platform is a beautiful example of the bridging of boundless creativity, craftmanship, and purpose.
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To support or simply get more familiar with Studio One Eighty Nine or Fashion Rising, please visit or
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Photo(s) Sources: Lorenzo Bringheli, UN ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, Emmanuel Andre, Allen Coleman

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