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

SAWA: Ethiopian Footwear With A Conscience

What a great feeling to discover products and makers that seek a healthy balance of purpose, aesthetics, and functionality. I recently stumbled upon SAWA Footwear- an incredibly beautiful retro footwear collection with a deep connection to the local community of Ethiopian craftspeople.

Not only is SAWA a shoe company doing business in Africa, the company sources their materials, production and even web design and communications in Addis Ababa Ethiopia and uses this approach as a real way to support local community.  These lightweight shoes are not just a fashion statement, they are built out of quality materials—and if you want ’em, check out the company website here to purchase online or learn more about the company.

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Sawa V


Great news for DIY fashion designers and artists, Epson is making moves in the fashion world with it’s dye-sublimation and direct-to-garment printing technology released over a year ago allowing independent entrepreneurs access to cheaper fabric equipment to own and use. Dye sublimation (“dye sub” for short) refers to the process of using high heat to transfer dye onto a material, much like a giant iron-on transfer. During the Fall 2015 New York Fashion Week, Epson drew attention to its SureColor F-Series printers that yield high quality, industrial level print affording designers the ability to print their own patterns directly on large fabrics. The only downside uncovered from a number of users is that the printer only works on heat-reactive synthetic materials like polyester.

Epson F Series

The SureColor F-Series models support a range of applications, including soft signage, sportswear, apparel, accessories, and customized promotional items such as mouse pads and ceramic mugs. Depending upon the application, F series models can output at speeds up to 618 sq ft/hr, boast output up to 720 x 1440 dpi on leading transfer papers, and feature an integral high-capacity 1.5 liter bulk-ink system.

Epson also introduced a line of dye-sublimation transfer papers designed specifically for the F series printers. Epson’s low-tack adhesive sublimation paper is designed for high-end cut-and-sew fabric and apparel production. This paper utilizes a unique chemical coating that allows for heavier ink loads to provide superior color and is available in a variety of sizes.

Priced on the low end at $9,000 for the F6070 and on the high end at $20,000 for the F7070, they’re at a price point that could make them within the budget of many fashion entrepreneurs and emerging fashion houses.

To read more about this new printer, click here for visit the Epson website.

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CONVERSATION with Burks & Bailey

As a student and advocate of the makers movement, I’m excited to launch the Craft Brand Theory™ blog with an insightful conversation with Phillip Terril, Co-Founder of Burks & Bailey. I was introduced to Phillip about eight months ago by a mutual friend around the time the Craft Brand Theory™ concept became a fully flushed out idea. Although its trendy now for companies to reference terms like craft, provenance and quality loosely, it was refreshing connecting with a young entrepreneur providing a genuine story of craftmanship, passion, and skill. He describes Burks & Bailey as “a collision of a straight-laced businessman and free-spirit creating a brand that embodies exquisite taste, luxurious palettes and refreshing colors that illuminate wardrobes.” I can certainly speak intuitively and with full confidence in saying that Burks & Bailey is definitely one company destined for breakthrough success. I hope that you appreciate this inaugural interview with our friend Phillip Terrill as he takes us into the world of Burks & Bailey. Enjoy!

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A few years ago my wife bought a pair of Eastland boots in a vintage shop in Lower East Side Manhattan. I have to admit I was a little jealous of her discovery.  I still remember the first time my Dad bought me a pair of the Eastland penny loafers. I think I may have been a 5th grader at the time. Although I never really inserted a penny, just knowing I could was all that I needed to appoint myself as a self-acclaimed fashion icon. Many years have passed, and I had forgotten about the Eastland Shoe Company, so I’m excited that she has rediscovered them. As a child I had very limited understanding or appreciation for the quality of good craftsmanship, in fact most things were disposable to me because it’s only value was dictated by the latest cultural trends. Today as an artist and student of the maker movement, I have gained an appreciation and curiosity for reconnecting to or discovering the stories and goods created by many of the world’s talented individuals and incredible companies such as the Eastland Shoe Company.

Continue reading “MADE IN AMERICA: Eastland”