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HUGs … but make it fashion
Fashion & Compassion gets a Bear HUGby Page Leggett on August 26, 2021
The Fashion & Compassion (F&C) brand of accessories is smart, trendy, well-priced and – like the name says – fashionable. Those are all good reasons to shop from the local retailer with a global reach.
As a bonus, F&C serves women overcoming trauma and injustice – from human trafficking or abuse to addiction, incarceration, generational poverty, ethnic persecution.” That’s where the compassion comes in.
Bridging the Gap
Beth Bell is the head of that trendy boutique, but she’s also operating a nonprofit. “We help bridge the gap from women’s pain and trauma to purpose and purposeful work, and we do that through inspired creations,” she said. “We give our artisans a distribution channel, guide them in the design process, and locally, provide them training.”
“My predecessor, Michelle Dudley, was on a trip to Rwanda, and she felt the call to help women making beautiful crafts find a way to economic mobility,” said Bell, F&C’s executive director.
“From the outset, we’ve been an international organization. Over time, [Michelle] and our co-founder met a woman right here in Charlotte who was a victim of human trafficking, and that’s when the local work started.”
The local artisans receive a stipend – the equivalent of $15 an hour – for the time they spend in training. F&C also offers professional development coaching to help them, Bell said, “identify, set and ultimately achieve goals around stable housing, finishing their education, future employment, financial literacy, emotional stability.”
“What’s really cool is most of our artisans come to us very broken,” Bell said. “They don’t feel capable. Their self-esteem is shattered because of their trauma. Learning a skill helps them envision a brighter future. We help them break down their dreams into achievable chunks.”
Building New Products. Rebuilding Lives.
Business has been good for F&C. With that success, and new women coming into the program, the group needed to work … on their workspace.
In June, F&C used a $1,000 Bear HUG grant, awarded by Charlotte Is Creative and powered by the LendingTree Foundation, to upgrade the inventory room in their c. early 1900s Dilworth office/retail space.
The inventory room houses the materials instructors and students use to make the goods they sell. And, the creation of these products is the foundation of helping the women in F&C’s program build a new career.
“The more products we can sell, the more women we will ultimately empower,” Bell said. “There’s a direct correlation between us making products and empowering the women we serve.”
The front part of their business houses the boutique, and the back is dedicated to the inventory room and programming space. Offices are upstairs. “We love our space, but it’s limited,” Bell said. “The inventory room was dingy with wallpaper coming down with [old] carpet on it, and we didn’t have the shelving we needed for displays.”
The HUG grant allowed the team to “better imagine the space,” Bell said. “We had an architect come in to give us a vision. Then we ripped up that carpet, refinished the floors – we’ve got beautiful, original hardwoods – ripped down the wallpaper and repainted everything, so it’s fresh, and we can see it better. It shows off the product so well.
“We ship all of our online orders from our inventory room, so it’s helped us have the space for our operations manager to effectively do her job. It displays the product so well, which is important when we’re touring potential partners and customers. It’s been a tremendous gift.
“The inventory room is so key to our operation, and we hadn’t had the money to give it a facelift and so it’s just really brought it up to speed with the rest of the space, and we’re just thrilled.”
The Arts in Action
“We’re so grateful to Charlotte Is Creative for the ways you support the arts in our community,” Bell said. “It is such a gift to our community. And those of us in the nonprofit arts space feel this incredible mission alignment.
Bell said F&C “combines the beauty of art and art therapy with the creative and design process … to empower women. It’s a beautiful way to see arts and action for good.”
Shopping here is retail therapy with an emphasis on therapy. Compassion is always in style.
Make it fashion. Keep it kind.
Visit IRL: 1717 Cleveland Ave. Charlotte, NC 28203
Retail partners: Community Matters Café, Cotswold Marketplace
Watch Beth Bell on QC Life
Featured Photo Credit: Leandra Creative Co Photography