Famous YouTuber Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, and Talk Show Host Ellen DeGeneres have teamed up with Gap to release a new line of clothing for female empowerment.

The clothing line, called Gapkids x ED, encourages women of any age to feel strong and to voice their opinions. DeGeneres’ clothing brand, ED, has worked with Gap to combine comfy fabric and trendy styles with motivational quotes and symbols that inspire courage and confidence.

To show her support for the campaign, called GIRL, Sugg took a few minutes out of one of her vlog videos to flash one of her favorite t-shirts from the line. The British 25-year-old donned the GapKids x ED Energy Bolt Tee while introducing her involvement in GIRL to her nine million subscribers.

“This was something totally different, and I really, really loved this campaign. And I really wanted to get behind it and share it with you guys,” Sugg said in the video.

Expressing her backing for GIRL, DeGeneres said that one of the reasons she joined the campaign was because she shares some of the same ideals as Gap.

“Gap has always encouraged people to be themselves, and I love that they have the same values that I have; to be true to who you are and to wear cute pants,” DeGeneres said.

Not only do Gap and DeGeneres believe in sporting fashionable trousers, but they also think that self-image is a key step in female empowerment. DeGeneres said that she knows from experience that being true to yourself is important for growing and changing and that this campaign is demonstrating this notion by shining a light on real girls doing unique things.

GIRL focuses on three talented girls who each have something different to offer and demonstrate. The webpage for GIRL hosts three videos of each girl. Alexey, a young, bold and strong drummer, can be seen expertly beating her drum set. When asked what advice she has for girls, the little rocker gave a mature statement.

“Just follow what your heart says, and you can achieve it,” the 12-year-old said.

The other two girls featured by GIRL can also be seen in videos on the webpage. Torrae, a nine-year-old robotic hand technician, said that she is powerful because of her imagination. Twelve-year-old entrepreneur, Asia, started her own company when she was five and plans to start classes teaching kids her age about business.

Asia has big plans for her future. In her video, she proudly said that she wants to be a dancer, a singer, a rapper, a college graduate and the president of the United States.

Another girl representing the influence of personal voice is Sugg. With more than 700 million views on both of her YouTube channels combined, Sugg has been able to reach girls from all across the globe with her take on feminism in her fashion, beauty and life videos.

“So often, you can kind of get swept up in this world where you feel inferior or you feel like you should be doing something specific or you feel like you’re not doing something right. And it’s just a whole campaign basically to support girls to be who they are, and to be who they want to be. And I just think that that’s really amazing” Sugg said.

Like Sugg has done with her YouTube videos, DeGeneres said that this campaign has the ability to “break the internet.” GIRL encourages wearers of the brand to take selfies of themselves in the clothes and to share the pictures, as well as speak their views of feminism and equal rights.

DeGeneres added that there is also a collection by Gap x ED because they “believe in equal opportunity cuteness.”

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Gap 1, Gap 2, Paste Magazine, YouTube 1, YouTube 2
Photo: Google Images

5 Fashion Designers Who Help Fight Poverty- BORGEN
For those who live in extreme poverty, clothing is a means of protection. For fashion designers, clothing is identity. Fashion is a way to show the world personality, demeanor, and creativity. Not only do these fashion designers help clothe those who cannot afford their products, but they also help save the lives of those in poverty.

These are five fashion designers who help fight poverty.

1. Michael Kors

In his signature all-black attire donning shades from his own brand, Michael Kors sits next to actress Kate Hudson, both flashing their stylish and opulent wristwatches. This advertisement was made to promote Kors’ charity and raise awareness for the charity’s cause.

Watch Hunger Stop is more than a play on words, it is a charity created by the famous fashion designer that has provided 10 million nutritious meals to children in need. Kors’ campaign features a lookbook of his notorious “Kors style” watches, with a big watch face and thick metal band. With the purchase of any of the watches, one hundred meals are donated to hungry children.

Because of his impact, Kors was recently named a U.N. World Food Programme Ambassador for those who do not have the voice to take action against poverty.

His unique and masterful watch design features a map of the world he is helping to save on the watches’ faces. To learn more about Watch Hunger Stop, visit this link.

2. Gucci

This high fashion brand is another designer that uses its products to promote change.

With its eloquently crafted and luxurious jewelry, Gucci extends to all forms of fashion, unique and classic. To raise awareness and support for earthquake relief efforts in Japan, Gucci created a piece of jewelry that crosses boundaries greater than fashion.

This limited edition silver chain bracelet can help save the lives of those suffering from displacement and disaster-related health problems. All of the proceeds from the sales of this bracelet benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society to support the victims of the Higashi Nihon Dai-Shinsai earthquake and tsunami.

When one wears the bracelet, he or she emits sympathy for Japan because of the hint of red and white that recalls the colors of the Japanese flag. Simultaneously, the wearer is showing that he or she cares because of the medal the bracelet carries which says “Gucci loves you.”

The fashion brand has also created a handbag that benefits UNICEF in support of the Schools for Africa and Schools for Asia initiatives.

3. Versace

One of the most famous fashion designers of all time, Donatella Versace, also feels for people affected by natural disasters.

Her Versace One Foundation supports those affected by the Sichuan province earthquakes in China. The brand provides art supplies to encourage creativity and teamwork for children living near the disaster area.

Versace created colorful handbags that incorporate child-like drawings on the fabric, seemingly hinting at the reason for the creation of the bags. Fifty percent of the proceeds of these couple-hundred dollar bags go to this foundation.

4. Kate Spade New York

This fashion designer chose clothing instead of jewelry to show her humanitarian side. Kate Spade’s Spring 2014 collection helped create jobs for a community of 20,000 people.

The name of the collection, “On Purpose,” serves a powerful purpose for women in Rwanda. The brand teamed up with the locals to help educate artisans in the community about marketing for the betterment of their businesses.

“On Purpose” targeted a collection of mostly female workers, forging equality and creating a different work dynamic for the people in Rwanda.

5. Kenneth Cole

Moved by the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, fashion designer Kenneth Cole joined the amfAR board. He was later elected as chairman of the executive committee.

His classic and simple fashion brand helps to provide most of the creative advertising for the HIV/AIDS research and awareness that amfAR uses. According to amfAR, Cole has “initiated public awareness efforts annually since 1985.”

With his famous “We All Have AIDS” campaign, Cole employed key entertainment, political, social and scientific leaders to help change the social stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS victims.

Cole’s help has moved amfAR to a different stage, carrying the hope of finding cures for life-threatening diseases.

There are many more fashion designers like these who use their celebrity power to enhance the lives of those in poverty. Henceforth, it can be said that fashion, like the clothing mentioned earlier, can be a means for protection from hunger, disaster, inequality and disease.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: amfAR, Destination Kors 1, Destination Kors 2, Gucci, In Style, More.com
Photo: EMC Blue

Harper’s Bazaar China Leads the Fashion of Charity
When you hear about Fashion Magazine, you probably think of gorgeous ladies and gentlemen in luxury attires who have nothing to do with poverty. However, Harper’s Bazaar China has started “BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Night” and has proposed to “let the charity become a kind of fashion.”

Hosted by Harper’s Bazaar China, a famous international fashion magazine, BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Gala is an annual fundraising gala for Chinese celebrities who support charities. It collects money through an auction and the funding is used for charities that support causes for impoverished children, medical aids, disaster recovery and many others.

In 2003, a year when SARS spread in mainland China, BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Night was established due to the social responsibility of journalists in Harper’s Bazaar China. With the whole society threatened by an incurable disease, fashion journalists felt powerless in helping by merely advertising luxurious lifestyles and beautiful attire. Thus, under the suggestion from a famous Chinese singer, Na Ying, the journalists in Harper’s Bazaar China started fundraising through auctioning used items owned by celebrities to financially support people in need.

Through live telecast, the charity event has gained a lot of attention. Singers and dancers voluntarily perform at the event and movie stars dress up in glamorous outfits. The event is a good opportunity to advertise charity.

The first session of the gala collected 168,000 RMB, which made a hit in Chinese society. Thus Harper’s Bazaar China decided to maintain this program and try to develop it into a more influential social and charitable event. In 2004, the team came up with the idea to “let charity become a fashion” and encourage Chinese stars to support charities.

In 2012, the tenth anniversary of the charity night was held in Beijing. More than 600 entrepreneurs and stars such as famous actress Zhang Ziyi, martial arts star Jackie Chan, pianist Lang Lang and popular singer Jay Chou attended the charity event. During the auction, a painting by famous contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi was sold for 17 million yuan, the highest price of the night. Participants who didn’t auction any items were also encouraged to donate 100,000 yuan. The event raised a total of $6.3 million.

According to the organizers of this event, all the funding raised in 2012 was donated to several projects for poverty alleviation, medical aid for children and craniofacial cleft lip and palate treatment. In 2013, funds were donated to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and the Zhonghua Siyuan project to financially support the economic development of poverty-stricken areas in China.

In an interview, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar China, Su Mang, said, “People usually think Fashion has nothing to do with charity. Sometimes they regard charity merely as our strategy to gain attention, but I want to say that, if behind the glamorous dresses, there is a true willingness to help others, we should also applaud for them.”

Shengyu Wang

Sources: Baidu, CNTV, Youtube
Photo: Mod Bad

Canopy, an NGO, commits to sustainability by targeting the marketplace to mitigate non-green practices. Canopy works with businesses, fashion brands, book publishers, magazine publishers, newspaper publishers and printers to protect the earth’s forests and fragile ecosystems.

CanopyStyle pledges to protect the earth’s ancient and endangered forests from supply chains. It’s “Fashion Loved by Forest” campaign unites prestigious clothing companies to support Canopy’s mission of eliminating environmentally destructive materials from fashion production.

Among the fashion brands devoted to reducing their ecological footprint are Inditex/Zara, Levi Strauss & Co., Quiksilver, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, prAna, Aritzia, Portico/Under the Canopy, H&M, Marks & Spencer, lululemon Athletica, EILEEN FISHER, loomstate, Stanley &Stella, ASOS and G-Star RAW.

  1. H&M protects forests by choosing greener fabrics and by turning to alternate fiber sources. It’s goal is to avoid sourcing any materials from endangered sources by 2017. With the Forest Stewardship Council, it makes sure it uses green materials. H&M is also working to build transparency in its supply chains.
  2. Lululemon Athletica avoids using raw metals like tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold and signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s’ Cotton Pledge to end forced child and adult labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvesting. The company partners with DOWNLITE, a company that provides ethically treated down products. It also prides itself on buying wool from transparent, ethical and green vendors.
  3. Stella McCartney does not use viscose in production or fibers from forested areas. It is also trying to strengthen transparency in its supply chains.
  4. EILEEN FISHER’s sustainable fibers collection uses “natural, recycled, and high-tech fibers in its eco collection.” It opts for Tencel over viscose, which is more traceable, more responsible, less-processed, less-energy intensive, less chemical-intensive and less toxic. According to EILEEN FISHER, Tencel is made from sustainably harvested trees, and its closed-loop production means that 99.5 percent of chemicals used in wood pulp-fiber converting are reused.
  5. Patagonia uses an array of ethical and green materials. It uses PVC and phthalate-free inks for T-shirts, 100 percent traceable down insulation, Forest Stewardship Council-certified fibers and chlorine-free wool. Patagonia’s supply chain is extremely transparent, evident in its published reports: public factory list, factory scoring system, principles of fair labor and responsible sourcing, workplace code of conduct, social responsibility benchmarks, paper policy, water footprint, and packaging and merchandising policy.
  6. Aritzia’s Social & Environmental Responsibility (SER) team takes care of protecting its planet, customers and workplace teams. It helps the environment by cutting back on paper in printing and dining, conferencing and packaging. It uses tech to override paper-based systems and also participates in donating extra fabrics to women and children in Yunnan, China. The program, in alliance with Eco Village of Hope and HANDA Rehabilitation and Welfare Association, works to train communities on how to sew beautiful clothing. Aritzia also donates funds that, so far, have provided 130 hygiene packages, 25 sewing kits and 15 electric sewing machines.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Canopy Planet, Canopy Style 1, Canopy Style 2, H&M, Lulu Lemon, Stella McCartney, Patagonia, Aritzia


There are plenty of brands around the world that have philanthropic purposes or that have created programs and products that use certain designs in order to participate in charitable programs.

Clothing brands and cosmetic brands have also provided opportunities for many people to participate in charitable programs, while spreading awareness of causes that matter around the world.

Using fashion, jewelry or cosmetic products such as makeup or skin lotions, these brands convert their products into donations or awareness. In other words, their customer will not only be buying their fashion or beauty product, but they will also be contributing to a good cause.


LUSH is a handmade cosmetic brand that works with organic ingredients to create fresh cosmetic products. This brand uses little or no preservatives in its products and uses vegetarian ingredients.

This brand believes in protecting humans, animals and the planet, showing that they are committed to create their products as natural and as ecologically-friendly as possible.

LUSH is also devoted to work as a campaigner brand that supports animal rights, environment protection and many humanitarian causes, using activism and charitable giving. The brand has a product called “Charity Pot,” which is a hand and body lotion that, whenever is purchased, 100% of the price goes to humanitarian causes in the country or around the world.

2) Satya Jewelry

Satya is a jewelry brand that created modern jewelry pieces with a meaning. The Satya Foundation, along with its jewelry, supports different children groups and charities around the world.

The brand’s foundation is partnered with different organizations, orphanages and projects. Some of the brand’s partners are Commit 2 Change, Charity: Water, and the Manjushree Orphanage, among others. These projects and organizations have different purposes, but each one is dedicated to a worthy humanitarian cause.


“Creating good products that help feed the world” is the phrase that this brand uses as their slogan. This brand creates bags, accessories and clothing out of natural fabrics and artisan-made materials that help with a donation to provide meals around the world to people in need.

The brand has forged partnerships with many other brands, such as Target, Disney, Tory Burch, Godiva, TOMS and many others.

4) Lemlem

Lemlem is a brand that sells women’s and kids apparel, accessories and home items. Founded by model Liya Kebede, this brand empowers and partners with local artisans in the creation of their products.

The brand’s motto, “Made in Ethiopia,” proves that there are different ways and destinations for clothing and accessory production.

5) Warby Parker

This brand sells designer eye wear at an affordable price, and at the same time donates to a humanitarian cause.

They believe that everyone has the right to see, so every time a person buys a pair of Warby Parker glasses, the brand makes donations to their nonprofit partners that cover the donation of glasses to people in need.

Their primary partner, VisionSpring, trains men and women in developing countries to give eye exams and sell glasses to very affordable prices, while also spreading awareness.

The brand believes that selling the glasses at a very affordable price helps these low-income communities to earn a living through their improved vision.

6) Same Sky

This is a jewelry brand that offers products for both men and women. They provide job opportunities to women who are struggling and living in extreme poverty.

The brand has the vision to provide a second chance to these women struggling to make a living. They offer the employment, fair pay, training and education that these women need in order to empower themselves and live self-sustaining lives.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: LUSH, Satya Jewelry, Feed Projects, LemLem, Warby Parker, Same Sky
Photo: NorthPark Center

Oxfam’s newest project, focusing on the world leader’s goals to tackle extreme poverty and to spread the world with awareness, unites people across the U.K. by encouraging them to create a lip sync video, which will call for the goals to be met.

The “Big Lip Sync” was launched at the Glastonbury Festival, a music festival in Somerset, England, and it is asking festivalgoers to take part in action to support the goals to eradicate extreme poverty.

During the summer, Oxfam will be inviting people and festivalgoers to paint their lips with the color green, a metaphor that refers to the idea that everyone has poverty issues and global goals in their mouth and on their mind. Participants can then share their picture with the hash tag #biglipsync on their social media websites and profiles or upload a lip singing video to their social media.

These pictures and videos will be used as a way to prove that poverty is on everyone’s lips and that it is an important issue to the larger community. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users can share their green-painted-lip pictures to raise awareness and spread the word about the campaign in social media. Festivalgoers take many of these pictures while attending music festivals.

In the U.K., Oxfam is also spreading the word about “The Big Lip Sync” by being present in music festivals with a booth that promotes the cause. In these stands, Oxfam counts the banners, picture frames and slogans that festivalgoers use to show their support for the cause.

Famous U.K. journalists, fashion stylists, presenters and producers have also joined the movement. Gemma Cairney, Cherry Healey and DJ Goldierocks are some of the stars that participated in the promotional video for “The Big Lip Sync” project. The video shows them, with green lips, dancing and lip singing to a song in order to promote that they “stand against poverty” and to invite people to be part of “The Big Lip Sync.”

As an extra, Oxfam is offering the chance for a “The Big Lip Sync” participant to win tow tickets to go check out Bestival, a four-day music festival held in Isle of Wight, England. U.K. residents can enter this contest by texting the word LIPS to 700066.

Oxfam has shown a way to create awareness in a colorful, social and fun way. “The Big Lip Sync” represents a way for people and festivalgoers to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of meeting global goals aimed at ending extreme poverty.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Oxfam, Glastonbury Festival, YouTube
Photo: Oxfam

Textile Industry in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, there has been a trending migration from the Ganges Delta region into the cities. Governmental research teams estimate that around 1.5 million of Dhaka’s 5 million inhabitants have moved north from the Bay of Bengal delta region. The absence of agricultural work has forced Bangladeshis to relocate into the cities in search of factory and industry jobs.

Both domestic and foreign industries have taken notice of this in state migration and have made efforts to diversify and broaden Bangladesh’s economy. The intensified demand for factory jobs has caused an increase in competition and a desperation for work. Influxes of other ventures have made a significant impact on the Bangladesh economy. One global market that has benefited from these conditions is the textile and garment industry. Such businesses now command 80 percent of exports, 45 percent of the industrial workforce and 15 percent of the GDP in the country.

A recent phenomenon in the global garment industry is “fast fashion,” which utilizes cheap materials and labor to maximize production and minimize costs. In order to achieve these results, the industry is outsourced to foreign countries. There are currently over 4 million Bangladeshis working in textile and garment factories. Workers typically make less than $40 U.S. per month and are often subjected to overcrowded working conditions and long hours. Routinely considered modern slavery, destitute Bangladeshis are often underrepresented and easily taken advantage of in textile factories.

Since 2005, there have been over 2,000 deaths related to garment factory accidents. In April 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, killing over 1,100 workers. The factory was built on swampy marshland, completely unfit for any structure of its size. Investigations revealed that the foundation of the eight-story building was cracking and in need of serious repairs. Additionally, it appears that the top three stories were added illegally. Unfortunately, most garment factories in Bangladesh are in similar condition to the Rana Plaza factory.

While the Rana disaster was certainly not the first garment factory accident, its magnitude has garnered worldwide attention. Activists from 75 different countries have joined together to create “Fashion Revolution,” a group focused on providing resources for retailers, brands and consumers to educate themselves about the state of textile workers. The organization has worked to make the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, April 24, “Fashion Revolution Day.” On this day each year, world citizens are asked to wear their clothes inside out in an effort to recognize the origin of their garments.

Global retailers and brands, such as H&M, Walmart and Gap have called on Bangladesh to overhaul the industry. They have advocated for the institution of reforms and oversight procedures on factories and the workers’ rights. In response, the Bangladeshi government has received global recognition for their realignment efforts. The International Labor Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh has taken the initiative to set up a global fundraising campaign for the victims and families affected by the tragedy. In total, $21.5 million has been raised as compensation.

Additionally, the ILO has implemented governmental measures to streamline the initiation and registration of workers unions. In 2012 there were just over 100 worker unions, and there are currently under 500. The government has also instituted mandatory inspections of the 3,500 factories exporting clothing. So far, 35 factories have been shut down for violations ranging from building safety to working conditions.

Recently, the Bangladeshi law enforcement also pressed combination charges of murder and construction violations against Sohel Rana, the owner of the Plaza, and 41 others. This is a significant development, as garment factory owners in the past have been untouchable because of their influence economically. These efforts and changes made domestically and internationally could hopefully signal a new era of accountability and protection for the textile workers of Bangladesh.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, Business Insider, Ecouterre
Photo: Inquirer

Creativity comes in many forms. For example, it can be when one combines fashion and justice to bring business to impoverished communities around the world — and that is exactly what Jessica Honegger did when she created Noonday Collection.

What started as a trunk show by a woman who wanted to raise money to adopt a son from Rwanda soon became more than a one-time fundraiser, It has become an innovative business model that allows women to use fashion to create jobs at living wages for artisans in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Since its launch in 2011, Noonday Collection has provided women in the U.S. the opportunity to earn an income through entrepreneurship while still alleviating global poverty, creating a mutual beneficiary relationship that strays from the charitable “handout.”

Using fashion and design to create economic opportunity for impoverished communities, women can become social entrepreneurs known as Noonday Collection Ambassadors.

As ambassadors, women use their fashion sense to change the world and collaborate with others to make an impact simply by shopping, styling, sharing and advocating.

Noonday Collection states it best on its website: “Your fashion sense can now restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans.”

Noonday Collection Ambassadors partner with artisans in developing countries by selling jewelry, winter scarves, headbands and other accessories through trunk shows and personalized e-commerce sites. Artisans earn a percentage of the sales commission.

By partnering with artisans in developing countries, ambassadors can empower others to create a marketplace for their goods in their own community while still being able to help those in poverty earn a sustainable business to support their families.

Noonday Collection pays for all its products up-front and even makes advanced payments to provide artisans the money flow they need to start a sustainable business.

The company also sends members of its team to train artisans on what practices are best to design for the U.S. market among other topics to help them understand their business.

In addition, Noonday Collection offers scholarship programs, emergency assistance and donate a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to help place orphans in a permanent home.

If you would like to take part in this growing movement that has supported more than 1,200 adoptive families through its entrepreneurial insight and fashionable taste, visit the Noonday Collection website to learn how to become a Noonday Collection Ambassador: http://www.noondaycollection.com/become-an-ambassador.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Noonday Collection 1, Noonday Collection 2, Toms
Photo: Flickr

In Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of Congo, a group of men—gentlemen—always gallantly brighten up the moods of those around them. Meet la Société des Ambienceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (the Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance), abbreviated as La Sape—an apt abbreviation that also happens to mean clothes, or dress, in French. The members of this association are referred to as les sapeurs.

La Sape originated from Dandyism of the 19th century that was brought to Congo by colonialism. Colonial officers wanted their servants—or as they were called during that era “houseboys”—to dress in such a manner that would reflect the status of their masters. Congolese men coming back to their country from France also brought French fashion with them. Thus, among the youth and those who worked for the colonizers, many wanted to emulate and live up to the myth of the Parisian elegance.

However, nowadays, this foreign-influenced fashion has been appropriated and utilized as a uniquely Congolese sartorial expression to defy the harsh reality of everyday poverty and to allow those who partake in this subculture to articulate their art of living and their joie de vivre. In a country where 46.5 percent live at or below the national poverty line, an average person earns $3,240 per year. Nevertheless, today’s sapeurs are willing to pay a fortune for a pair of crocodile shoes, which can cost anywhere between $1,300 and $3,900. That is not to say that the sapeurs are on average wealthier than most Congolese or that they indulge in conspicuous consumerism.

Most members of La Sape have medium-income occupations such as electricians, shopkeepers or marketing agents. Despite their meager incomes, the sapeurs manage to use their creativity to assemble fashionable dresses to turn the streets of Brazzaville into runways. To save money, the sapeurs often buy second hand clothes or obtain them from friends. Besides their à la mode (and perhaps even a little avant-garde) clothing, the sapeurs also uphold—to a near commandment status—certain types of demeanors and manner that are the quintessence of politeness and elegance. Some of these commandments include: “1. To dress oneself here on earth as it is in heaven,” “8 & 9. To not be tribalist, racist, nationalist, or violent” and “ 10. To not display any hesitation in trying to charm all those who are sappophobic.” In Brazzaville, the sapeurs are somewhat celebrities—not unlike reality TV starts. Their presence at weddings, celebrations, parties and even funerals, are appreciated as they so often bring a sense of lightheartedness and stylishness to the occasions.

Although outsiders may see La Sape movement as a direct legacy of colonialism and the European imposition of Western values, the sapeurs in fact defy the stereotypes that are, too, imposed upon the many peoples of Africa by outsiders. In contrast to the usually clichés of a monolithic Africa of famine, wars, and safaris, the sapeurs show that there are more dimensions beyond the clichés. No matter how difficult the circumstance may be for the sapeurs, they nevertheless know how to make the best out of what they possess and in doing so, bring joy to both themselves and those around them. And as for the accusation that the sapeurs are perpetuating the legacy of colonialism, Baudouin Mouanda—a photographer who immortalized the numerous members of La Sape—has once stated, “the Westerners made the dress, but how it is worn was invented in Brazzaville.”

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Zone Zero, Racialicious, Jeuneafrique, NPR
Photo: Fashion Junkii

Most people have heard of TOMS shoe company, or even own a pair of TOMS themselves. The shoes are comfortable and casual as well as fashionably cute for everyday wear. In addition, for every pair of shoes purchased from TOMS, another pair is given away to someone in need.

The company has recently been criticized for hurting economies struggling against poverty by taking away business with their shoe give-aways.

A for-profit company, TOMS’s mission is to help societies that are lacking in basic supplies such as shoes. They have announced their plan to produce one third of shoes in the countries in which they donate the extra pair.

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoe company, has stated that the company is looking forward to helping solve more global issues such as clean water, nutrition and education. The company is examining ways to expand their product lines and business model to help further improving the quality of lives of those suffering from poverty around the world.

TOMS website shares how providing shoes to children helps give them the ability to go to school, to work and to participate in their communities without fear of injury and illness that can easily happen with bare feet.

Shoes are a basic need for everyone, and having kids in school, working and being healthy is a huge factor in breaking societies out of poverty.

The TOMS team calculates how many pairs of shoes they sell and match that number in pairs that they will give away.

Partners that operate community health programs in foreign countries work with TOMS to figure out sizes, quantities, and delivery costs. TOMS covers all of the shipping and distribution, and corrects their methods based on feedback from their ‘giving partners’ that are actually working in the societies TOMS donates to.

More and more companies are beginning to realize that making a positive difference in the lives of others is actually a very profitable venture. More than a billion people are living on less than two dollars per day, and that is a huge customer base for a company to cater to.

Viewing the world’s poor as a market share is an innovative and successful way to start a business and simultaneously free people from the cycle of poverty.

The cycle is often perpetuated by illness, malnutrition, unemployment and lack of medical care; these are problems that businesses can solve with new products and services. TOMS is only one of the companies that is thriving in the business world and helping people who really need it every step of the way. Additionally, TOMS personalizes their shoe donations for the different countries they assist. In January 2014, members of the company visited Tanzania and learned that almost half of the residents are under the age of fourteen years old.

This helps them decide types and quantities of shoes to distribute to Tanzania versus another country with alternative statistics. The more successful TOMS becomes, the more people across the globe are receiving shoes and the ability to walk to a better future on their own.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: The Huffington Post, Toms, Toms Stories
Photo: Forbes