How Wishwas is Making a Difference for Women’s Lives: An Interview with Founder Nivedita Chandrappa

Wishwas Foundation

by Nevena Rousseva

They say that New York City is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and it’s what makes the city so special. When a different cultural group integrates their own uniqueness, another layer of interesting is added to this vast city. But it’s not always easy for different groups to assimilate into a new environment. In this case I’m talking about a particular group,  low-income immigrant women living in Queens. Most of these women come from Bangladesh and spend their days sitting at home caring for the family with rare access to socializing or familiarizing their new environment.

Nivedita Chandrappa became aware with the silent struggle of these women and started the Wishwas foundation with the mission to help these women thrive in their new environment. Wishwas offers low-income immigrant women a range of classes from design and sewing to developing a business plan, to legal services, and healthcare resources.

Wishwas Foundation

on the right: Wishwas founder Nivedita Chandrappa

.I visited one of the sewing classes held at the Jamaica Merrick library in Queens. On this day there were about 20 women, (the average is between 30 and 45) most with their young kids who were running around and playing. The room was very loud as this was not just a learning opportunity, but a chance for the women to socialize. For many this class is their only chance to get out of the house. The women were learning about patterns, sewing techniques, and decorative stitching. Many of them already have some kind of knowledge in design, and the class is a chance for them to expand their skills and gain confidence. Most learn during class and take work, such as embroidery, home.

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Wishwas Foundation

Women in class

In order to garner attention to these women Wishwas is holding a cocktail fundraiser on September 26th at clothing designer Naeem Khan’s design studio. Tickets available here.

I caught up with Nivedita over email about the beginning of Wishwas, how it’s helping women, and how she wants to see it grow.

How and why did you start Wishwas?

I started Wishwas because I felt a need for the grassroots women to understand women’s empowerment, equal rights and economic freedom. It started out as a seed idea to give mothers a choice to work and nurture their own talents, besides serving the household and remain just as caregivers.

I started Wishwas with two more friends and we first started at Kew Gardens Community center in 2010, with the help of wonderful volunteers who believed in my vision.

Wishwas Foundation

finished product

Who are the women that Wishwas is helping?

Low-income women who maybe home makers, refugees, disabled etc.

How was the sewing circle organized?

The sewing circle is organized by assessing the skill levels of women, they should have some background in sewing, should know basic addition and subtraction.

We gave presentations in libraries and the libraries who saw the need for this program came forward to host us in their respective libraries, it so happened that most of them were from Bangladesh, but we do have a few Hispanic, Haitian immigrant women too who are enthusiastic to learn sewing.

Wishwas Foundation

embroidered by hand

Who are some of the designers that are working with Wishwas?

Amy De Crew, Kristine from Spencer Devine, Rekha Krishnamurthy from Divine Designs. Handcrafting Justice, Good Shepherd missionaries. Few orders for ethnic clothes are trickling in, eventually we hope to have the women form a co-op and bring out their own designs and brands.

Are the women eager to learn?

The classes are packed, we had to reduce the class size!

Are you seeing an improvement in the lives of the women who come to the weekly meetings?

Yes, some of them are taking orders from home, some are working with designers learning new skills, they make a few extra bucks that can help them share household expenses. It has improved their self-esteem, they are eager to learn English and speak to people other than their ethnic background.

Wishwas Foundation

How can someone get involved with Wishwas?

We welcome anyone who is interested in volunteering their time, contact us at 718-785-6355 or e mail us at team@wishwas.org.

What does Wishwas mean?

Wishwas means faith in one’s self in Sanskrit.

Wishwas is hosting a fundraiser with Naeem Khan. How did that come about and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

I happen to meet Ranjana Khan, Naeem Khan’s wife who was at one of the fundraisers hosted by Reema Rasool from Saywe.org. Ranjana Khan who is also a jewelry designer and has an upscale jewelry line, auctioned her jewelry for Wishwas through which we raised our seed money. Ranjana Khan took interest in our project and has also introduced us to her famous designer better half, Naeem Khan!

We are grateful to have Ranjana and Naeem Khans behind our organization, we hope to raise funds through their help and support.

How would you like to see Wishwas grow?

I hope and dream that Wishwas will create different kinds of co-ops and women can make more financial decisions, and create successful small businesses.♥

For tickets to the Wishwas fundraiser click here.

Wishwas Event Invitation

Success Without Stress

Stress can take a major toll on both our physical and mental health.

This talk by Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk is about using your mind efficiently and eliminating the daily stresses that plague many of us.

Are You a Rebel? 10 Questions For Rebel Root designer Eva Riu + 50% Discount Code

Rebel Root Couple

by Nevena Rousseva

Many of us dream of being rebels at some point in our lives. A rebel breaks the rules, follows their own lead, and is always cool. Maybe in high school, maybe in college, or maybe even now. But for many of us the reality is we can’t be rebels in our daily lives. So enter Barcelona based clothing brand Rebel Root to give you a little bit of rebel. The core if the one-year-old company is sustainability and ethical production, but that does not mean that style has been sacrificed. In fact, the edgy clothing pieces will have you channeling your inner bad-ass as soon as you put them on.

I caught up with Eva over email about what her brand stands for, her inspiration, how she rebels in her daily life, and how they help protect the knowledge of artisans.

And for our readers Rebel Root is offering a 50% discount on all merchandise. See code below…..but first, read on!


What’s the concept behind Rebel Root?

Rebel Root is a new clothing and accessories brand, created in Barcelona for men and women. We have based all our work on Ethical Fashion, ensuring that our production and design chain respects and defends human rights and protects the environment. We have these principles in mind for everything, from production processes all the way to every fabric we work with.

What was your inspiration for the collection and what’s your process?

I usually listen to something on the radio that inspires me. During the creation of my last collection, I was captivated by “Colony Collapse”, a song by Filastine, who is a Barcelona’s based musician. I start by putting together all the ideas and concepts that I have with all the materials and fabric options at my disposal. After that I do a lot of sketching. For our collection we did hundreds of sketches. Once I have a clear idea of the designs, I meet with my artisans and work to make some samples. As soon as I get the samples I decide which ones will go into production.

Rebel Root

Who are these artisans?

On our website you can check the artisan who made each piece. Working with fair trade their standard of living has improved and they can now afford to save. Their work is appreciated and their name recognized.

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Previous to RebelRoot you had a clothing line called the The Mystic Onion. Was that line based on, ethical fashion? If not, why did you transition to sustainable fashion with Rebelroot?

The Mystic Onion was a locally made brand. But I decided to take one more step, so I created RebelRoot. I am not only interested in how something is made, but also in the fabrics. I like to increase the capacity and wellbeing of the people and communities behind fashion.

Where is your clothing produced?

The clothing is produced all around the world depending on the product. The pieces made outside Europe have World Fair Trade Certification. Check this brief comparison between Fair Trade certified and standard producers.

rebelRoot_product_S13_3_photo-101
What are the handcrafting techniques that you use?

Some of the fabrics are hand printed by Batik artisans in Indonesia. Made in Indonesia under very high standards of Fair Trade. The jewelry is made by our artisans with wood and glass beads techniques.

The editorial is very interesting- plants growing from people’s body parts, what is the idea behind it?

The name ‘RebelRoot’ is what inspired this concept. We all have a ‘Rebel Root’ inside of us that can come out. That, I imagined as a plant that grows inside of us, and comes out as leaves. It’s something that we grow; Rebels dreaming in a sustainable world.

Rebel Root
What does the name RebelRoot mean?

We always envisioned ourselves as a company that would create products with a very strong foundation on values and techniques. That said, we wanted to do so whilst elevating the design and established looks that most times other fair-trade companies use. We thought we could apply a much more modern, casual and elegant style to our products, but still have them evoke their origins, techniques and artisans behind them. A foundation as a root, and a rebel as a style equals RebelRoot.

Rebel Root

Do you rebel in your daily life? If so, how?

Nowadays we can buy many things, it’s easy and cheap. I try to think in every product that I buy. We still have the power of choosing, so we can be a conscious consumer.

What is the “protection of knowledge” concept?

It is key for us to support hand crafting throughout all aspects of our production chain. This ensures the future of the communities that collaborate with Rebel Root as well as allows them to make their own cultures known. We use traditional hand crafting techniques, on designs made in Barcelona.♥


To get some of these pieces click here. At checkout use the code ‘styleandthestartup’ to get 50% off!!

For more on Rebel Root and their commitment to ethical fashion click here.

Connect with Rebel Root: Facebook, Twitter

Rebel Root Woman

Marcus Aurelius’s Way To Beat Procrastination

 

To access the full Medications by Marcus Aurelius book click here.

Levi Strauss & Co: The Beginnings of a Modern Day Heritage Brand

Levis Logo

This article was written by Vicki Power on behalf of House of Fraser. House of Fraser is a premium department store based in the UK and a stockist of Levi Strauss & Co clothing and accessories.

 

Fashion is an ever changing industry but once in a while there is an item, a trend, a style that just won’t go away – The blue jean is that item.

Levi Strauss invented the blue jean and his journey remains one of the most inspirational stories within the fashion industry. Not only was Levi an excellent business man who saw an opportunity and took it, he and his company have implemented policies that were far ahead of their time and remain one of the most highly respected business practices in the industry.

To this day the Levi brand is recognized around the world and continues to be sold globally on a massive scale.

Before the blue jean

In 1847, when Levi Strauss was 18, he moved with his mother and two sisters from Germany to the US to join his older brothers who were living in NYC and running a successful wholesale dry goods business.

 

Levi-Strauss

Levi Strauss

 

The Beginning of Levi Strauss & Co

From a young age Levi was a risk taker and at the age of 23 he moved to San Francisco. The Gold Rush had caused 300,000 people to relocate to San Francisco and Levi saw this as an opportunity to set up his own store. This was the beginning of Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co began selling wholesale dry goods such as clothing, canvas, umbrellas and bedding to local stores in the area whose customers were the gold prospectors.

Entering into the Apparel Industry

In 1872 Levi was contacted by Mr Davis; a tailor from Reno who bought his fabric from Levi Strauss & Co. Mr Davis was looking for a partner to help him patent his revolutionary idea that would strengthen the pockets of work trousers using copper rivets.

Levi was a business man with little or no knowledge of the clothing industry, Mr. Davis was a tailor with little or no business knowledge. Levi took a risk partnering with Mr. Davis, and in 1873 they were awarded the patent for the copper rivets.

 

Levi's_506_Front_Pocket

The revolutionary pockets with rivets

Waist Overalls

Levi Strauss & Co began selling denim work pants, known as waist overalls, with reinforced rivets on the pockets to prevent them from ripping when laden with gold.

Mr. Davis relocated from Reno to San Francisco in 1880 as the demand for the waist overall was so high that hand-made production could no longer keep up and the first Levi Strauss & Co factory was opened.

Levi Strauss’ Will

Prior to his death in 1902, Levi sponsored 28 scholarships to the University of California-Berkeley, which are still in place today. He was a philanthropist, heavily involved in many charities and he set clear instructions in his will that Levi Strauss & Co continued this support after his death.

Levi Strauss & Co after Levi Strauss

The 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco damaged the factory and headquarters. All employees continued to be paid their full salary and after a number of months a temporary factory and showroom were set up and work restarted.

In 1926, employees at the Valencia Street factory were awarded bonuses, which at the time was unheard of in the apparel industry.

The depression struck in the 1930s and demand for workwear decreased. As a way of preventing lay-offs, staff were given alternative non-manufacturing jobs such as relaying the hardwood floor in the factory, while production levels were low. By doing this the company retained a highly skilled and happy workforce who were ready to restart manufacturing as soon as the demand for workwear increased.

Levis-Jean-Campaign

Modern day Levi Strauss & Co

Through the year’s one of the main things that stand out is the value and emphasis placed on employees at Levi Strauss & Co and the realization that a highly skilled and fully trained workforce was the most valuable asset a business has.

Some examples of the value placed on his staff are listed below:

  • The Red Tab Foundation was set up to help Levi Strauss & Co employees in retirement
  • Levi Strauss & Co Became the first corporation to provide HIV and AIDS tests and education for employees and their families
  • They developed one of the first known comprehensive standard of practice for manufacturing contractors which included wages, conditions of work, ethics and the working environment
  • Levi Strauss & Co became the first US corporation to offer employees and their families, including unmarried partners, medical benefits

Levi took a number of risks early in his career, but they were all smart, which resulted in his small wholesale dry goods business propelling into the apparel industry and becoming one of the most successful businesses of all time.

To learn more about the inspirational story of Levi and Levi Strauss & Co click here.

Exclusive BUNDSHOP Offer for Style and the Start-Up Readers

Bundshop Launch Offer

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Watch LIVE Now! Smart PR for Artists, Entrepreneurs and Small Business

Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday the guy behind those talked about American Apparel ads and the author of ‘Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator’ talks about getting free media attention.

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