Behind ONE and fashionABLE’s handmade scarves

ONE is proud to introduce our exclusive handmade scarf made with fashionABLE, a company based in Ethiopia. ONE’s Nora Coghlan recently visited the fashionABLE factory and gave us this inside look into the production of our scarves. To buy a fashionABLE scarf, visit our ONE Store here.

fashionABLE

Two weeks ago, I got to meet some of the women behind the fashionABLE scarves here in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

At first glance, the fashionABLE factory is pretty modest. Tucked deep into the neighborhood of Mekanisa, it sits on an unpaved road about five minutes from the highway. Inside, five women are quietly working at looms and sewing machines, while another three are washing and dying fabric outside. As I walk around snapping photos, a couple women shoot me shy smiles but most stay focused on their work.

A one-time visitor might not realize that these women –- and this factory -– have an unbelievable story to tell. Most of the women who work at fashionABLE are former prostitutes who have been able to turn their lives around thanks to jobs at the factory. Women like Bezuayhu, who was forced into prostitution as a teenager, are now able to come to work in the morning with dignity and to invest in a better future for their children.

IMG_0129Nora, on the far right, with some of the workers and Barrett Ward, founder of fashionABLE
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But beyond Bezuayhu and her colleagues, there’s another hidden success — the story of fashionABLE itself. The World Bank’s annual “Doing Business Index” ranks Ethiopia 111th out of 183 economies; it takes an average of 99 days to start a business here, as compared to 13 in the United States and five in China.

fashionABLE

That’s why I’m not surprised when Serawit Tekatel (who heads up Women At Risk, the NGO that benefits from fashionABLE’s profits) cites “running a business” as one of her biggest challenges. And it’s why she wants Americans to buy fashionABLE’s scarves not just because for the women who make them, but because they like them. She knows that keeping fashionABLE profitable and expanding the business so that she can employ more women means they need to stay competitive.

For me, this side of the fashionABLE story is just as powerful. More than any amount of aid or assistance, ventures like fashionABLE –- and trade and investment more broadly — will be what helps Ethiopians pull themselves out of poverty. So, when you buy fashionABLE this holiday season, you are not just buying a beautiful handmade scarf, you are investing in a woman and her family.