The Supply Change works to redefine the traditional supply chain by connecting fashion brands to artisan social enterprises and creating socially as well as financially beneficial partnerships. Supply Change founder/director Chrissie Lam’s newest project, Fashion Designers Without Borders, is the result of a collaboration with travel company Extraordinary Journeys, and seeks to develop opportunities to produce profitable products with positive impacts.
SOURCE Contributor Georgie Wells speaks to Chrissie Lam to find out more about The Supply Change and what’s in store for the Fashion Designers Without Borders project.
The making of The Supply Change
Supply Change founder, Chrissie Lam worked in the fashion industry for 12 years in concept design, R&D and Trend Forecasting for casualwear brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters. As part of these roles, she traveled extensively and over the past five years, through these travels and her further work with various NGO’s in developing countries, she’s developed an increasing desire to merge her passions together – international development and fashion design.
In 2007 Chrissie met Taylor Krauss, founder of the non-profit organisation Voices of Rwanda. While working for American Eagle Outfitters as Senior Conceptual Designer, she began to develop ideas of ways to connect creative collaborations and philanthropic causes.
In 2008 Chrissie left for Rwanda on sabbatical, armed with t-shirts designed by industry friends and brand donations of clothes and other supplies, which would help to raise both funds and awareness. This initial project, called ‘Create for a Cause’, sparked immediate interest across the industry. In response, Chrissie went on to establish The Supply Change to carry on her collaborative projects in a more formal way.
Through integrated collaborations between The Supply Change’s design consultants and artisans from developing economies all over the world, much work has been done towards alleviating poverty and developing long-term economic relief for artisans, many of whom come from marginalised communities.
Chrissie now works with various brands including Henri Bendel’s, Steven Alan, Chico’s & Pacsun to develop groundbreaking new social enterprise initiatives within their companies.
She considers the most important issue in the ethical fashion industry to be economic empowerment. It is something that she is becoming a specialist in through her work with impoverished communities around the world. You can read Lam’s diaries from her work with these companies on The Supply Change website.
Fashion Designers Without Borders
While The Supply Change continues to consult with fashion brands, Chrissie is also launching a new initiative: Fashion Designers Without Borders, now in collaboration with Fashion 4 Development, a project of Vogue Italia editor and Fellowship 500 member, Franca Sozzani. Through this project, established design professionals will travel on immersive sourcing safaris to developing countries to meet artisans and visit social enterprises in order to form successful working relationships with communities that these designers wouldn’t normally have access to.
Chrissie envisages that through Fashion Designers Without Borders, she will be able to curate experiences and enlist like-minded design colleagues in order to help them realise the potential of sourcing in developing countries.
The first trip, to Kenya next February, is set to encompass a wide variety of opportunities. Participants will meet local artisans and visit their workshops in the Kibera slums. They will also visit the non-profit artisan group CTC International, and attend panel discussions with local leaders and designers.
There will also be workshops, cultural excursions and time spent developing relationships with potential on-the-ground business partners.
The focus is on creating strong relationships that will bring tangible benefits to as many parts of a supply chain as possible.
Chrissie says: “We believe change comes from within a company. Through our immersive Sourcing Safaris, we strive to raise awareness, open up discussions on best practices in international development, and foster partnerships between retail brands and social enterprises.”
To learn more about Fashion Designers Without Borders, take a look at this short video.