MY SISTER’s mission is to prevent sex trafficking, educate communities, empower the population, provide after-care for survivors and offer growth opportunities to at-risk women through the sales of our statement-making, ethically-sourced apparel and accessories.
Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
I attended university in MN for advertising and marketing. There, I had a work study job where my boss started teaching me graphic design skills. It was a great way to add that skill to my more strategic studies in classes. After graduating, I spent quite a few years in the real estate industry at national corporations doing a mix of graphic design and managing the marketing efforts, then switched over to the spa industry to get some different experience.
On top of that, I started doing photography and had a small photography business where I met a ton of great people and got to exert all of that extra creative energy. I was friends with my now business partner, Wayne. He told me about a new business that he was working on and I offered to provide some marketing ideas. It quickly turned into me joining the team to launch MY SISTER. Having the opportunity to combine my design, photography and marketing skills in the fashion world with an empowering message, for a good cause, with MY SISTER, was an ideal fit and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Personally, I grew up in a smaller town in central WI. I knew from early on I needed to be somewhere bigger and more exciting, eventually leading me to Minneapolis. My boyfriend and I rent a beautiful duplex and have a little loving, but super hyper, Chihuahua named Ruthie. You can hear her barking all over town (she’s very social) and she looks like a mini cow with black and white spots. (Maybe it’s my inner WI farm girl that subconsciously chose a dog that resembles a cow.;)
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
I’ve always been concerned for the environment but, from the beginning, it was an initiative focused on by Wayne, the co-founder of MY SISTER, as he has a background in the ethical and sustainable food industry. Once I learned more about taking those values and applying them to fashion, I have become more and more invested. Plus, I believe we won’t have an earth to fight against trafficking in if we don’t take care of our resources (human and otherwise) and planet in a sustainable manner so these initiatives are as important as ever.
What is the importance of the idea of ethical and sustainable fashion to you?
Sex trafficking goes hand-in-hand with the ethical treatment of those working in the fashion/garment industry, so it’s a #1 priority for me.
What about ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
I so look up to and admire those who have paved the way, even when it wasn’t as popular to do so. These are truly the change-makers.
What is MY SISTER?
MY SISTER is an apparel retailer fighting against sex trafficking. Through the sale of ethically sourced clothing and accessories, we’re able to invest in an exploitation-free world. On a regular basis, we do things like: fund and partner with non-profits, empower and employ survivors, and educate and connect with communities.
What are some of its feature products?
Statement-making tees and sweatshirts – Make Herstory, Equality, Feminist, You’re Not The Boss Of Me, Liberation, We are all human together, etc.
Many factors come into the fold for consideration within this movement. It is international, moderate in size, and growing. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires in 2012. This implies human rights, worker rights, and, in many instances, women’s and children’s rights. What are the importance of human rights and worker rights in this new movement, and to the garment industry?
Sex trafficking is directly linked to worker rights in the industry. If we want to create a better world, this is a great place to make a huge impact with it being such a monumental industry. Every ethical fashion purchase can make a difference. We should all be asking ourselves if getting that cheap accessory or garment is worth a human being’s health and wellbeing?
Women and children are the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What about the status of women’s and children’s rights as well?
This is my mission – to create opportunities for these girls and women. These two populations (as well as many others) have been exploited in too many ways for too many years and our world is suffering due to it.
Children are the most vulnerable population. Women tend to have less status than men in societies including the right to decent working conditions, decent pay, to vote, to acquire an education, and to be self-sufficient. What is the relationship between the need to implement women’s rights and children’s rights, which have existed for a long time, in this domain of the working world?
More women in the working world equals more thoughtful, impactful business and money being reinvested back into their families, in turn, providing more education and a better future for their children. More opportunity for children to become educated in schools as opposed to working in garment factories equals the world’s future change-makers being given the chance to do so.
Child labour and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labour and a few million for child slavery. How can individuals get the word out about these other rights violations?
There are a ton of great documentaries and books on these issues. Educating yourself and taking a moment to spread that bit of education on to others through conversation and social media to raise awareness can all really help. In addition to that, voting with your dollars and knowing what you’re purchasing and who’s being exploited in the process can make the biggest impact.
How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
Making thoughtful purchases and working with or donating to organizations that are in those countries taking action and working on solutions.
What topics most interest you?
Animal rights (I’m a long-time vegetarian.)
What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?
I know that with everything I do for the company, it is making positive change for someone. I also just love it that we are an outlet for people – a way to speak up and take action against some of the things that need addressing in our world. Plus, being in a place where I can help offer vulnerable women opportunities is the best feeling no matter what else is going on.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time?
MY SISTER is pretty all-consuming right now as we are focused on growth and employing more survivors as we move along into 2017. In my spare time, I like to get outside or create crafty and artsy things.
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
In a world where things can often feel overwhelming and uncontrollable, we each have the opportunity to take steps in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Even giving 5 dollars or 5 minutes of your time to a person who needs it, can make a difference. Take action.
Thank you for your time, Mandy.