Proxy Apparel empowers women through sustainable fashion
Photos courtesy of Heatherjean MacNeil.
In 2008, Heatherjean MacNeil '08MBA, won the Simmons College Silverman Business Plan Competition, which awarded her with funding to launch Proxy Apparel, a socially responsible accessories and apparel line whose mission is to empower and employ women in developing countries throughout the world.
Only a couple years have passed since graduating from the Simmons entrepreneurship program and business is booming for Heatherjean. Proxy Apparel has partnered with women-owned cooperatives in Guatemala, such as The UPAVIM Cooperative and Mayan Hands, to produce sweatshop-free, sustainable fashion and accessories, which you can now purchase directly from Proxy Apparel's online shop. In addition, Heatherjean recently debuted Proxy Apparel's Spring collection at SXSW's first annual Syle X showcase in Austin, TX.
Amidst all the buzz, Stacey Gualandi of The Women's Eye caught up with Heatherjean to talk about what it means to be a social entrepreneur:
EYE: Has it always been your plan to combine a social cause with your own business?
HJ: Yes it has. I always envisioned that I would either start a non-profit or run a business that focused on women. Fashion really became a vehicle for that. During my travels through rural parts of South America, I observed the fashion supply chain: from cotton to fiber to spinning to knitting and then to sewing.
There were ample opportunities for job creation for women. I actually grew up on an organic farm. My family has always lived sustainably and as social entrepreneurs.
EYE: Proxy is an alternative to the current marketplace. How difficult is it to maintain this business model?
HJ: It's a learning process, a work in progress like a lot of social enterprises and social entrepreneurs. Our mission drives our profit and our profit drives our mission. But the relationships that we have with our suppliers and the cooperatives that we work with are much more time and resource intensive than it would be if we were working in traditional factories.
Read the entire interview with Heatherjean: Heatherjean MacNeil on Creating Ethical Proxy Apparel.
P.S. We love the handwoven Mayan shawls!