|Casual Chic Look with Elegantees and a Maxi|
Women's fashion apparel to help fight human trafficking
Eco jewelry made in the USA of reclaimed brass and vintage materials
Women's casual fashion apparel made in the USA of reclaimed jersey knit
Ethically sourced and sustainably produced shoes, handmade and handwomen in Peru
Photo Credit: Pink Creative Studio
Have you ever wondered how you can help end human trafficking (as a consumer)?
Millions of men, women, and children are trapped in human trafficking in every moment. According to the UNOCD, there are more women trapped in human trafficking then men. Human trafficking is not just a women's issue, but a human issue. As a consumer, you can discover your "Slavery Footprint" and choose to avoid purchasing from companies which are known to support sweatshop conditions and potentially labor trafficking victims. However, you can go one step further! Companies such as Elegantees provide fair waged employment and housing for survivors of human trafficking. More than just employment and housing, Elegantees also helps women move forward and pursue further education if they so desire. Purchasing products from companies such as these helps bring about change, empower, and you are making a purchase you would have done anyways.
I have realized that are many women's jewelry and accessories companies which empowers survivors of human trafficking through employment and support programs. However, I have found many fewer clothing companies which support survivors of human trafficking. Elegantees are one of the few.
And now, let me present to you my interview with Elegantees!
Fashion for freedom... I love it! Tell me how ELEGANTEES actually helps end human trafficking?
One of the biggest problems with being rescued from sex trafficking is many women are lured back into it if they do not receive proper care and financial independence. Our passion is on the restoration end of this so they are not vulnerable again. Sewing jobs provide a sense of accomplishment, independence, and a way to take control of their life again.
How many survivors are you currently employing?
Six women. There are four women in Nepal and two in the New York City area. There are additional women that we teach sewing classes to in a safe house in NYC.
If my readers would be interested in volunteer modeling for you, where can they apply?
We love to do photo shoots and welcome various women as models. There is a tab on our website here, and we normally schedule shoots in NYC. It can also be for those travelling to NYC. If you’re taking a vacation, modeling for us is something to add to your to-do list.
Why the name "elegantees"? How do you pronounce this?
When starting Elegantees 4 years ago, Katie wanted to create tops that are modest and elegant that are made from quality tee-shirt fabric. This way, they would be super easy to wear, wash, and style. The “elegant tee shirt” became the staple item in each collection. Lately we’ve been venturing off into dresses, accessories, and, soon, skirts!
Tell me about your founder, Katie!
Ten years ago, Katie Martinez came to the city from the farm she grew up on in Iowa for the fashion industry. She excelled in the industry and dreamed of starting her own business. When doors were opening to start the brand, there was a grief in her heart for sex trafficked victims, so she sought ways to use Elegantees to help.
Tell me about the startup phase of ELEGANTEES? Would you say you are still there?
The startup phase was in Katie working nonstop as she temporarily moved back to her parent’s house in 2010. Since then, growth has happened, but perhaps not in the way that would impress typical business standards. We’re a team of over 20 volunteers, plus our paid sewers. We are planning to open a store in the near future, and we are currently researching how to make this happen. It is a possibility to be able to hire more survivors to sew, hire more survivors to work in the store, and if demand increases, we’ll open positions to paid staff as well.
I know you are currently based in NYC. Has this helped your business grow and network?
The Garment District is here and lots of creativity. It’s inspiring. We do get the opportunity to network, although we wish we could do more of it. Katie is a stay-at-home mom, and Wildy (our design lead) works full time and is wedding planning.
Can my readers purchase ELEGANTEES in boutiques across the nation?
We are in a very limited number of boutiques, but the main reason for this is not having someone dedicated only to the relationships with them. We get requests from buyers often. There is a wholesale representative in training, so soon we will be able to offer wholesale with more serious pursuit.
Where is your fabric sourced from?
Most of the qualities we’ve been using lately have been sourced locally in Nepal. This has been great for us since we’re a very small company, and we don’t have much purchasing power to have a lot control of this.
Where do you see ELEGANTEES in 5 years? 10 years?
Our vision is to see every sex trafficking victim in New York City and Nepal receive a safe housing option and an employment opportunity. We will continue to pursue ways to grow and expand in order to see this dream become reality. When we break even, we intend to donate significant profits of our business to organizations that are restoring victims, that are working with law enforcement, and providing care and counseling.
Aside from purchasing your beautifully crafted product, what message does ELEGANTEES want to translate to their customers?
We’re not the cookie-cutter fashion brand. Our lifestyle advertising is relatable, and in our opinion, very beautiful. Beauty is something that radiates from the inside out. While she is captivating, a woman’s value isn’t placed in her looks, but through her value in what she can offer to others.