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Thoughts, Impressions & Experiences Shared From Our Founder

Meeting Mira

Erin Murphy

When my husband, Dylan, and I lived in Nepal from 2012-2013, we had the privilege of exploring some of its remotest corners while trekking and adventure traveling. While I tended to spend my weekend mornings at Pranamaya Yoga Studio, Dylan ventured high into mountains of the Kathmandu Valley rim alongside a pack of zealous ultra-runners. He always loved running, but Nepal brought out the true trail runner in him and introduced him to a group of friends he maintains contact with regularly. That's one of the beautiful things about the ultra trail running community; it's tight-knit, and well, quite small compared to other sports. 

Shortly after we left Nepal, a new runner surfaced and rose through the ranks of this male-dominated (and in Nepal, foreigner-dominated) sport: Mira Rai. Hailing from the far reaches of Bhojpur, in remote eastern Nepal, Mira grew up similarly to other girls in rural areas. She was not able to regularly attend school, as she was charged with caring for the home and her siblings. In fact, it was her long walk to get water that stirred in Mira a love of running. She figured, why not move a little faster? Later, around the age of 14, Mira joined a local faction of Maoist insurgents, becoming one of thousands of Nepali child soldiers who found themselves in the midst of a bloody civil war from 1996-2006. Despite the difficulty of life as a soldier, Mira found satisfaction in the relative gender equality she experienced while serving in her regiment. It was here that she discovered organized sports and unearthed her passion for participating in athletics. 

In 2014, some years after the conflict ended, Mira was running in the hills of the Kathmandu Valley when she happened upon Nepali Army soldiers who were doing their daily physical training. They invited her to train with them that following Sunday. Mira showed up to an organized 50-kilometer ultra marathon...and won first place. Not first female, first overall. Those same guys that Dylan used to run with quickly realized she was a natural talent. Advocating for sponsorship and support, they managed to assist her in registering for global ultra competitions, in which she won several first place medals. 

Back in November, Mira was up for National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Dylan and I, who both teach at the same school, showed a brief clip about her to our students and encouraged them to vote. Do you know what happens when you ask ten and eleven-year-olds to vote? They vote. SO MANY TIMES. Mira did end up winning the competition; check out the special page and video that Nat Geo has compiled about her.

After a whirlwind of destined events this past week, Dylan saw on social media that Mira was in Los Angeles this week and reached out to her U.S. sponsors. We went to see her speak at a local high school and invited her to speak at our school. Our students could not ask enough questions! Mira thanked them endlessly with her ear-to-ear signature smile for their votes, and much to our happiness, our students agreed it was certainly a 2016-2017 year highlight! In the evening, we had the pleasure of dining with Mira and her sponsors, where she shared with me her vision for expanding accessibility of organized sports to young females across Nepal. While sharing deliciously authentic dal bhat, we agreed that this is a crucial step (of many) for women's empowerment in Nepal.

If her story piques your interest, I would highly recommend watching this documentary about Mira and her journey in the face of adversity to global recognition in ultra marathon trail running. Mira continues to impress the world with her positivity, her bright countenance and her genuine love for humanity, despite the challenges that have befallen her for most of her life. Mira represents precisely the ideals that Dignity Collective is working tirelessly to uphold, and I love how her story has become such a true inspiration for young women (and men!) in Nepal. 


Erin Murphy

Yesterday, we held a fun and productive focus group brunch! The purpose of this brunch was to bring together a range of women to get feedback on our first product...and of course, to have enjoy a delicious waffle bar!

After everyone made their way to a seat with a plate and mimosa in hand, we showed the trailer for the film The True Cost, an excellent documentary about the fast fashion industry's heart wrenching effects on human lives, the rate at which it is poisoning our environment, and ultimately, the impact it is having on us, the consumers. The trailer explores the following questions: What is the real story behind our clothes? Do we have any idea what kind of abhorrent labor practices are in place in countries like Cambodia and Bangladesh? When did we decide that it was more important to have a giant wardrobe of sweatshop-made garments that we wear one time because they only cost us $10? Is there anything we can do at this point to make a difference? If you have not seen this film, please do; it's on Netflix!

Next we moved on to a short presentation about what Dignity Collective is trying to accomplish. Working alongside, rather than over top of, our colleagues in Nepal, and eventually elsewhere, we are co-creating garments and other products that we can feel good about wearing and using. 

Next, Bianca Dobrikovic of the Downtown Women's Center facilitated a conversation about our first product. She passed it around and asked guests their feedback on color, price point, fabric and a few other specifics. We are proud to say that the feedback was incredibly positive and we are now ready to charge ahead with production!

Samples are in!

Erin Murphy

Samples of our first product arrived today! 

One of the things about getting involved in a new industry is that is most exciting is the learning curve! After many hours of putting together our first tech pack (Excel document with sketches, measurements, tagging and labeling specifics, etc.), our artisans in Nepal were ready to get sewing on samples on our first product.

The samples came by DHL this morning, and we are so excited to see how they look! Stay tuned for more information about this must-have product!




Fair Trade Fashion Show

Erin Murphy

About two weeks ago, a close friend of mine sent me a text asking if she should purchase two tickets to a fair trade fashion show. A few thoughts raced through my head before responding. First, I thought, "Wow! Really? Here in LA?" That was followed by, "I want to be supportive, but I really hope this thing won't epitomize all of the "fair trade fashion" stereotypes." But then I thought, "I need to be there. How can we at Dignity Collective expect support if we do not give it to others who are pioneering ethical fashion?"

So on July 16, my friend and I decided to make an evening of the show. After meeting at 7th Street, we hopped over to the Arts District for some window shopping and grabbed a delicious, vegan dinner accompanied by prosecco mojitos at Cafe Gratitude. After dinner, we made our way to the Second Annual Fair Trade Fashion Show, hosted by Bead and Reel, an ethical boutique, and The Peace Exchange, a non-profit women's empowerment and fair trade garment manufacturing organization.

When we stepped off the elevator, we exchanged equally satisfied smiles. We were delighted to hear subtle, runway-esque music, to see striking photos of smiling Masai tribeswomen, and most of all, to feel that overwhelmingly positive vibe you feel when in a room full of people who are committed to standing up to unjust or inequitable norms.

Congolese supermodel and women’s rights activist Lisette Mibo MCed the event, peppering her segments with a lively combination of humorous comments, encouraging words, and invitations for attendees to increase their understanding of the role of fashion in human exploitation. We had the privilege of hearing from a panel of experts ranging from innovative female entrepreneurs to a documentary film maker to a humanitarian physician. Event hosts Sica Schmitz and Katie Bond then spoke to a captivated audience about their own journeys into the world of ethical fashion. 

One thing I found particularly interesting was a point Sica made about the fact that women are overwhelmingly the leading fashion consumers, yet women are massively under-represented in corporate leadership positions at mainstream fashion companies. In fact, of the 15 mass-market apparel companies, exactly zero have female CEOs. Additionally, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign, of today’s 65-70 million garment workers worldwide, an estimated 75% are women. So, that means not only are women the largest consumers in an industry that is largely controlled by male decision-makers, but that same industry, notorious for its abuse, endangerment and exploitation of workers, is largely impacting (negatively) women’s lives. 

In response to this twisted reality, Sica decided to a curate a show that was not only 100% fair trade, vegan and environmentally-friendly, but it was also a show featuring the pieces of 15 female-owned clothing lines. 

The lights dimmed and the runway music picked up. Models of beautiful shapes and sizes entered the loft. From cotton basics, to breezy culottes, to specialty harem fits, herring bone and wax prints, the pieces continually proved the theory behind our entire approach at Dignity Collective—ethical fashion does not have to be hemp-ish, hokey or exclusively Boho chic. It can be elegant, comfy, dressy, casual, well-crafted, unique AND accessibly priced. The best part: The customer can shop guilt-free, knowing she/he chose to empower a life instead of exploiting one.

The evening could not have been more enjoyable. I left downtown feeling inspired by the work of so many brave women and men to challenge the garment industry’s abysmal status quo. With a sense of renewed commitment to social, economic and environmental justice, I feel recharged and excited about Dignity Collective’s upcoming products and, of course, potential to create positive impact in people’s lives.

Thanks for reading!