Aspiring designers and entrepreneurs, pay attention. Many fashionistas looking to get into the business assume that you go to fashion school then create your own fashion label and are sky-rocketed to fame and success. Jennifer Moran, founder of Greenola, knew better.
Jennifer knew she wanted to be a fashion designer since she was a little girl, but didn't sit on her laurels. She went to school for almost 9 years, focusing in Fine Arts, Graphic Design and finally Entrepreneurial Business Studies. While still in school she founded her own fashion company, Greenola, which is quickly becoming a success.
As if multiple degrees and running a successful fashion design company wasn't enough, she also works hard contributing to fair trade, female empowerment, and sustainability issues.
Jennifer's company, Greenola, produces fashion-forward clothing made of eco-friendly materials, made by fair-trade female workers in Bolivia. In addition to paying fair wages to women in one of the most impoverished countries in the hemisphere, 10% of every purchase at Greenola is donated to Solidarity Bridge, an organization bringing medical aid to the most impoverished Bolivian communities. Jennifer's amazing vision however saw through the poverty, to the beauty of the Bolivian people, their incredible craftsmanship and incredible fabrics, colors and patterns—all of which is incorporated into her fabulous fashion line.
In typical Jennifer-fashion, when asked if she would answer the burning questions of our readers, she happily volunteered:
What inspired you to get into the fair trade or ethical fashion industry?
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. However, like many I searched for a purpose, something that would leave me feeling inspired each day. While jumping in and out of school, I took any opportunity to travel. Quickly I was bitten by the travel bug and visited: Slovakia, Thailand, Peru, Bolivia, and more. While in South America, I found myself incredibly inspired and amazed at the strength of the women I met. Fantastically talented and in charge of the their own lives, the lives of their children (many were single mothers, living in extreme poverty), and the connections to their communities. Almost immediately I knew that I wanted to collaborate with them, help provide the enterprise they needed to fuel their entrepreneurial tendencies, and empower them to rise out of poverty. While building my business model it only made sense to practice a Fair Trade model, and treat everyone in the supply chain with respect.
How has your career path progressed over the years?
I went from working for a large corporation allowing me a small voice for change to a building a successful company that gives everyone involved a voice. My company, GREENOLA continues to grow and continues to fight against Fashion Industry norms of child labor, forced labor, and poor working conditions.
What is your favorite part of working in the ethical fashion business?
Sharing the stories of the women we work with in Bolivia. Also knowing that with every product we sell, we are making a difference.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashionistas?
Go for it! Network, and share with everyone your goals. I've found that once you get them out in the open, it makes them real and holds you accountable.
What schools does your company generally recruit new hires from?
We work with many interns from local business schools, art schools, etc. To be exact, we are located in Chicago, IL and have had students from Columbia College, Art Institute, Loyola University, and DePaul University.
Do you think there is an overall increasing or decreasing need for people in the fashion industry?
I think there is a continually increasing need for change makers! More than 95% of the clothes we wear are made over seas in less than ideal working conditions. If we can't bring production back home, at least let's treat those in production as a person with respect.
What designer(s) or brand(s) influenced you the most as an artist?
I am not so much influenced by brands as I am by events, travels, people I meet, etc.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Business skills: accounting, management, networking, persistence, etc. AND of course, creative skills.
What is the hardest part for you about working in the industry?
Dealing with rejection, staying strong, being persistent, cash flow [retail is the most difficult as far as cash flow].
What perks do you receive working in the fashion industry?
Looking stylish :), seeing someone walk down the street in one of your styles, growing.
What do you foresee for the future of ethical fashion?
I think it will GROW! As we continue to educate the consumer, just as the organic food movement took off... the consumer will recognize not only what they are putting IN their bodies, but what they are putting ON their bodies.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.