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Looking good while doing good

Inspired by a trip to rural  Kenya in 2009, Jessi Cruickshanksearched for a way to pay tribute to the family she stayed with,  whowere working hard to lift themselves and their community out ofpoverty. 

Inspired by a trip to rural Kenya in 2009, Jessi Cruickshank searched for a way to pay tribute to the family she stayed with, who were working hard to lift themselves and their community out of poverty.

Teaming with Free the Children (a charity organization that empowers youth to be active local and global citizens)?and ethical-apparel organization Me To We Style, the fashionista found a way to say thank you by designing a shirt that is stylish, sustainable and most importantly, that serves a purpose.

When did this collaboration begin?

The first shirt I created, three or four years ago, did really well. And then a white one that I created about a year ago when I came back from my trip to Kenya did so well that we wanted to re-launch it this year for fall, for back-to-school. The proceeds go back to helping families like the one that I lived with in Kenya create a sustainable income for themselves.

Are you still in contact with the family you visited in Kenya?

I have spoken to them on the phone several times, I have a message I’ve saved from my phone when they first saw the design for the shirt they all called me and screamed at once. I don’t know if this is the most practical item for them to wear – but certainly they deserve all the credit because this design is a straight rip off of the beadwork that they make so beautifully.

Can you elaborate on how this particular design is a reflection of your time in Kenya?

At the end of my trip — this family really had nothing and had given me everything — so at the end the whole community was lined up to wish me goodbye and they each presented me with a piece of jewelry and beadwork which really was their main source of income. I didn’t know how I could possibly thank them at the time, and then I came back and so this is sort of my way of thanking them and honouring them and giving back in a way that I can.

What makes this shirt different from another charity tee?

I think a lot of charity shirt are, kind of ...ugly. Can I say that? Who needs another logo shirt that they’re going to squeeze into the back of their closet. So my objective was to create something that was eco-friendly, sustainable that the proceeds go to something that means a lot to me, and to make it chic and fashionable.

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