The always happy Megan Doepker has recently returned home from a trip to India where she spent seven months sourcing eco-materials, artisan, and designing. She left knowing her intent was to steer clear of disposable fashion and create products that were meant to last, and she came back with something so good! Nothing makes us more proud than to see a Saskatoon girl sticking her neck out like this and creating something positive (and beautiful!). The result of her efforts is UNA, and we made sure to chat with her about the project...
What is UNA Fashion?
UNA Fashion is a socially proactive fashion label crafted in India. It is a cause driven brand with a two-fold purpose to offer sustainable and ethical design for all of our eco-leather bags and silk scarfs. We use local silk, organic cotton and leather free of chrome, harsh chemicals and heavy metals. The eco-leather bags and scarfs are made by artisans in fair trade certified organizations with much of the work being done by hand. I’m sharing stories behind the line on my blog, at www.unafashion.com.
How long have you wanted to do this?
I’ve grown up around a culture of entrepreneurship, from my grandfather, dad, and cousins, so I was definitely predisposed to starting my own business. It’s always been the route I’ve wanted to take, but it was when I started learning about “social business” a few years ago that I really found my passion. Crusaders for empowering the worlds poorest such as Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus really inspired me. He’s shown how powerful business with social good as the bottom line over profits can be. From travels in Central Amercia and Asia, I increasingly desired to make my mark on alleviating poverty.
Where did the line come together?
This past winter I made the decision to leave the comfort zone, and embark on an open-ended trip to India to bring UNA to life. There were many long trains and lessons learnt before finding the perfect eco-materials and artisans. Getting to know the groups personally was so rewarding.
Are planning to get the collection into any stores in Saskatoon? Where will it be sold?
The collection is debuting on Indiegogo.com, a popular crowdfunding website. It works like this… I have a campaign with a goal of raising $8000. You watch my video, have the option to buy products, and I hope either way you will share the UNA story with your friends and social network! Check it out at http://www.indiegogo.com/unafashion...
The next step after the Indiegogo.com campaign is to sell online at www.unafashion.com. It would be great to sell in boutiques in Saskatoon eventually, as well as pop up shops hosted by the Saskatoon Fashion & Design Festival.
Tell us about some of the pieces...
The inspiration for the line came after returning from Asia with a hip bag I absolutely loved back in 2008. I loved having my hand free whether it was for a day out biking or a night on the town, not to mention it is the perfect travel accessory. I had great feedback on this fashionable fanny pack and people asking where they could buy one. I wasn’t happy with the small selection available, so I decided to design my own and call them ModPacks.
Building on that, the line offers niche bags designed to be timeless and functional. One bag I think will be popular has the option to be used as a clutch, hip bag and shoulder bag. There’s also a shoulder bag that can double as a bike bag and a classic messenger bag. The line follows principles from the slow fashion movement to buy well and make it last. Leather is durable and develops character and beauty as it ages.
Amen to that! We're all for it...
I couldn’t leave India without a product that values the amazing traditional handloomed sector, so I will also be offering silk scarfs. They’re handcrafted in a village that has actually outlawed the machines to mimic the trade. It’s really cool to walk down the streets and hear the sounds of this technical craft. The blend of local mulberry and Tussar silks make them very cozy for winter!
Do you have plans to extend it beyond that? What would you like to tackle next?
India and Africa are home to the largest proportion of the worlds bottom billion living in extreme poverty, and I therefore hope to expand to Africa. Next month I am attending One Young World in Pittsburgh, a summit bringing together young people from 192 countries to collaborate on bringing about positive change. There will also be many influential counselors attending, including Muhammad Yunus! The journey has just begun, and I will continue to use fashion as a platform for development and positive change!
If you love this project as much as we do, give UNA your support (via pledging, which gets you first access to the product) or peruse the collection and prices at http://www.indiegogo.com/unafashion, and be sure to follow her on Twitter: @UNA_FashionInc