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How Cartier Is Helping a Female Entrepreneur Change Lives Through Fashion

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Several weeks ago, I got an email from Cartier’s PR team inviting me up to San Francisco to attend its Women’s Initiative Awards. From previous experience, I knew that press trips with Cartier are fun and fancy. However, I didn’t know I was in for an experience that would move me deeply.

Upon arriving to an uncharacteristically sunny and balmy San Francisco, I was introduced to the Women’s Initiative program from previous laureates and Mercedes Abramo, president and CEO of Cartier North America. I learned that the Cartier Women’s Initiative is the world’s largest competition that gives female entrepreneurs who are running social impact-driven companies the opportunity to win coaching, mentoring, and financial support. I’m going to hit you with some facts to put this in context: Since the initiative started in 2006, more than 18,000 women have applied, and more than 200 businesses from 51 countries have been supported, which has created almost 7000 jobs around the world.And not just any jobs, but jobs that are directly making the planet a better place. These businesses are doing awe-inspiring and frankly humbling work. I heard from finalists who were doing everything from creating a centralized 911 emergency system in Kenya to providing employment opportunities to Middle Eastern refugees. And it’s not like Cartier has to run this program. I would guess they might sell just as many Love bracelets without it. Yet the company sees tremendous value in supporting women all over the world. In Abramo’s words, “It’s very dear to who we are and what we stand for. We’re a company primarily targeted at women, so it aligns very well with our values of bold, pioneering women.”
After getting to hear elevator pitches from all 21 finalists, there was one woman I knew I had to interview. As you might have guessed, she and her two co-founders have a fashion-related product, but one that happens to be changing the lives of people with chronic illnesses. I sat down with Emily Levy in a sunny little corner of the room to learn more about her story. Levy went undiagnosed for seven years with chronic neurological Lyme disease, and when she finally got her diagnosis, she was told she would need a long-term IV to pump antibiotics to her heart. As for how Levy was supposed to protect this expensive medical device (known as a PICC line)? She was advised to wear a sock on her arm. Yes, as in a sock designed for feet. “I was known around campus as the girl with the cut-off sock on her arm. I noticed that people were treating me differently once they could tell that something was going on with my health,” says Levy. 
Drawing from her experience, she was inspired to create Mighty Well, a company that sells stylish clothes and accessories for people with chronic health issues. “What we’re putting forward is a sick girl who started a company with her two best friends,” says Levy. “I was in a sorority, but not many of my ‘sisters’ were there for me. It was really my two best friends—now my co-founders, Maria del Mar Cortez and Yousef Al-Humaidhi—who helped to take care of me when I could only take on a partial course load, could no longer go to parties, and getting dressed in the morning was hard. Even just dealing with the amount of medical supplies and nursing visits to my dorm room, they were there for me.” As if this story couldn’t get any more moving, Levy’s friendship and business partnership with Al-Humaidhi grew into a romantic relationship, and the pair were just married last month.
When I asked Abrams about what stood out to her about Levy’s business, she remarked, “At [just 25 years old], she identified a problem from personal experience, and she found a way to instill confidence in others and help them through this process. It’s just magic that she put those pieces together to create a wonderful product.”. That first product is a PICC line protective arm sleeve using sportswear fabric technology—a stylish, serviceable solution for the six million people who get a PICC line placed every year, including people receiving chemotherapy. The company has expanded since then to include the Mighty Wrap, which conceals IV lines, the Mighty MedPlanner, and the Mighty Pack, a backpack designed to fit over wheelchairs that has a hidden insulated medical compartment.
Levy brought up the recently released Mighty Pack when I asked her about any anecdotes from customers. “We’re a scrappy startup, and within 24 hours of releasing the backpack, we had two young women both in wheelchairs tag us on social saying that the product gave them mobility and that no one was staring at them because they had medical supplies. Dealing with my illness, I’ve felt ‘less than’ too, and I want to be a face for them and show them that just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you have to live a sick life. I still face a lot of health challenges and a lot of doctor visits, but what motivates me every day is getting tagged in those pictures.” 
It’s clear that Levy’s company has a significant impact on her customers, so next I asked about the impact being part of the Cartier Women’s Initiative had on Levy and her business. In what I’m learning to be typical Levy fashion, she draws on personal experience to make her point. “My husband, Yousef, is from Kuwait, which is a huge market for Cartier. A lot of women go to Kuwait as teachers and end up marrying men they meet there. Unfortunately, a lot of women are seen as coming there with the aim to find wealthy husbands. In my case, Yousef and I met in college in the United States, and for a year and a half, I didn’t even know where Kuwait was on a map. “When I went to Kuwait for the second time to get married, I told his family members that I was a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Initiative, and they treated me like a businesswomen instead of someone who was coming to find a husband. It was a completely different level of respect because a brand like Cartier stood behind Mighty Well.” Indeed, Ambramo concurs, “It’s all about helping get these women the recognition and exposure they deserve.”
That’s respect and exposure for a business that not only does social good, but also reflects inclusivity in multiple ways at its core. For my last question, I asked Levy if she had anything else to add. “Yes,” she replied, “I want to highlight that my co-founder Maria is here on a H-1B visa. She’s originally from the Dominican Republic, and we have faced the challenges that are being talked about in the media. I think it’s so important that we’re sharing our story that I’m a Jewish American, she’s Latina and Catholic, and Yousef is Muslim and Arab. And all three of us have started a social-impact company. The world is telling us we shouldn’t be friends, but I don’t believe that.”
As the interview concluded, I rose from my chair without a second thought and then realized Emily was struggling and couldn’t immediately lift herself from her seat. Before this moment, there had been no visible cues that Emily was sick, besides the IV port she showed me below her clavicle. Mighty Well often talks about how chronic Lyme disease is an invisible illness, and it was to my eye (until that instant). I helped her up and we swiftly moved on from the moment, nervously laughing a little as we exited the room. In retrospect, I should have paused and asked her what that felt like. To have this great interview—here she was being honored by Cartier and getting to share her and her co-founders’ important work with Who What Wear, a company she mentioned she loves and follows—and then as our conversation ended, being reminded, for likely the millionth time, that her illness can get in the way of simple actions like standing up from a chair. It could have been an opportunity for me to further step into her shoes and gain a deeper perspective on the condition that inspired her company. Without speaking on behalf of Levy, I can only assume that it didn’t feel good. But by creating Mighty Well, she’s a part of the solution—a solution that makes the daily reality of those who have chronic conditions feel just a little bit better, a little bit more supported, and a little bit more confident.

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Fashion

Shop 23 of This Week's Best New Arrivals

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It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for our weekly installment of new arrivals. For today’s roundup, I’ve searched high and low to find the best in designer and fast-fashion pieces—all of which just hit stores—so that you can be the first of your friends to wear them. After all, if you’re going to buy something, why not beat everyone else to it?

From summer tops to dresses for parties, brunch, and everything in between, there was a lot to love this week (not to mention something for every style type and price point). Now you just have to narrow down your favorites and make room in your closet—sorry! So what are you waiting for? Shop my picks of the week below and don’t forget to check back next Wednesday for another batch of fresh fashion finds.

This will become your favorite summer top, mark my words.

Leave it to Urban to make the perfect affordable floral top.

Just the right amount of sheerness and sparkle.

Never underestimate the power of a good ribbed tank.

Fruit prints are having a major moment.

Whether it’s with a pair of shorts or a satin skirt, this top is your brunch outfit solution.

Of-the-moment tie-dye is too good to pass up at this price.

You need this top and a vacation to wear it on.

Can Ganni do any wrong?

Did you know Anine Bing makes amazing bags, too?

The bag everyone will be Instagramming very soon.

The cage detail really has me intrigued.

I couldn’t settle on just one color.

Not your average wedding guest look, but it should be.

If a dress makes you feel like you’re in the French countryside, do you have to buy it?

The rainbow dress for the edgier girls.

Your summer LWD.

A throw-on-and-go dress for your rushed mornings.

Can you tell I’m here for party dresses?

Yes, you do need another white dress in your wardrobe. It’s summer, remember?

I don’t typically wear pants that aren’t jeans, but these are really speaking to me.

Your new non-basic work pants. 

Would this roundup really be complete without a strappy sandal?

Want more? Shop last week’s new arrivals.

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This Miami Fashion Girl's Look Is Screenshot-Worthy (and Under $100)

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When I daydream about Miami style, I get excited: I immediately think bright colors (and even brighter whites), bold prints, and evening-ready looks that seem synonymous with both the tropical climate and electric vibe of the city. That being said, I actually find it even more exciting to discover someone who stays totally true to their unique personal style, no matter their location. Take Miami local and fashion girl Bianka Walker, for example. “I’d say I’m more a New Yorker soul stuck in Miami,” Walker tells me. “I’m not a dress-and-heels type of girl. I’m all about sneakers and platforms.”

Originally from Ecuador, Bianka has lived in Miami on and off since she was 16, and she feels at home in the city thanks to its large Latina community and gorgeous weather. When I noted that her personal style differs from her fellow locals, she conceded that the city definitely has a style that everyone follows, and she sometimes feels the pressure to conform.

Ultimately, though, she feels that it’s important to stay true to herself when creating an outfit. So what does a Miami girl with an NYC soul (and a knack for affordable finds) want you to buy this summer, you ask? For starters, this perfect straw bag and these platform dad sneakers, both of which she scored at Walmart. Scroll to shop her entire look, see her favorite summer trends, and discover the one touristy spot in Miami she actually enjoys.

What’s your summer vibe in one word?

Sneakers.

What are the top trends for summer you’re looking forward to trying?

I’m looking forward to including bright colors in my outfits. Usually I wear nudes and blacks, but I’m ready to go out of my comfort zone this summer. I also want to try mixing textures more, like I did with the straw bag and jeans here.

Tell us a bit about the outfit…

This outfit screams my name. I love the black denim (especially the detailing), and the hat and shoes are such cute accessories. Plus the jacket. Fringe and metallics are two trends we’ll see a lot of this season, and what better way to display that than in this jacket? The top is super simple but cute, and while the shoes were originally a little crazy for my taste, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I chose this outfit because these pieces feel versatile enough to pair with other looks in my closet as well.

Do you believe in mixing high and low fashion?

Yes, I’m a big fan of mixing high and low! I think it’s the perfect combo. I tend to splurge most on staples like purses and shoes.

Name the one tourist destination that’s actually worth seeing in Miami.

Calle 8! Love the vibes, and the food is amazing. It’s the perfect mix of Miami and Cuba.

Next, 8 Basics That Deliver, No Matter Where in the World You Live



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The Affordable Cult Brands That Will Be All Over Your Instagram Feeds in 2019

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The word “affordable” is one I’m always wary of using within my fashion writing, as one person’s bargain is always going to be another person’s splurge. The pieces I’m about to talk about below certainly aren’t cheap, however, unlike many of the brands on Net-a-Porter and MatchesFashion, they are potentially accessible to those of us who normally shop at Zara and Topshop

The contemporary market is one which has been growing significantly over the past two years. Back in 2017, I wrote about how brands like Ganni, Rixo, Staud and Réalisation are fighting to make your wardrobes brighter, better and more affordable. Instead of diffusion lines that mimic the aesthetic of a bigger design house at a lower price point, this new breed of labels are independent selling direct to consumer, with their own instantly identifiable design. Over the past two years, most of the cult buys that we have written about at Who What Wear are by these designers and priced around the $200-$350 mark.

This direct-to-consumer contemporary bracket is one that’s still hugely growing, and these are no longer just small Instagram-led businesses but a key priority for leading luxury retailers. In fact, buyers now scout for brands by scrolling. Net-a-Porter this summer is launching seven brands that were previously only direct-to-consumer, taking niche brands to a global audience. Keep scrolling to shop the new affordable cult brands that we at Who What Wear are championing in 2019.

Faithfull the Brand was founded in Bali in 2012, but this year, it has gone from an under-the-radar beach brand to a mainstay on our Instagram feeds. It specializes in holiday clothing with a zesty color palette and playful prints, but the dresses look just as good in your city as they do in Positano.

Kalda was founded three years ago by London College of Fashion graduate Kata Alda, however, this year it has really cranked its business up a notch, launching its own e-commerce site. These shoes are as comfortable as they are Instagrammable. 

The Frankie Shop has tiny stores in Le Marais and New York, however, this boutique is widening its reach this year, as it just launched on Net-a-Porter. This brand is getting a lot of love from power influencers and street style stars—the pleated skirts and boxy blazers are particularly popular.

Influencers are often responsible for items reaching cult status, and the Line by K was created by fashion blogger Karla Deras. This is another new name to Net-a-Porter, and it sold 500 items in its first week on the site. The lime-green slip skirt has been particularly popular with the Instagram crowd.

Rotate was launched by Danish fashion influencers Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Madsen last year and creates beautiful ’80s-inspired dresses, with bold colors and Dynasty-worthy shoulder pads.

Art Dealer is one of Net-a-Porter’s new direct-to-consumer brands that launched this year. It creates elegant co-ords for grown-ups and consist of printed blouses and matching pencil skirts. As the name would suggest, this brand creates beautiful prints with a nostalgic vintage feel. 

Sandals brand Studio Amelia only launched this year, but it made its debut on Net-a-Porter. Quite the entrance…

Next up, see our guide to the key trends for spring/summer 2019.

This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK.

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