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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

I Tried on 21 Dresses From Reformation, Topshop, and Zara—These 10 Made the Cut

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If there’s one type of email I love to receive in my inbox this time of year, it’s a summer invitation. Whether it’s for a wedding, a barbecue, brunch, or bridal shower, seeing a Paperless Post pop up in my inbox never fails to excite. This is followed closely by my second favorite email: a travel confirmation from an airline. (It’s true. I get giddy at the sight of a booking reference number.) Why? Because both emails signify the start of fun summer is finally here.

It also signifies the need to get my summer wardrobe into gear. And lots of summer events call for lots of gorgeous summer dresses (or at least a small handful to see me through the season).

So this week, I went to some of my favorite retailers—Reformation, Zara, and Topshop (all known for their chic selections of dresses)—to seek out cool summer frocks that will see me through laid-back summer weekends, an upcoming Italian vacation, a wedding, an engagement party, and a bridal shower—all taking place in the next few months. I tried on a plethora of dresses (21 to be exact), but these 10 made the final cut. From floral minidresses to polka-dot slip dresses, scroll below to whet your appetite for a brand-new season of summer dressing.

An effortless white dress is high on my wish list for weekend summer getaways. I’m obsessed with this lace and linen midi dress from Reformation. Just add espadrille wedges, a straw hat, and the Italian Riviera for good measure.
This is such a fun little floral frock. The neckline and puff sleeves are super flattering and utterly charming. I do wish the hemline was one or two inches longer, but I’ll definitely be wearing these with kitten-heel sandals or chic flats once summer rolls around.
I’ll be wearing this stunner for an elegant outdoor summer wedding with black sandals and statement earrings. The fitted bodice is exquisite.
This relaxed floral slip can easily be dressed up or down with strappy sandals or flats and is the perfect option for those laid-back summer days.
My penchant for white dresses continues. I love the delicate details on this chic frock—from the deep-V neckline lined with lace to the pleated drop-waist silhouette.
Consider this your day-to-night wardrobe savior. The romantic ruffles and elegant, short puff sleeves add a charming touch to the ditsy floral-print frock.
A lightweight knit dress looks super chic for casual summer days. I’m particularly fond of the elegant neckline and longer length.
Garden-party chic! This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m head over heels for this vintage-style silhouette and bold floral print. Perfect for, oh you know, that polo match or that garden tea party, dahling.
I’ve been looking for a slip dress with a draped neckline and delicate spaghetti straps for some time, and this gorgeous silky frock fits the bill perfectly. It looks much more expensive than its price tag.
I’ve been in need of a couple of simple, easy, and relaxed knit dresses for weekends at the beach and brunching on the balcony with friends, and this soft yellow midi is the perfect not-too-precious option.

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The Best Maternity Bras to Get You Through Your Pregnancy (and After)

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If you’re a pregnant bra wearer and asking yourself if you need to buy a new one, the answer is undoubtedly yes. I am currently six months along and have swiftly transitioned from a B cup to a D cup in the blink of an eye. Breasts increase in size pretty early during pregnancy (around 6 to 8 weeks), and many will find they outgrow their bras rather quickly. The hormonal shifts, weight gain, and expanding rib cage associated with pregnancy contribute to this growth, as will mammary glands preparing to make milk later in pregnancy.

I was tempted to squeeze into my regular bras for as long as possible, but I quickly realized how uncomfortable my pre-pregnancy lacy bras were becoming, and they simply couldn’t support my heavy (and itchy) breasts. Time for an upgrade. There are a few options as you’re growing. 1) Buy a larger size of your normal pre-pregnancy bra. 2) Switch to a maternity bra. 3) If you’re somewhere in the middle of your third trimester, buy a nursing bra. Many, like me, prefer a combination of the two or three.

So how are maternity and nursing bras different from regular bras? Think of a maternity bra as an improved version of a regular bra—designed specifically for comfort as your breasts grow during pregnancy. Some features include a soft cotton lining, wider straps, extra latches on the band, etc., and they tend not to be underwired. Many regular bras offer these features too, which will work just fine during pregnancy.

Nursing bras differ in one way from maternity bras: They feature clasps on the straps that allow for easy breastfeeding access. If you buy a nursing bra to wear during pregnancy make sure there is enough room for you to grow as your breasts tend to go up another cup size or more after your baby arrives. Many of the bras available are maternity/nursing hybrids, which provide support throughout pregnancy and after.

Officially ready for a new bra? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite maternity and nursing bras that will get you through and beyond your pregnancy. And remember: If it feels tight, then it isn’t right. Find your correct size by getting measured at the lingerie department or do it yourself.

With its soft fabric and seamless design, this seamless bra is a customer favorite for during pregnancy and after.
Smooth stretchy fabric and lightly padded cups make this ultra-comfortable throughout the day and night.
Designed to move with you from pregnancy and beyond, this minimalistic bra features stretchy, nursing-friendly surplice cups.
This silky-soft, stretchy bra is supportive enough for day wear and comfortable enough to sleep in.
If you’re looking for a comfortable strapless bra throughout your pregnancy, then look no further.
Made of a cotton-modal blend, this soft and breathable bra is designed for comfort and support throughout pregnancy or after as a daily nursing bra or cozy nursing sleep bra.
Although this is technically not a maternity or nursing bra, I’ve found it extremely comfortable and supportive through my first six months of pregnancy.
A good choice when you’re exercising. This wire-free maternity/nursing bra with removable foam cups accommodates your changing figure.
Pretty and comfortable. The wide back enhances support.
You’d never be able to tell this is a nursing bra. Gorgeous lace adds romance while clips are easily unfastened for breastfeeding.
Your beautiful bralette just got an upgrade. This meets all the specific needs of a nursing mother. Plus, it’s so pretty.
Lightweight and easy to maneuver, Chantelle’s nursing bra fits best 3 weeks before your due date or later.
Your everyday bra, found. Available in black and beige, this maternity and nursing bra is designed for maximum support.
I already wear these under my casual tees for support and comfort.
Customers love this bra for its ultra-soft feeling fabric and comfort. Available in sizes S to XL.

This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated by Judith Jones.

Up next, these are the summer maternity outfits to try right now.

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Don't Visit New York Without Stopping By These 6 Stores

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As someone who quite literally shops online for a living—and loves it—it takes a lot to get me out of my e-comfort zone and into an actual store. After all, I pride myself on being able to track down pretty much any item on the internet within seconds and have a weekly excuse to peruse all my favorite sites’ new-arrivals sections—making me pretty familiar with all that’s out there.

However, once in a while it does happen, mostly thanks to a handful of boutiques that have managed to curate such a good selection, it’s worth the trip every time. So which are the stores one simply must visit when in New York? Just keep scrolling to read about all six and (because I couldn’t help myself) do a little online shopping along the way.

Up next? The surprising new It bag I couldn’t even get my hands on.

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