A New York Female Entrepreneur for Good

Angela Brasington founded Anjé Clothing, and is a partner with Virtueconomy. When you shop the Virtue collection, part of the proceeds benefit The Kota Alliance. 

 

1 - tell us about your background, and how you came to this business?

I spent 10 years in the fashion industry, working in different parts. I started as an executive assistant and worked my way up to the Executive with an assistant. But I worked hard and learned throughout the entire journey. I learned about business, I learned about business practices, business people, an antiquated industry and a desire to do something positive with what I’d amassed. 

Producing domestically was my first step to ensure ethical manufacturing practices for production of the Anjé brand as well as quality control. Empowering women to be confident from the inside out is another important aspect of our company. Whether in business or in a social setting, we are equal, capable and dangerous. 

 2 - why is it important to produce clothes locally?

It is important to produce clothes locally for a few reasons. For one, it is our small effort to bring back domestic manufacturing jobs. We encourage other brands to do the same so that it will be more feasible and cost efficient for everyone. The truth is, it is possible to produce locally/domestically and still turn a profit, have beautiful materials, and maintain great quality. But we need to start a revolution to get the word out there even further. Rebecca Minkoff, The Row and other well-known brands have started to produce some of their products here in New York. Even if it’s just a chase collection, it will help the garment center(s) thrive and grow and bring prices down all around. The more that participate in this movement, the better the outcome for everyone involved. 

Additionally, it helps me have a close eye on quality and safe practices. I can walk into any of my factories at any time and check on our goods, see who is sewing them, make sure they have their labor law posters hung on the walls, etc. It gives me great pleasure to know the people handling our goods, to ensure they are taken care of and treated well. That represents the brand that Anjé is - quality, care, luxury. The only time I can’t visit the factory is during their lunch break - I LOVE THAT! That’s how it should be because this is clothing, not brain surgery. I experienced such poor treatment of workers because of deadlines due to improper planning or something else that trickled down from the top, making the laborers suffer. It really bothered me. That will never happen in our company.


3 - how does your business help empower women? 

Anjé helps encourage woman to be powerful in all walks of life. I often write blog articles on topics that I would want to read or things I do that my friends found helpful. I share networking tips to help other women get going in the right direction, mentor young women on entrepreneurialism and fashion, interview other women that I find inspiring and share the video with my audience. 

When I host pop ups, women ask for styling tips and it’s fun to show them how to dress the same piece for day and night separately. Something as simple as showing a woman how to wear a piece of clothing can make the world of difference in her confidence. As crazy as it sounds, clothing has a lot to do with empowering women. Our clothing is designed for comfort and with the woman in mind. The fabrics are silky smooth and buttery soft on the inside and out. What you feel against your body and the way the clothes drape and move with you are all part of the empowering formula. It's your attitude. When you feel good you exude your most confident self. 

Angela Brasington of Anje Clothing

Angela Brasington of Anje Clothing



The Crucial Role of Men in Gender Equality Conference Nov 18

by Johanna Sova

Kota Day Conference on Men and Gender Equality was held at Proskauer Rose LLP. Thank you Proskauer for providing such a good setting and the Times Square view from above in morning light!

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Keynote speakers were Ambassador Kai Sauer, the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Finland to the UN and Richard Lui, MSNBC Anchor with an extensive career in the field. Our panelists represeneted a variety of professionals from varied backgrounds wih a common purpose: we had Antonie De Jong of UNWomen, Aapta Garg from Promundo, Andrew Bettwy from Proskauer, Pablo Freund of BeGIrl, Joseph Samalin of Breakthrough and Jonathan Kalin of Party With Consent. 

Front row: Antonie DeJong, Pablo Freund, Andrew Bettwy, Jonathan Kalin. Back row: Jaana Rehnstrom, Kai Sauer, Richard Lui, Aapta Garg, Joseph Samalin.

Front row: Antonie DeJong, Pablo Freund, Andrew Bettwy, Jonathan Kalin. Back row: Jaana Rehnstrom, Kai Sauer, Richard Lui, Aapta Garg, Joseph Samalin.

Many important topics were presented and discussed and one specifically became central. It was the topic of language, the way we speak about women, men and the obstacles in the way of gender equality. “A nasty woman” is one good example alongside many others made used by President-Elect Donald Trump during his campaign. Leaving the election out of this, one rhetorical question must still be asked in the spirit of our conference: What does the concept of a woman mean to Trump, the President of the United States?  A president should convey the image and the ideal of a man’s perspective on women, but the language of Trump is undeniably far from the agenda of women’s empowerment. The Kota Day Conference was a wonderful example of men taking a stance.

I’m writing this post from the perspective of a Scandinavian woman. In my country, Finland, we have achieved a lot in gender equality – such as the election of a female President of the Republic, Tarja Halonen, in 2000 - as was referenced by Dr Jaana Rehnstrom, Interim ED of Kota, in the conference’s introduction. We tend to take gender equality for granted; although the fact is, herstorically, it was a hard and eclectic struggle to get to the point where we are today. In case you think I spelled that wrong, I didn’t. We use phrases and expressions that we are accustomed to without paying attention to the reality they construct. I prefer using the word herstory instead of history whenever it comes to women’s roles in the past. It’s not to say we need to rewrite history to be herstory, rather it is to emphasize how we still rarely speak about women as active participants, creators and doers. “When did women get the right to both vote and run for the first time?” could rather be asked “when did women achieve full suffrage for the first time?". 

It’s year 2016 now. Women have taken great steps globally in empowerment and gender equality. Yet as much has yet to be achieved, and maybe never before has feminism and the women’s rights movement been as versatile and globally powerful as it is today. We have all kinds of forms of feminism, as we have all kinds of women, which is exactly how it should be. An interesting phrase “women are not a minority” arose during the conference as part of being lumped together with racial and other gender minorities. Aren’t we?

Women form half of the human population, but being a minority isn’t about numbers, rather it’s a question of power. Now if we think about the phrase again, we come to realize women are still a minority because we don’t have as much power as men. As a Scandinavian woman I find that extremely hard to admit, as I’ve been raised to know my worth and been guaranteed basic human rights before I was even born. Yet I still often find myself in practical situations where gender becomes a defining, even restricting factor. 

Intersectionality was another important key issue discussed at the conference. White male dominance of both language and society is undeniable but so is the fact that women are not a single group with one voice but polyphonic body with some having their voice heard louder than others, some groups having more power than others. For example, as a Scandinavian woman, I see working for women's rights and gender equality as my responsibility, yet I admit my perspective on the struggles of women globally is limited, as I haven't been exposed to and experienced the oppression women elsewhere have. Similarly, we have to be very careful about what is considered oppression and what is not. Also, it has to be remembered that gender equality isn't just about women and men but human beings overall. Gender equality is a human rights issue, and feminism isn't just for women, it's for everyone fighting against the unjust structures of patriarchy.

Of course the question of power highly depends on the context it is presented in. There are many circumstances and occasions where women have more power than men, such as the custody of children. But no matter the race and geographic location, there’s no woman who has not in some point of her life faced gender based violence. We’re also always subject to the gaze of men, always seen as sexual creatures who awake desire in men. Generalizing, if we fail to sexually attract a man, we’re either not real women or we’re his mom. We all know this, we’ve all experienced it. 

The conference’s panel framed gender-based violence as an intersectional, global and domestic problem in which men play a crucial role in multiple ways. Both Joseph Samalin from Breakthrough and Pablo Freund from BeGirl, encouraged us to not frame sexual violence against women as assault on daughters, mothers and sisters but as attacks on humans. Women should not be referred to by their relation to men but as human beings with human rights.

Ambassador Kai Sauer giving his speech.

Ambassador Kai Sauer giving his speech.

The conference began with the speech of Ambassador Kai Sauer. I couldn’t have been more impressed and proud. There he was representing my country and the UN, speaking about men’s role in women’s empowerment. He spoke about violence against women as the huge global problem it is. It’s a problem in Finland too as in the form of domestic violence, yet our President Sauli Niinistö’s initiative on anger management education in Finnish army is a great example of the actions taken towards improvement. President Niinistö is also an Impact Champion for the HeForShe campaign of UN Women. To learn more about Finnish equality, read or watch Niinistö’s speech at the HeForShe Second Anniversary Reception here.

Anchor Richard Lui talking about human trafficking. 

Anchor Richard Lui talking about human trafficking. 

MSNBC Anchor Richard Lui continued on the same them, focusing on human trafficking in particular. Lui specifically emphasized the white male dominance of language. For example, we rather say a woman was raped than a man raped a woman. We also talk about prostitutes and hookers rather than the buyers of sex. In a second we can picture in our minds what a prostitute looks like but it is harder to depict an image of a sex buyer. Lui remarked how important it is to start to focus the talk on the men who create the demand, rather than the women who, almost always forcibly, respond to it. Lui’s message to men thinking what they can do for women’s empowerment is this: change the language used. 

At this point I’d like to refer to BeGirl representative Pablo Freund’s tactics he shared with us. Freund’s contribution to women’s empowerment includes him speaking of menstruation in unexpected situations. We have to love this man, what an advice for men to speak about the "unspeakable" to do their part!  

We hear all the time about Male Privilege. Maybe even that is a use of language that can change. As Richard Lui recalled, 67% of sex traffickers are male and three quarters of victims female. My question is, should we even use the term privilege, as in so many cases it makes things that are so wrong sound as something desirable. Power is the key again, replacing ‘privilege’ with ‘dominance’ changes the tone. 

So, thinking about the future and language we use, we should start to speak about power as something to be shared, not taken or given. The fact that we need men to advocate for women, to tell other men the things we’ve kept repeating for years, more than not reveals the existing power structure and work to be done.

I end this post by quoting the HerForShe Anniversary speech of President Sauli Niinistö. He cited Helvi Sipilä, one Finnish trailblazer of herstory who in her time said, “The impossible can be made possible”. She made many seemingly impossible things possible in her career, and a lot of what she only dreamed of has now become reality. To make new impossible things possible and to share power, both women and men are needed! 

The inspirational speeches and lively, future-oriented conversation made us all hope to have more of these! Thank you also to the active audience, gender equality is teamwork! 

 
 
 

 

 

 

Pop-Up Shop Benefit 11/9

Kota Pop-Up Shop Benefit was held on November 9, thank you all who attended and supported our cause! Special thanks to all the designers, boutiques and volunteers, you made it possible!

In case you missed it or want to shop more, visit: