Local fashion designer Lagi Nadeau has partnered with Heshima Kenya—an organization devoted to bettering the lives of young refugee women of Africa—to create a collaborative jewelry line together. Nadeau traveled to Kenya to mentor and work with forty teenage girls and bring her design concepts to life using the long flowing colorful handmade and dyed scarves from the girls of the Maisha Collective. Over the span of one week, Nadeau and the girls created seven designs that launch today on Etsy and will be sold with a majority of the proceeds going back to funding the various programs Heshima offers.
Last year they sold more than $100,000 in scarves to help fund the programs, which include education, housing, legal and medical counsel and case management for the young women the organization serves. The jewelry collaboration will be a new extension of their efforts.
“I feel that her presence will be really inspiring for them to have bigger aspirations for the collective and themselves as women, leaders, and entrepreneurs,” Alisa Roadcup, executive director of Heshima Kenya says. “I think that the example that Lagi will bring will breathe a new inspiration into them and their own futures.”
Roadcup believes it’s a beautiful culmination of making a global issue very local. Nadeau was approached about the collaboration after participating in a “Project Runway”-type competition at their annual gala fundraiser. Five designers were to create accessories from the scarves, and Nadeau’s knotted designs combining metals caught their eye.
“I really wanted to do it because both of our companies have similar brand values and I really believe in what Heshima Kenya stands for,” Nadeau says. “I think that what they do on such a big scale, teaching these girls these valuable lessons and skill sets, is really beautiful and I think the big picture of what the organization does was why I wanted to get involved.”
Nadeau said mentorship was very important during her experience with the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s. She said she would not be the designer she is today without having a positive support system. During her trip, she was sent to help mentor the girls, but also found them leading her in ways.
“This experience was life changing, truly. I learned so much from being with these girls and sharing ideas,” Nadeau says. “I found it incredible how strong and resilient they are. They are intelligent young women and girls who use their artisan skills to help support, empower, and protect other refugee women. By being around them, you can’t help but feel more motivated to be involved and help create a positive change. They have inspired me in so many ways, it’s hard to even begin to express how much this experience moved me, educated me, and inspired me.” she said. (Ciera Mckissick)