Marlaina Dreher has an enthusiasm for transforming the world into a place that progresses beyond ideology; allowing people to live in an interconnected global community that does not destroy the lives of entire groups of people or the earth. She is working to help spread the belief that we are all capable of practicing non-violence, empathy towards others, and ecologically friendly practices while maintaining our own beliefs and standard of living. She holds a B.A.in History and a M.Ed., and is currently working on a Master’s Thesis for an M.A. in Social Science with a concentration in Sociology. She has experience in both non-profit and volunteer work, as well as education and research. Marlaina enjoys tennis, yoga, spinning, picnics, hiking, reading, music, beading, cooking, the ocean, and the color pink. Her favorite films include The Color Purple, Avatar, Bamboozled, & Star Wars.
Zulema Ibarra has long had a passion for the rights of all living things and a conviction that we each have a responsibility for how our actions and inactions affect the world around us. She has a B.A. in Emerging Voices of Cross-Cultural America, and in her undergraduate career was the co-president of her university’s Social Justice Club. She is currently working on her Master’s Thesis for the culmination of her Master’s Degree in Social Sciences (M.A.S.S.), with an emphasis in Anthropology. As an applied cultural anthropologist, she has developed a culturally sensitive curriculum for a domestic violence education and prevention program, targeting a Latino migrant community in rural Georgia. She enjoys sunshine, fall leaves, the outdoors, yoga, qui gong, photography, reading, the color orange, listening to music, poetry, and creative writing. Her favorite authors are Paulo Coelho, Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Tom Robbins.
How F.A.C.T.S. got started:
The idea behind F.A.C.T.S. was a vision Zulema had been contemplating for a while, based on three goals:
- using fashion to celebrate and reflect cultural diversity instead of supporting the dominant ideology of a privileged few,
- upholding and furthering values of eco-friendly living, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility, and finally,
- using tools of applied social science to enable communities around the globe to solve the social issues with which they struggle.
After having shared the idea with Marlaina, the two friends and colleagues teamed up with excitement, inspiration, and dedication to unravel a feasible way to accomplish the goals. Being almost done with their Master’s coursework, they took the fortunate timing as a sign that the development of this idea was the next step to take in their immediate future. And in that climate of zeal and vision, F.A.C.T.S. was born.
Our vision is to to alleviate the human spirit by reaching somewhere beyond ideology, to a potential where empathy and action become the foremost global response to social, cultural, and environmental issues that plague our earth. By exposing the cultural beauty of our humanity and assuring profits are redistributed to the communities featured, we hope to light a beacon into a new pathway for sustainable, eco-friendly, and socially responsible business.
F.A.C.T.S. buys clothing, shoes, and fashion accessories from a different cultural group around the world every season, exposing some social or environmental issue, and sells the items (in their original or an appropriately modified way) to a clientele looking for alternative, fair-trade, organically made clothing. Each of our fashion articles comes with information to raise awareness of the culture and issue in focus, and how others can help. We also give back a large portion of our profits (our goal is to reach a point where we can give 50% back) to help the group/issue we have chosen for the season.
Stages of Development:
F.A.C.T.S. is currently in its very first stage of development. We are excited to be launching our website shortly and offering our first items for sale!
1) First, we will begin our culturally diverse fashion collection with vintage silk flex-wraps* from India. 10% of our proceeds will be donated to the Navdanya nonprofit, which helps promote organic farming, seed banks, and Earth Democracy principles. We chose this cause to start off with, because it is already well-established and organized by the renowned Dr. Vandana Shiva (an environmental activist, philosopher, and ecofeminist), and because the principles that Navdanya espouses parallel our own F.A.C.T.S. business principles.
2) In the second stage of our development, we will be scouting out and adding local economies around the globe to devote our attention to every 6 months–promoting an additional cultural group, while conducting a social needs assessment (if the community does not yet have this available) and giving up to 50% back to the local economy to help meet their social needs in culturally appropriate ways.
3) Enlisting designers to incorporate elements of the cultural groups we work with into American normal wear, and design vintage or organic clothing/accessories, such that our products can become more accessible for a variety of different social occasions.
4) Finally, we will be building a business league, to partner with and enable other businesses to take our torch and keep it going, as we try to address the needs of as much of our beloved earth as we possibly can. It is, in our opinion, through the personalized work of grassroots campaigns and community participatory research and organization that real change can be created and sustained.
*A flex-wrap is a term we came up with for recycled saris that have been repurposed into a sarong-type of wrap for women, that can be used as a dress, a skirt, or scarf, in so many different ways. It’s usually two-layered, so it really allows a lot of room for fashion creativity!