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This Homegrown Fashion Brand Is Embracing Social Consciousness

Business

In a season when simply gazing at the news or scrolling through Facebook feeds can elevate one's heart rate, finding an impactful way to give back and make a difference can be tricky. In an era with a renewed thirst for checking the accuracy of sources, if one isn't a billionaire, what is the most effective way to help others and ignite change?


Samantha Pleet, the founder of the independent fashion brand, Samantha Pleet, was faced with this very task and wanted to feel involved. So she and her husband (and co-creator) came up with small opportunities to let their voice ring loud and clear by using their 10-year-old homegrown brand. Not only did they donate 100 percent of their proceeds to Planned Parenthood the weekend of the history-making Women’s March, they also gave 10 percent of their proceeds on Black Friday. After the appalling and unwarranted immigration ban, they donated 10 percent of a week’s worth of sales to the ACLU.

Here, Pleet shares why this move was important not only for her, but for women everywhere.

What inspired you to branch out on your own?

“While in school I did internships with the likes of 3 As Four, Harper's Bazaar and a lingerie designer. I started my line with the minimal knowledge I gained from these experiences. I wanted to design clothes that I was looking for but could not find, and I was young and had the energy. I never considered anything else.

We have grown from just a few small boutiques carrying the line, to working with about 30 select retailers and our own online store. We are still entirely independent and work with small boutiques and, on occasion, we have collaborated with larger companies like Urban Outfitters and Wolverine.

What made you decide to give 100 percent of your proceeds to Planned Parenthood?

We were so inspired by the Women’s March and the energy that it brought that during the event and the weekend that followed we wanted to give all our sales proceeds to PP.

While PP has not personally affected my life, it has impacted that of so many of my friends. I just gave birth to a daughter and I want Planned Parenthood to be there for her if she needs it.

I want to do what I can to help the world around me, in the ways that I can make a difference. I think that if I can give money when I'm having a sale, that can make a very big difference to the organizations that I want to support.

Why is giving back an important part of business?

Giving back with donations is something we can do to directly benefit the world we live in. When we have a sale it is a great time to generate enough sales so we can make a contribution that will actually make a difference. Not only are you giving to a cause you care about, but you are also able to promote your cause and bring awareness to the issues.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs who want to make charitable giving part of their business plan?

We should be taking a stand on issues all the time, but especially now we cannot be silent. In this age, we have channels through social media to speak out, so we should use it. It's a balance to communicate with your customer without preaching to them, but speaking out and donations from sales are a great way to bring awareness and make a difference.

What advice do you give for figuring out what your 'cause' is?

We have been giving to organizations like Planned Parenthood, Earthjustice, The Southern Poverty Law Center, but there are also many more. Following activists and artists who are doing amazing things like Sarah Sophie Flicker, ShiShi Rose, Jenna Gribbon, and Tennessee Thomas have been a great inspiration as well. There are many organizations to donate and bring awareness to, so do your research on the causes you feel most passionate about.

Do you think it’s an important time for a company to support women's causes?

Right now, so much funding is being pulled by the U.S. that it's up to businesses and individuals to make up the difference. Issues like the environment, Women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights, and immigration are all in jeopardy, and it is beyond troubling. I want my daughter to have the right to choose her own destiny whatever it may be and I'm sure that is the view of our customers as well. Our clothes are made with love and we want to give some of that back.

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What’s next for the line?

Children's wear and shoes are in the near future. I think it's more important now than ever as a young women to run a successful company and inspire others.

4 Min Read
Culture

We Need Moms in the Resistance

After I exchanged enough information with the Uber driver to confirm that neither one of us was likely a serial killer, the spotless sedan was quickly filled with enough small talk to occupy the brief ride.

"What do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

"Ah, what do you write?"

At the time, I was deep in writing my debut non-fiction book, Raising the Resistance: A Mother's Guide to Practical Activism, and had been busy typing away about feminism, reproductive justice, antiracism, and other topics that don't normally come up during a short Uber ride with a stranger but had consumed my work and much of my life.

"I'm writing a book," I responded.

"Oh! About what?"

"Motherhood and political activism."

In response to this revelation, he promptly drove us into oncoming traffic. No, not really. He just wrinkled his nose and said, "Well, that's an odd combination."

This wasn't a completely isolated incident. Many people express a bit of surprise about the intersection. As I explored other books in the parenting genre, I saw many titles about the stages of parenthood—pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sleep training, etc. There were lots of books about a mom's journey to postpartum weight loss, but none about a mom's journey finding her role in a political uprising.

If we want the future to be kinder and more just, the next generation must also be kinder and promote justice.

I understood it might seem strange, because our culture puts impossible pressure on mothers and it's rare to empower them. Being apolitical is presented as the safest, most neutral option for women to take because it doesn't anger anyone or make things awkward. But choosing not to engage in politics is in itself a political stance. There is no true neutral option. Just like Desmond Tutu famously said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Of course, I wouldn't assume oppression is the goal of any mom who just wants to avoid Facebook arguments and keep the peace at PTA meetings. But as we face injustice, we cannot avoid neutrality.

It doesn't help women to embrace apolitical stances either. Maybe one mother doesn't like to get involved in politics, but everyone around her does. The bank managing her mortgage does. Her boss paying her less than her male colleagues does. The insurance company determining her healthcare options does. Decisions affecting our lives are being made all the time. Women are already severely underrepresented in elected offices. We cannot simply sit back and trust our self-interest will be represented when we don't have a seat at the table. That hasn't worked out for us so far.

I was inspired by so many other women who realized they needed to be the ones to step up against bigotry and injustice. As a young mother of a toddler and an infant after the election of 2016, I also noticed that those leading the newly minted resistance were also mothers. I rode a crowded bus to Washington, D.C. from Louisville, KY to attend the inaugural Women's March which became the biggest single-day protest in the history of the United States. And who did that? Mothers. Founder Bob Bland gave birth to her second daughter shortly after the 2016 election and joined fellow moms and co-chairs Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour on stage with her baby in tow.

Maybe one mother doesn't like to get involved in politics, but everyone around her does.

Since then, I have continued to see women juggling their roles as mothers and political activists. In the ongoing uprising against racism and police brutality, my city—Louisville, KY—has become an epicenter of protest in the wake of Breonna Taylor's killing. Many of the Black leaders who have been fighting racial injustice locally for years are also mothers. I watched them braid their daughters' hair while they discuss the need for an end to structural racism in our community on Zoom calls. Many of the protestors who have been filling the streets for over three months and facing rubber bullets, tear gas, and arrests kiss their children good night first. When it's time for protestors to be released on bond, you may even see a line of minivans outside the jail with moms volunteering as part of the community bail fund to help the released protestors get back home.

Even moms who lived previously apolitical lives and sought not to create waves have found their place in political activism as they feel morally compelled to take action. The resistance is filled with new activists who you can catch saying things like, "I never expected to be here."

Of course, I wouldn't assume oppression is the goal of any mom who just wants to avoid Facebook arguments and keep the peace at PTA meetings. But as we face injustice, we cannot avoid neutrality.

Motherhood and political activism should be viewed as a natural pairing. So much of our lives are not only determined by political decisions, but we have the enormous responsibility of shaping the future. If we want the future to be kinder and more just, the next generation must also be kinder and promote justice.

Moms fix their kids' skinned knees, hurt feelings, and broken hearts. Our country is looking largely hurt and broken right now and we, as mothers, need to rise up and help fix it by the way we raise the future.