In 2008, I was living a life most of us can only dream of.
I was a lingerie and swimwear designer based in the US, working in a high-pressure, highly-paid job that allowed me to travel the world.I had been head-hunted by US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret in 1997, and then moved on to work on GAP Body, among other top brands.
When my marriage collapsed later in 2008, I was left no choice but to re-evaluate everything.
After months of angst and soul-searching, I left America, bringing my two young children and moving them back to live in England with nothing – and no paid employment lined up. I felt that my world had imploded. I had no idea where I was going to go or how I was going to provide for my children.
But being a single mother and working in the kind of high-pressure environment I had been used to, I quickly realised that it just wasn’t going to work, so I decided I could do stuff for myself and help others at the same time.
I took the decision that I would only work for ethical companies and juggle it all around the children so I could spend real time with them. In my old life I never even had the time to pick them up from school, ever – so this was a totally radical approach for me. It wasn’t an easy decision.
But it was a kind of healing process as well.
When I arrived to live in Brighton, the first job I was promised fell through. After a few panic-stricken weeks I eventually found a part-time role as a designer for an ethical clothing company.
But I had more plans afoot.
I had seen enough exploitation in the fashion industry. I wanted to use my expertise in swimwear and set up my own company so that could specifically help women in third world countries to set up their own businesses.
As a mother starting out almost from scratch, and as a designer who had seen struggling third world communities at first hand, I knew how valuable micro-funding and support could be.
So I made sure that my business used only scrupulous suppliers, and that the fabric was sustainably sourced and that the swimwear was manufactured to last. Plus all the profits were poured into providing funding for women entrepreneurs through micro lending website lendwithcare.org.
My social enterprise, RubyMoon.org.uk was launched with a collection of reversible swimwear. Its principle aim is to provide women with beautiful, truly designer swimwear – but with a mission to provide micro-finance for 1000 women entrepreneurs before 2015.
Research has shown that gender inequality is one of the reasons why third world countries are struggling to develop. If funding goes directly to women, it gets invested back into the community and goes towards the education of children, having a more positive effect.
I believe we are all capable of effecting change – and one of the best ways of doing this is by being careful what we do with our expendable income. Choosing ethical purchases can be as effective as using the political system to create change.
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