Everyday young women are bombarded with conflicting messages about what kind of person they should grow up to be and what their worth in society is.
Unfortunately all too often it is the messages that seek to devalue and degrade women that are heard both the loudest and most often.
These messages can come in the form of youthful celebs in overtly sexual dress or even news stories about women being abused by those who claim to love them.
The statistics are staggering. Roughly one in 3 women will find themselves the victims of domestic violence within their lifetime. And for as long as women allow themselves to internalize negative messages and to be devalued and degraded, these statistics will continue to rise.
Fortunately there are still some positive messages and role models for young women out there in the form of the owners of a Salt Lake City, Utah dress company called Shabby Apple, LLC.
Shabby Apple’s owners, Athelia Woolley and Emily McCormick exemplify the spirit of entrepreneurial women on a mission. They desire to empower others through the way they run their business, design their clothing lines and partner with Unitus, Inc., an organization that provides women with breakthrough business strategies, technology and access to capital.
Having been friends since elementary school and united in their love of fashion, Athelia and Emily decided in December of 2006 to start their own clothing line. The decision to design their own clothes was based in part on their frustration with women’s fashion, which they found to be either too risqué and revealing or overly masculine.
With the fashion industry sporting an abundance of skimpy clothes and anorexic looking models, Emily and Athelia knew that the messages the fashion industry was sending to women had to change. They themselves were very uncomfortable with the revealing clothes of the time and they felt confident that there were other women out there like them who wanted to dress modestly while still being feminine.They also recognized that some of the women wearing the more risqué clothing were doing so in part because of peer pressure.
When asked what they would tell women who feel pressured to wear revealing clothing Athelia stated “you can be beautiful and respect yourself at the same time. Those around you will respect you to the degree you respect yourself.”
Given the mindset of Emily and Athelia it is also no surprise that 75% of Shabby Apple employees are mothers and that the company gives generous maternity leaves, flex schedules as well as allows employees to bring their children to work.
This kind of family-first culture is hard to find in the more male dominated companies. With the establishment of such a corporate culture these women send a strong message that they embrace, protect and promote womanhood.
Both Emily and Athelia readily admit that owning your own business is hard work and requires planning and dedication, but that doing it together makes it easier.
They admire and work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When asked about Athelia, Emily remarked “Athelia is amazing at thinking of the big picture and looking for new ways for us to move forward. She’s constantly bringing up an idea that we should pursue or a new market to look into or a great partnership idea. She is fabulous at “thinking outside the box.”
Both women consider themselves blessed and as a result have always aspired to help empower other women. They decided that the best way to do that, in addition to their clothing lines and corporate culture was to provide microcredit loans to other aspiring female entrepreneurs.
After careful thought they started their “Couture with a conscience” program in partnership with Unitus, Inc. As part of that program a percentage of Shabby Apple sales go to providing microcredit loans. Their goal is to give 500 microcredit loans between now and December 31st, 2009.
Athelia, who is a former human rights activist and domestic violence counselor, was asked what she thought about the recent domestic violence incident involving singers Chris Brown and Rhianna and she stated that the best advice she could give Rhianna or any other woman in that situation was “the abuse is NOT about you. It is about your abusers need for power and control.”
The topic then branched off into women’s representation in society. Emily added “I feel strongly about media representation of women. I feel that with the prevalence of television and film, and the time that people spend watching them, it is amazing how many women are still shown as mindless objects to be beholden.
It sets a trap up for our youth; making girls think they should focus primarily on being beautiful and giving boys the impression that beauty is a top quality in a woman.”
On the subject of positive role models, both ladies remarked that they felt Susan Sarandon, Gwenth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joan of Arc and Natalie Hill were good choices. Furthermore they noted that in addition to sending a positive message Broadway star Natalie Hill is also one of their customers.
In keeping with their desire to empower women and promote positive messages of womanhood Shabby Apple does not use models from modeling agencies because they don’t believe that modeling agencies send the right messages to women.
When asked what the fashion industry could do as a whole to promote womanhood the ladies remarked that “They can design clothing that accentuates curves instead of hide them” and “They can use models that are beautiful but that eat.”
The company is continuously coming up with new clothing lines including one for teenagers called Shabby Sister. The Shabby Sister line will launch in August 2009 and contain fun and fabulous clothes that a young woman can feel good about wearing.
On the subject of clothes, one would imagine that people in the fashion industry have glamorous wardrobes so it was curious to note that when asked what their “must have” wardrobe items were Athelia cited that she is partial to Dire Red sandals and Emily laughed and admitted that she adores her blue jeans and white t-shirts, a true departure from what you’d expect from someone in the fashion industry.
But as one can already see by the way they chose to set up and run their company, these ladies are anything but ordinary. They are part of the many and often over-looked extraordinary women doing extraordinary things.
If you want to learn more about how you can join Emily and Athelia in their “Couture with a conscience” program or to view their upcoming clothing lines log onto http://www.shabbyapple.com.