fashionABLE scarf monkey

Fringe benefit

23 October 2013

Maybe it’s age, but I can’t wear wool anymore. Even cashmere can make my skin uncomfortable. So my new loves are soft, light cotton scarves. With my eczema, I need the breathability of natural fibers, so rayon/viscose/polyester won’t do. Lighter-weight scarves are perfect year-round in California, but they’re also perfect fall wear anywhere – pretty, easy, warm but never oppressive.

I wrote about fashionABLE scarves, made of gorgeous soft cotton, after I met founder Barrett Ward at a conference last summer. I admire Barrett’s mission – fashionABLE strives to bring women in Ethiopia out of hardship through careers, craft and purpose – and I also love the scarves I have purchased from fashionABLE.

I’m writing today because fashionABLE is having a three-day sale for their 3rd anniversary: 30 percent off all their scarves (plus their new leather goods), today until midnight Friday. A good opportunity for anyone looking for a fall accessory or thinking ahead to holiday gift season.

It’s a privilege these days to know where something you purchase comes from. Industrialization has long since cut the connection between producers and consumers of goods. Much of our food supply is still grown by small farms, but it’s aggregated and anonymized long before it reaches market.

Commoditization has brought us efficiency and lower prices, but it also removes any incentive by producers to make a standout product, as they get no more credit or premium than the next guy producing an inferior version.

Every fashionABLE scarf is named for one of the women who make them, and these women have extra reason to take pride in their work. Unlike the skilled basket weavers of Rwanda, who come from a long tradition in their country, these Ethiopian women are trained in their craft to give them a way out of prostitution, the only career option readily available in Ethiopia to impoverished women without family support.

fashionABLE partners with Women At Risk, an organization founded by an Ethiopian woman to provide career alternatives for women looking to escape from prostitution. In over 20 years, 90% of the women trained by Women at Risk have been able to stay off the streets.

Empowering women by providing sustainable careers – it’s a great idea that I hope fashionABLE can continue to grow. I would love to report on its progress, but fashionABLE is part of a broader charity called African Leadership and doesn’t report financials separately.

But I can say Barrett is a smart, earnest guy who really lives his cause – he and his wife have two daughters adopted from Ethiopia, joined this year by their own biological daughter.

And I can also say the designs, prices and quality of fashionABLE’s scarves are excellent. Helping provide hardworking women and their families with opportunity and security is a fringe benefit.

In the photo above, Chunky Monkey is modeling my own lightweight yellow scarf. fashionABLE also has many patterned designs, including this medium-weight scarlet and gray one I know my Buckeye-loving Columbus peeps will love (normally $48, on sale $34):

fashionABLE scarlet gray

I’m looking at the Etanesh stripe, another medium-weight scarf (normally $36, on sale $25):

fashionABLE etanesh stripe

or maybe this pretty winter white?

fashionABLE etanesh ivory

They just came out with a few leather goods, including this sweet iPad sleeve with business card pockets (normally $52, on sale $36):

fashionABLE ipad case

Check out other styles here.

Those of you who have read Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, know that investing in women is the way to help society. Putting income in the hands of women helps children and families to a far greater degree than income in the hands of men.

For an abbreviated version, check out fashionABLE’s two-minute video.

And if you need ideas on how to wear your scarf, fashionABLE also produced a video, 27 ways to style your fashionABLE scarf. It’s a take-off of Wendy’s Lookbook‘s 25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes!, viewed 20 million times on YouTube, which, if you haven’t seen it, is fun viewing too.

In a material world, it’s a rare joy to buy a product with heart. And right now the extra 30 percent off is even greater joy for the frugal chinese grandmas among us.

[Note: I hope you guys know I don’t do any paid posts here. When I write about a product, it’s simply a personal find I want to share.]

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke 23 October 2013 at 7:41 pm

Thanks to you, I’ve started my Christmas shopping. I love the idea behind this company. I got all teary watching their video online. Thanks as always for sharing!


arugulaholic 24 October 2013 at 8:23 am

I’ve been meaning to order one ever since the conference but never got around to it. Thanks to you, I just bought 3. Feels so much better than giving to JCrew.


Brooke 4 February 2014 at 1:15 pm

I tried using half whole wheat flour and half regular and my family loved these scones. My favorite combo so far is dried cherries and mini chocolate chips! Delicious as always.


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