Fashion Against Bullying
1. What is the reason that you chose to use Fashion to bring attention to a serious social problem “Bullying “?
Well, as corny as this may sound, fashion has always been one of my passions and sewing has been my therapy. I have been sewing for over 35 years, but it wasn’t until my then 12 year old daughter came home crying in January of 2014, after learning that a young man in her school committed suicide as a result of bullying and other issues, that I really started putting some thought to the fact that there has to be another way for our children to express themselves and how they’re feeling. After talking with my daughter and some of the other kids that went to school with this young man, I found out that he was very much into fashion and was always adding his own style to the strict uniform code that they had at the school. With my educational background in Urban Studies, Psychology and Fashion Design, and my experience in community development and working with the youth, I started brainstorming with my daughters on how we could turn this into a movement! Thus the Fashion Against Bullying Nonprofit Organization was born also known as The F.A.B. Coalition!
2. How much of a background in fashion helped you?
In May of 2010, I was nearing the end of completing my studies for my Master’s Degree in Human Services. With only 1 semester left, I felt a compelling urge to go in another direction! It was the craziest day in October, the weather forecast called for a blizzard and it had already started snowing! I was on my way to attend an Open House at the Art Institute in New York City and my husband thought I was crazy! At the time I couldn’t understand why I had to go to school for Fashion Design since I already knew how to sew and it was actually just a hobby for me. Little did I know that there is so much more to the Fashion Industry than I could have ever imagined and that having a background in fashion would play a major part in being taken seriously and professionally as the head of The F.A.B. Coalition Organization. I have many mentors and people that I look up to that have been working in the fashion industry for years! My professors now friends and associates from the Art Institute in NYC; Denise Lacen, Ms. Larissa, Mrs. McCoy, Fan Wu, just to name a few, mentors such as celebrity designer Cesar Galindo, Willie Hall, Jennifer Cole and Maria Felix have all been a major influence in my education, knowledge and awareness in the fashion industry. I am continuing to learn more everyday about the industry and I’m sure that my list of influences will continue to grow as well.
3. How do you see your Brand F.A.B.growing in the next 5yrs?
In the next 5 years I see F.A.B. growing as a movement! It is my vision to see our F.A.B. Fashion Studio: 101 After School Program in place in various school districts throughout the NY/NJ Metro areas as well as school districts in other cities and states! We have been approved to do a pilot after school program in the city of Linden, NJ in collaboration with the 21st Century program in one of their Middle Schools. When our program is proven successful, it will be opened to both the middle and high schools in the city of Linden. We have also been asked to come to the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area of Florida and talk about expanding The F.A.B. Coalition Organization in that area as well. I will be going down there this month to meet with our fiscal sponsor and graduate students from DeVry University who will be managing F.A.B. in that area. We also have an online F.A.B. Apparel Store accessible through our website: www.thefabcoalition.com Right now we only have our F.A.B. T-Shirts up for sale in the store but eventually this will become part of the movement as well. The vision is to have F.A.B. Fashion Apparel being worn by students every where who want to take a stand against bullying and look good while doing it! Also to launch a Teen Magazine and Talk Show called F.A.B. SPEAKS! The magazine and talk show will center around giving kids who are being bullied, who have been bullied and who are bullies, a VOICE and a chance to express them selves in a way that will encourage them to use creative solutions in a safe and nurturing environment.
4.What are some of the obstacles that you encountered?
Well one of my biggest obstacles, which is almost anyone’s obstacle when you have a BIG vision, is finances! Not knowing how I was going to fund the vision was and is still a challenge. However, I’ve accepted the challenge and things are working out. Thank God for an understanding husband because I have had to use my paychecks that I get working as a substitute teacher to fund this vision thus far! Arvin (my husband) has even stepped in financially and helped out because he sees and understands the vision!…And he believes in it and me! Which brings me to my next biggest obstacle which is getting people to understand, believe in and support the vision! I’m not always talking about money! Sometimes people only want to be a part of something because of what they can get out of it! Because F.A.B. works closely with the fashion industry, a lot of people only want to be involved to try to get their kids noticed. You have to watch out for people’s motives and intentions when they want to work with you! Even if they are volunteering, they need to understand the organization’s vision and they have to work hard and support to get something out of it!
5. What are some of the highs of running your own company?
The biggest high of running my own company is seeing it grow and evolve. Even though we are still in the infancy stage, we are not where we were last year this time. Seeing something that started off as just brainstorming in my daughter’s bedroom, blossoming into what it is becoming is an awesome thing! We are only a little over a year old! Being able to wake up in the morning and looking forward to moving one step closer to fulfilling your vision and most of all having your vision be your passion! Meeting new people, traveling to new places, helping others to realize and fulfill their dreams, these are the highs of owning my own company!!!
6. How did you get the youth involved?
Typically when you say “Fashion” or “Fashion Show” they are all in! But when you connect Fashion with a cause (bullying) now you are asking them to think and work and support! Totally different ballgame! I asked my now 14 year old daughter “how do you get teens to want to be a part of something worth while that is for them?!” and she said, “Honestly, we’re lazy! If we have to work, it has to be fun and exciting and we have to get something out of it!” So with that in mind we (The F.A.B. Coalition) are in the process of tweeking our marketing strategy to become more inviting to our targeted age group which is 12-18. We are increasing our presence on social media and we are inviting youth to work with our organization as interns! We are even looking to establish a non voting Board of Directors made up of teens to keep the organization socially aware of the issues that are important to them. We are partnering up with our schools where 85% of bullying takes place and we are incorporating 1 of the 4 industries that has the most influence on them, (entertainment, music and sports are the other 3).
7. Where is your Brand being sold?
As I said before, currently our t-shirts are being sold at our online store, The F.A.B. Apparel Store, and is accessible through our website: www.thefabcoalition.com
8. How are managing personal life and business life?
Well I couldn’t do any of it without acknowledging God as being the center of my life, but my husband and my kids keep me in check with managing my personal and business life. I’ve been married for over 27 years to a wonderful, supportive and understanding man, Arvin Todd. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve learned how to keep each other balanced. He’s always reminding me of the realities when I get caught up in my visions and dreams. LOL! I don’t like it all the time when he does it, but I love him for doing it. We have 4 daughters, Terria (26), Avion (24), Tamara (23) and Asia (14), we also have 2 grand children, Aliyah (4) and Zayden (6 months). We are a very close knitted family and they are my #1 passion!
9. What advice would you give someone who just started a business in fashion?
If you are just starting a business in fashion my advice would be to first get familiar with the industry. The fashion industry is a multi billion dollar industry with it’s own language and way of doing things! You have to know who’s who and how the industry is structured. Once you find that out, then figure out where you want to fit into the industry. There are thousands of careers and businesses in the fashion industry where in the industry do you see yourself. The one fascinating thing that I have learned in the fashion industry is that it encourages creativity! So if you don’t see where you fit, the industry is malleable enough to allow you to create your own space. After that YOU have to make it work!
10. What is the next thing on your Wishlist?
A REALITY TV SHOW! Because I know and believe that the F.A.B. Coalition is going to be successful, I would love to share the experience of building this organization from the ground and show kids everywhere (and some adults) who are struggling with the issue of bullying, weather you’re being bullied or you are the bully, that it’s a serious issue and we are listening and that there are other creative and fun ways to get through this difficult issue in their lives.
11. If you could have a celebrity endorsement who would you chose?
Narrowing this down to my TOP 5 this decision was made strategically LOL!:
- Oprah Winfrey (when she talks, everybody listens!)
- Raven Symone (she can relate to the cause)
- Will Smith (influence)
- Ellen DeGeneres (influence and can relate to the cause )
- Nicki Minaj (influence)