Nina Farran is a kind soul. Upon meeting her, you instantly feel the passion that drove her to launch Fashionkind—an e-commerce site for luxury sustainable products from around the world—and the business smarts to make it a success.
This week, Fashionkind launched its first Capsule Collection, a selection of 30 pieces created in collaboration with 11 international Fashionkind designers. The capsule includes ready to wear and accessories, all with a unique twist. The capsule also reveals the new Fine Jewelry Vault of gold and diamond jewelry–launching this September and featuring original designs from Sandy Leong, Lola Fenhirst, Dana Bronfman, Tejen and Kimberlin Brown. Sustainable fine jewelry and ethically produced knitwear are just some of the items personally selected and curated by Farran. Brands such as Ryan Roche, Ace & Jig, Lemlem and Veja, contribute to the curated collections. All are 100% luxury, 100% exclusive and 100% Fashionkind.
Accessories caught up with Farran in Manhattan to preview the capsule collection and see how many hours she’s logging on international flights these days.
How did you get so involved in giving back? It’s who I am. I’m always happiest when I’m giving. I went to a Quaker School growing up in Philadelphia, and we were always involved in giving back, both at school and at home. My mom was an entrepreneur and I grew up traveling through Asia and Europe. But it really started when I saw this Africa Peace t-shirt by Omnipeace at a boutique on the Outer Banks—I discovered it was an initiative to build schools in Sub Sahara Africa. I became obsessed with the brand and when I went back to school, I drafted a business plan that I sent to the CEO. We launched the brand on U of Penn’s campus, where I was a student, and it exceeded our expectations.
So did you get into this fashion business right away? Not at all! I interned at Donna Karan but wanted to do something different. I transitioned into a finance firm where I came across the phrase “Impact Investing.” I learned a lot there and understood that the Millennial generation wants to align their social values with their goals. I launched the Impact Investing platform across geographies with the firm’s hedge fund money. I started to realize the impact that fashion has on the environment and wanted to raise awareness.
So the site actually started with an editorial focus? Yes. I started Fashionkind solely as a blog with statistics to highlight the environment and feature brands that were doing well in the sustainability space. People kept asking me where they could buy the brands I was mentioning, so I decided to turn it into a sales platform. The key was all the items had to be fashion first. There is a preconceived notion that all sustainable fashion is “crunchy” or what you’d find in a bazaar or gift shop.
When did it become an e-commerce site? We launched Fashionkind.com in April 2016 just for women with a luxury slant. The items aren’t inexpensive but they are truly original, made in a sustainable way, and give back to local communities around the world. But more importantly, the style stands on its own and people can look good and feel good about their purchases. The metals are often recycled; the gold and gems are conflict free and mined in a sustainable way; the fabrics are often scraps or dyed in a natural way.
You must be traveling all the time to see and work with the artisans. We have 35 designers on the site now. I travel all over, about 10 countries a year. While I love fashion and the finished items we sell on the site, there’s nothing like being on the ground, meeting the artisans and seeing things made by hand.
Tell us about the Capsule Collection that’s launching. This features 30 pieces designed exclusively for Fashionkind, from ready-to-wear to accessories. Each piece has its own story and it’s all explained on the site beside each image. That’s the beauty of online, you can run images and stories behind everything to give shoppers more context. For example, deadstock—meaning remnants that were getting thrown away.
There’s a leather dress by BreeLayne and a blazer made from vintage and archival Chanel and Balenciaga fabrics. All from deadstock or vintage materials.
These sunglasses are a collaboration with Michael Nelson and Selima Optique by artisans in Nairobi. By sharing the tradition of Maasai beading, 10% of the profits from each pair sold are put towards an education fund to send 22 children in Nairobi to school.
These Khokho bags are made in Swaziland and they marry traditional craft utilizing a local grass with Italian leather and design. We actually send Italian designers to Swaziland to teach the local artisans to make these. The whole idea is we don’t just want to sell what these local communities would make; we want to use their skills to create something unique and modern for our market. This one retails for $550.
Sandy Leong front back horn earrings with diamonds retail for $4,600 and are amazing. Each piece in her line is from 18 karat recycled gold and ethically sourced, conflict-free diamonds. Materials like cow horn and wood are sourced from global artisan partners in Kenya and India.
This hand-made dress takes 48 hours to make and is done in Los Angeles. Knitwear brand HJK is designed in Southern California with embroidery and crocheting done by Hannah Jenkinson, but created in partnership with artisans in Central America.
TEJEN means “Needle of Stone.” In Ancient Egypt, the obelisk, or Tejen, was believed to perforate the clouds–eliminating negative energies accumulating in the form of storms. TEJEN is a luxury brand dedicated to sustainability, ethics, craftsmanship, and transparency. All pendants and bangles are inspired by shapes and patterns characteristic of Ancient Egyptian royalty. Retail, $3,750.