There are people in life who have decided they want to leave a positive mark on the world. Here at Carl Designs, we love those kind of people, and strive to be those kind of people. It’s why we were so excited to work with Efua Mensah-Brown from Proverbs by Efua, and specifically help brand her incredible cause.
Efua has loved fashion since childhood, and over the course her successful career as a management consultant, she realized that the term “power outfit” was more than just a turn of speech; you are judged by what you wear at work. In fact, recent statistics show that dressing well at work can translate to a higher paygrade.
So when she set her sights on starting her own business after receiving her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, a fashion line seemed to be a perfect fit. But, she also knew she wanted her next venture to incorporate something bigger than herself. She always assumed she would partner with an organization that focused on children, orphans, or education, all causes close to her heart, but on a fateful trip to London during the 2012 Olympics, she encountered the issue that would become the core of her fashion brand: human trafficking.
"I was bombarded with it. It was everywhere!" Efua recalls. She noticed billboards and saw television advertisements promoting awareness of human trafficking, it even permeated her conversations, as many of her colleagues were headed to anti-trafficking rallies. Though she was first introduced to human trafficking as an issue in 2008, Efua admits that the timing was not right: "My mind wasn’t really in the right place to adopt the cause the way I have today.” In 2012 however, after researching the reality of human trafficking, she knew it would take an all-in attitude to eradicate human trafficking as we know it, but her heart was ready. “It’s a big problem that needs addressed. I wanted to bring light such a dirty, dark industry.” But that begged the question, how would one women tackle a $32 billion dollar industry affecting 161 countries with 27 million people essentially subjugated as modern slaves? Efua decided the answer was to make sure she wasn’t doing it alone, by making the process of helping part of our daily routine: getting dressed for work.
Efua’s designs are chic and accessible, with the everyday businesswoman in mind, which provides an opportunity for women to make their shopping budget more meaningful. 20% of the profits go directly to A21, a non-profit dedicated to prosecuting traffickers and providing relief for victims. It provides an outlet for professional women to feel good about what they are wearing, not only because they look good, but because they are doing good at the same time. As more than 80% of those affected by human trafficking are female, shoppers are helping other women worldwide.
But she ran into a problem. “People think it seems inconsistent with fashion,” she admits. So it was time to search out a way to bridge the disconnect between the two. That’s where Carl came in. Fellow graduate of her MBA program and local business owner, Heather Johnston of Find My Spot, shared some of the work that Carl had done for her growing Milwaukee startup, which you can find here. Impressed by the quality of the work, and on Heather’s recommendation, Efua contacted Carl with the hope he’d be able to help merge the brands she was building and visually reinforce the connection between her passion and her cause.
“The logo clarifies the bridge,” she affirmed, and solved one of her major challenges -- getting people to understand that yes, she is a fashion line and is also determined to eradicate human trafficking. “When I take it out into the world, they’re like ‘huh?’ but the logo clarified that I’m in it to end human trafficking. It made it so clear!” It seems apparent upon conversation with her Efua’s dedication to the cause is unwavering, yet she confessed that it’s often underestimated. “People often don’t understand, if the fashion line dies, as long as the cause and the mission remains, I’m ok with that. I couldn’t do the fashion line without the cause.” This is why it was so vital to have a visualization of her dedication.
Building a brand takes time, but ever since her launch in January of 2013 and the incorporation of the icon, Efua feels “it’s helped to center and establish the perception.” She is confident that now, with the incorporation of the logo, her dedication and her cause are more clear. “Now everyone knows I’m in it to end it!” she quipped.
Additionally, she found Carl was very easy to work with. “I was stressed and under a ton of pressure and he handled it very well,” she joked. Her response when asked if she would recommend Carl, was an emphatic “Yes!” She said colleagues of hers have been impressed with his work in the United Arab Emirates, where she resides. “There are people over here who do that kind of stuff, and I sometimes think maybe it would be easier to work with someone here, but then what he has done for me is so incredible!”
We encourage you to check out Efua’s fashion line available on her website at proverbsbyefua.com. Click here to learn more about the connection between fashion and freedom, and for facts about human trafficking.