Saturday, October 9, 2010

Of Rags with Branson Skinner

What is the mission/purpose of your organization?

“Of Rags” is a fair trade fashion cooperative for sustainable development. The mission is to provide jobs and reinvestment into public health and education in underprivileged communities by designing, manufacturing and selling fashion-forward clothing. We also aim to grow consumer and corporate consciousness through sustainable business practices.

What are some major campaigns or issues that the organization is currently working on?

We are working to raise awareness about Fair Trade and the importance of buying products that make a difference and not just a profit. We are not combating consumerism; we just want to make it work. We're seeking to build a movement behind sustainable fashion.

How does your organization work to fix the problems and achieve your mission goals?

Of Rags allows people to buy trend conscious clothing and accessories while at the same time directly contributing to the development of local communities. Currently we are operating in three communities in Ghana, West Africa.

My business and design partner, Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, or RAAM, and I conduct our design and t-shirt print work in Labadi Town where we employ three people. This generated income puts food on the table and pays children's school fees in several families.

At the Buduburam Liberian Refugee Settlement outside of Accra, we have a production facility where we employ two teams of five people each to sew our clothing. In addition, at Buduburam, we're working with a micro-finance organization working with the refugees in order to dye fabrics.

Of Rags is also employing several HIV positive women through the West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF) in order to make some of our bags and accessories. 40% of the profits will be used to fund a teacher's assistants training program in conjunction with a special needs school in Accra.

How large is your organization? Are you student-operated or do you have a large age pool?

Of Rags was founded a year ago by RAAM, a 28 year old designer, Neha Dubli, an NYU student and director of our public health programs, and me. Currently, we employ several people in their mid-twenties at our Labadi Design Shop and many of the “Of Rags” seamstresses working with us at Buduburam are parents. We also are providing a scholarship to the 21 year old site manager at Buduburam who is a single mother and junior in high school. Stateside, The “Of Rags” team in has grown to include currently five and counting dedicated college students based mainly at NYU.

How did your organization get started? Provide a quick history of the organization's growth.

I met RAAM when I studied abroad in Ghana with NYU for a semester. I was really impressed with the designs that RAAM was wearing and found out they were his own. We stayed in touch and a month later, we officially partnered to launch “Of Rags Clothing”. I asked my friend Neha, who is deeply connected to Ghana and passionate about public health, to lead “The Of Rags Foundation”. As Neha helped put together a grant application for Ashoka's Youth Venture, RAAM and I finished making our sample collection.

In NYC, I displayed our work in two fashion shows and sold it among my friends. By March we received funding from a Youth Venture seed grant and an NYU Reynolds Scholarship. In May, we hosted our concept party and by June we combined forces with fellow NYU student founded organization SCHEFO to establish the partnership that is bringing jobs to Buduburam Refugee Settlement, where 50,000 refugees are effectively abandoned since the UNHCR decided to cut its support.

Along with fellow Reynolds Scholar and NYU in Ghana Alum Alex Cunningham's organization “Art for Global Justice”, Of Rags hosted our launch party this July in Accra. Right now we’ve got an exciting new partnership in the works with an organization here in New York City.

Where do you see the organization going in two years?

With the support of a growing base of consumers and volunteers in two years we're hoping to be available at a number of stores around the US, in Ghana and in a few European outlets as well. With this consistent sales base we will roll out new public health initiatives, expand our team of seamstresses and hopefully enter into textile production complemented by our public health and a potential micro-finance program.

Will you be having meetings that I can attend? How can I get involved?

Right now, the NYC team is planning on meeting Tuesday evenings every other week. If you'd like to get involved or to find out more, please visit or just send me an email at and we'd be happy to have you on board as a volunteer or intern!

Where can I find out more information about your organization?

Our website is: and you can also connect with us through facebook (ofrags) and twitter (@ofrags). Additionally, we can be found on wordpress ( and youtube (

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