I would be willing to bet that many of you are currently reading this post wearing your favorite leggings or running skirt, whether or not you worked out today. Activewear has expanded its reach outside of the four walls of a gym. We wear our leggings to the grocery store, to the movies, to run errands, and (when we can find the time) to the gym. If we are all already wearing it, why not buy from a company that is helping to do good in the world? That company is NEVA. Started by Sacha Nana of Fairway, Kansas in 2013, NEVA was started with the aim of helping to improve the lives of women through meaningful work. Just a couple years after its start, Sara Trucksess, a friend and neighbor of Sacha joined the NEVA team as the Sales and Marketing director. I got the opportunity to chat with Sara about NEVA and the potential impact it can have.
It was on a trip to South Asia that Sacha first met a group of female artisans that were living on less than $1.25 a day. Motivated and inspired by these women to help create change, Nana started NEVA- a company dedicated to producing high-quality activewear while empowering women through gainful employment. As Sara puts it,
"Activewear is a multi-billion dollar industry that Western women spend unlimited amounts on daily without a second thought. But by incorporating this booming industry with the artisanal skills of women across the globe, a new kind of philanthropy was born. We call it "Fitanthropic."
The first line from NEVA hired these highly skilled artisans (at ten times their current daily wage) to hand-embroider inspirational phrases on each piece of clothing. These women were suddenly able to care for their families like they had never been able to before. They now had the ability to pay electric bills on their own, buy groceries, and even save for their children's future education. What stood out to Sara most were "the women who were able to use their wages to buy their own sewing machines and were completely empowered to continue working and bringing in better wages for their families for the future.
After the success of their first line, Sacha and Sara had hopes of launching an American-made collection. They employed Kansas City artisans to hand-stitch the phrases on this line and used a women-owned factory in LA to produce the clothing. This collection is slightly more expensive as it is made in the USA, but it allows NEVA to have a hand in the process from start to finish. Sara talks about the American-made collection below.
"This new line is 100% made in America by women in a female run factory in LA that actually happens to be totally green and Eco-friendly as well. And we are now sourcing American women from Kansas City to do the hand-embroidery for us. This has created some new challenges, like finding women with traditional hand-embroidery skills that are not typically taught in the US (so many women here are able to and would prefer to use machine embroidery which is something we may consider in the future), and changes in the breakdown of wages that we are able to offer. While we can't realistically pay 10x an artisan's previous wages in the US like we did in South Asia, we are able to offer these women fair, responsible, competitive wages and empower these women to earn their own income all while being able to continue caring for their families from home, or continue their studies, or continue their pursuit of new employment in a new country. We're able to be completely connected to our artisans here in Kansas City. We know them all personally and we are amazed and grateful to have them along for this journey. Many are immigrants, some are students and some are moms or grandmas. As moms with young children ourselves, we understand how important it is to feel empowered and bring in an income while raising a family. And how very important it is to show our own children that we're working hard to make the world a better place a little bit at a time. "
As I sit at my desk writing this post in my new favorite leggings (the "Act Without Expectation" Crop), I am already planning which pair I want to buy next. While I could easily walk into any activewear store, I choose NEVA. It is such a simple change that I can make to help impact these women's lives in such a huge way.
So I have a challenge for you. Next time you are out shopping at your favorite name brand store for another pair of leggings or a workout tank, try buying one from NEVA instead. As Sara Trucksess puts it, "We all wear it every day, why not make it mean more?"