Article by Allie Dalola, a US State Department intern currently studying business and economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
|AWE alumnus Grace Achieng founded sustainable fashion brand Gracelandic in 2020.|
[Reykjavik, January 2023] Academy for Women Entrepreneurs graduate Grace Achieng, through her company Gracelandic, is helping transform the fashion industry’s environmental impact.
“When fashion is done right, it can make a difference to the people and environments that wear it,” says Achieng.
As a ‘slow fashion’ brand, Graceland stands in contrast to large ‘fast fashion’ manufacturers whose primary objective is high volume and high speed production. The slow fashion movement promotes greater sustainability by producing long-lasting, high-quality, eco-friendly clothing. We adopt a holistic and socially conscious production model.
|Achieng’s business prioritizes three interests: People, Profit and Planet.|
For example, Achieng partners with ethical producers to supply all of Gracelandic’s fabrics. Her company deliberately manufactures ethically produced garments, limiting excess inventory and recycling all fabric scraps and remaking them into accessories.
Achieng also uses her business to popularize the philosophy of slow fashion, posting regularly on the company’s blog and Instagram account to educate customers about the impact of the fast fashion industry. Even the clothes she sells are designed to reduce consumer waste.
“Our clothes are high quality and long-lasting,” says Achieng. “The style is timeless, versatile and easy to style.”
Achieng says many people don’t realize the devastating impact fast fashion has on climate change and water wastage. She explains that the fast fashion industry has a disproportionate impact on developing countries like Kenya, where she grew up.
|Achieng is passionate about empowering women through design.|
“Products and materials that are disposed of in the West are sent to Africa,” she explains. “This kills independent businesses and her 90% of these garments end up in landfills in Africa.”
Her childhood in Kenya began with what she describes as “humble beginnings”, driving Achieng to design clothing that promotes sustainability and empowers the wearer.
In fact, Achieng experienced the power of fashion at an early age and paved the way for her entrepreneurship. She recalls how she felt as a child in Kenya when she wore her new dress, which she received as a gift from her aunt.
“When I put on this dress, I felt so empowered,” explains Achieng. “This is what I want to sell”
In 2010, Achieng moved to Iceland to pursue his dream of a career in the fashion industry. After struggling to find her a fashion job, Achieng decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2020, she bought a sewing machine and started her own business, hoping to design beautiful clothes that give a voice to the women who wear them.
|AWE’s extensive network has made Gracelandic a success.|
“I feel like it’s my life’s mission to help women feel noticed and invincible through fashion,” says Achieng.
Two years after launching Gracelandic, Achieng joined the Academy of Women Entrepreneurship (AWE) through the US Embassy in Reykjavik, equipping her with the tools she needed to succeed. For example, Achieng learned the financial skills needed to run a business and raise capital.
“When I started my business, I blindly walked into my dream,” says Achieng. “AWE has helped me understand my business better.”
Beyond her hands-on business skills, Achieng was able to draw on AWE’s extensive network to connect with other female entrepreneurs, learn from talented mentors, and share her story on the larger platform. rice field.
“I felt a lot of support,” says Achieng. “I never knew women could support each other so much.”
Since launch, Gracelandic has grown tremendously, and Atien recently spoke about this at the 2022 Woman Impact Summit, the global conference for up-and-coming women entrepreneurs. And her designs have been featured in British Vogue three times in 2022.
|Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Todis Colbrunn (pictured center) wears Graceland couture when meeting President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at UNGA in 2022.|
Achieng’s personal mission to empower women through what they wear seems to be gaining traction on the global political arena as well. At the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2022, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Thordis Her Kolbrun Her Lakefjord Her Gilfadottir met with U.S. President Joe Her Biden at Graceland It was nothing but the design of
Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Todis Colbrunn (pictured center) wears Graceland couture when meeting President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at UNGA in 2022.
The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is a women’s empowerment initiative launched in 2019 by the U.S. Department of State. AWE has provided knowledge, networks to her more than 25,000 women in 100 countries using the DreamBuilder learning platform developed by her Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. , the access they need to start and scale successful businesses, including her 60 female entrepreneurs in Iceland.
For more information on AWE, please visit https://eca.state.gov/awe.