Meet Danielle, the ethical fashionista! Below she tells her story of how her love for fashion and Uganda led her to Sseko and finding herself…
Brave, Nervous, Insecure, Courageous…all words to describe myself in my life journey and also what’s fueled a desire to develop my own personal style – which is really the Freedom to be yourself.
It could take a whole book to describe my journey into the Freedom of being myself, my sense of style, and how God lead me to Sseko to become a Seeko Fellow! Growing from a girl that loved her Fashion plates (who remembers those?!) to starting my own not-for-profit styling business in Washington, DC, moving to New York City and then Texas to find Sseko, it’s been an adventure I wouldn’t trade!
In 2009, I traveled to Uganda, Africa to serve with my church, to see where needs were to be met, and to understand the culture and energy I’ve heard so much about. At this time, I was working at a non-profit in the Washington, DC area…loving my job but also loving all things fashion, pairing outfits, helping friends find good deals and cute items to build their wardrobe. I always desired to work in the industry of fashion or design but had no idea where were my strengths. I also had a defective view that I couldn’t do something that I “loved” that much…because well, God didn’t want me doing something I loved! (I know, defective, I’ll touch on that later).
After I returned from this life-changing trip of seeing extreme poverty, hearing one-on-one the stories of what these brave heroes had been through, I wanted to make a difference. A friend brainstormed with me and I called my business FashionEastA (Fashion for East Africa).
Through this time I was still learning, still growing, still a little timid about putting myself out there. I wanted so badly to just step out and grow my business. I read books, blogs, Pinterest boards (can you all relate?). I wanted to be the best at my trade but didn’t have the money to attend Design school. I made mistakes and learned through them. Like how each person has their own personal style, There are basics, and there are extreme NOs (white after Labor Day doesn’t count). While realizing we all have things we feel comfortable in, we all want to feel pretty, we all want to feel put together, & attractive. Whether you’re a mom staying home with your child and running your home, a woman going to work every day needing to look professional and polished, or if you are in your retired years running errands visiting your grown children and grandchildren, we all have the same thing in common: we want to feel beautiful and we can!
As I decided to take the leap and move to New York City (a FashionEastAs dream come true), I wanted to learn all I could, take in the energy of New York, attend Fashion Week, expand FashionEastA’s outreach.
I thought focusing on my business would help me keep going, that it would help me, to give me the confidence to grow and learn. And it did – just not in the same way I thought! When I begin to look around, I was in the midst of excellence, couture brands, a confidence I’d never seen. Instead of focusing on my own style and what I was good at, I compared myself in the worst way. Insecurity set in and no matter how hard I tried, I was never good enough. And that was part of the problem — I was trying too hard, not focusing on what talent God blessed me personally with. Instead of growing stronger, I allowed the energy around me to tear me down, steal my spirit. But I also became stronger, knowing if I could endure the people there (it’s no joke, if you can make it there, you really CAN make it anywhere!), then I would hone my skills and strengthen my confidence.
As I journeyed next to Texas and continued working for a major American designer, I really start to feel comfortable in my own personal style. It’s because I started to understand myself. I don’t dress “couture”, I love boutiques, I love fair trade, I love mixing a long dress with a moto jacket and pair of boots. I don’t have to wear pink and bows, I could be my own form of feminine. Filled with individuality, style, and risk.
Enter Sseko…the first time I looked through a Sseko catalog, I wanted everything! I love the style, the brand, the look. THEN I found out it combined my love for fashion with my love for helping the first country I visited, Uganda! It’s where I started my journey, my journey of combining fashion and helping others. It’s building a hope and a future for women that couldn’t otherwise fulfill a dream of their own. Brave is such a perfect word for each woman who works in the industry; either as a woman working to gain a scholarship to college, or a woman joining on board as a follow to push through their insecurities and do it for the love of human achievement. Breaking the cycle of poverty is not easy, it’s nearly impossible. I watched it..in Uganda, the Philippines, Dominican Republic..they all need to break these cycles. Don’t we? We have our own cycles we need to break free of whether self-inflicted or if it’s what life handed to us.
Thank you, Sseko, for being that example. Thank you for allowing all of us to express who we really are through truth of how we each can bring something to the table to work together in sisterhood. Fashion is what others make, Style is what you make for yourself.
If you would like to step into the opportunity that Danielle has as a Sseko Fellow, we would love to talk to you!
As a Sseko Fellow, you’ll be part of an incredibly supportive group of women, you’ll get to style and sell stunning fashionable products that make a difference in the lives of women across the globe, and you’ll earn an income for yourself and your family.