New Social Enterprise Ahkun Hosts Benefit Eco Fashion Pop-Up Shop (Photos)

Ahkun co-founder Anh-Thu Nguyen. Photo: Emma Grady

This weekend, a band of local fashion and accessory designers came together to help launch Ahkun, a non-profit social enterprise that works with entrepreneurs and connect them to the global marketplace, with a pop up shop at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York City.

Participating designers also helped raise awareness for Kiva by donating 10% of their sales from the weekend toward a microloan for an artisan of their choice. I stumbled upon some interesting -- and some weird -- eco fashion, including a card made from elephant poo, colorful bags made from patio furniture plastic, and more. Here's your virtual tour:

Photo: Emma Grady

First stop, Afia, for a quick catch up with designer Meghan Sebold. I covered the launch of her summer collection here on TreeHugger and also wore one of her vibrant dresses to the Audubon Society luncheon at the Plaza Hotel.

Sebold has her patterns made in Chicago and New York's garment district, sources textiles from small vendors, then works with the Dzidefo Women's Cooperative in the village of Kpando, Ghana, who cut and sew her vibrant collection of apparel and accessories. She showed me a new pair of high waist shorts in Rasta, a limited-run print in red, green, and black, which is a great piece to wear into fall.

Photo: Emma Grady

Next, I met the man behind Tompkins Point Apparel, Scott Leeder, who showed me his organic cotton polos, which I just reviewed here on TreeHugger.

Photo: Tompkins Point Apparel

The collection of colorful polo shirts are just as striking in person as they are in photos and they are the perfect match for any man who likes to dress on the preppy side. Plus, not only are they fair trade certified but they donate 25% of profits to the farmers and factory workers that produce their clothing.

Photo: Emma Grady

The Lower Eastside Girls Club was a fitting place to host the lively group of ethical fashion designers. The community center hosts workshops for young women, ages 8-23, with a focus on ethical, entrepreneurial and environmental awareness and also has a store that sells fair-trade and girl-made products from their sister programs around the world. Briana and Sonia of the Lower Eastside Girls Club hold prints from the shop, above.

Photo: Emma Grady

Later, I met Lucia at Holstee who introduced a new product from their online shop, a Feuerwear Firehose Belt made from upcycled you-know-what and a nickel-free metal buckle.

Soon after, Holstee co-founder Mike Radparvar stopped by and handed me their greeting card, made from elephant poo and recycled paper. He encouraged me to look closely to see what the elephant ate; this grossed me out just a little -- not going to lie -- but overall, it's a pretty innovative material.

Printed on the front of the card is the Holstee manifesto, an inspiring declaration about life based on the co-founders experience. Read on for an excerpt.

This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don't like something, change it. If you don't like your job, quit. If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing, all emotions are beautiful. Life is simple.

Photo: Emma Grady
Auralis Studio and Study NY by Tara St. James were there sharing a rack with the spring 2011 collections. I took an up close look at the Auralis collection, which I last saw on the runway during New York Fashion Week. Designer AuralĂ­s Herrero aimed to make her collection as local and as eco-friendly as possible. She combines bright colors and prints, the result: "urban tropical" style.

Slideshow: Tara St James Schools Us in Zero-Waste Design for Fall 2011

Tara St James, winner of the 2011 Ecco Domani, showed support for the pop up shop and brought two of my favorite pieces, no-waste skirt Ikat skirt that I recently wore to an event and recycled copper necklaces made with copper piping from eBay and left over textile scraps, designed by St James' assistant from Study NY's fall 2011 collection.

Photo: Emma Grady

Indego Africa, whose yoga bags were a favorite of ours at the New York International Gift Fair, also caught my eye. The nonprofit social enterprise partners with female artisans in Rwanda and sells their handicrafts on its webstore with 100% of profits supporting training programs taught by university students in Rwanda.

Photo: Indego Africa

They also partner with fashion designers to create custom collections. Their recent collaboration with Nicole Miller resulted in these beautiful, vibrant bangles.

Photo: Emma Grady

Photo: Emma Grady
Viva La Vida takes polyethylene, originally developed for patio furniture, and turns it into bright, colorful carry all bags. Designer Carmen Artigas works with skilled artisans living in jail in Mexico, where she was born, who hand weave each bag.

Like this post? Follow Emma Grady, an award-winning fashion writer, stylist, and the founder and editor of, on Facebook and Twitter.
More Social Enterprises
Dare To Be A Social Enterprise!
Social Entrepreneurs Mean Business
Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2007 (TreeHugger)

Tags: Accessories | Clothing


treehugger slideshows