Nina Farran: CEO/Founder, Fashionkind
Couture, fast fashion, vintage -- there's lots of ways to curate together your own fashion closet. For Nina Farran, though, she's dedicated to creating high style and high impact which is how her ethical e-commerce baby, Fashionkind sprouted from the net. There, you'll find a curated experience not unlike a Net-a-Porter or Farfetch-- but this time, you can also filter your shopping to support humanitarian causes, like LGBTQ+ rights, anti-slavery, and sustainability. Farran, an ex-financier and one of the most impeccably dressed gals we know, is working to transform the fashion landscape into one that changes lives, supports the environment, and wastes less. We sat down with her to chat self-care, the magic behind great clothes, and never sacrificing style while you change the world.
How would you describe Fashionkind? We love to ask founders to talk about their vision in their own words.
We really showcase high-style and high-impact fashion, showing that luxury style can be impactful in a positive way. As we say, we're an initiative to change the world using luxury fashion as the vehicle, so initiative is a really important word for us. We're not just selling things. I know it's a dreamy statement, but I think it really captures the soul of our brand and our work. But what does it mean? We vet the leading ethical and sustainable luxury designers, artisans and brands from around the world, curate collections of their designs and collaboratively create exclusive products for our online global platform. We strive to be the leading destination for ethical and sustainable luxury fashion, for consumers and designers alike.
Can you speak a little about your dedication to impact?
I had an aha moment before starting Fashionkind and that was when I learned of impact investing. I became obsessed with this idea. I think you'll learn that impact is a driving force in my life. It's kind of the one word that I think of that defines my life personally and professionally and everything that I do is the desire to make an impact, to leave the world a better place. I researched it and it’s [all about] ethical and sustainable investments, so [the concept] aligned with my mission.
Impact investing is aligning one's values with their investment portfolio or an endowment or foundation's mission with their investment portfolio. Again, I became obsessed with this idea. I ultimately ended up self-initiating the impact investing platform at my firm (Glenmade Trust) and enabling our clients to align their values with their investment portfolios with 100% impact aligned portfolios that were diversified across stocks, bonds and geographies and so they have 100% impact aligned portfolios. That was probably one of my greatest accomplishments before Fashion Kind and the year that I actually left finance, it became the strategic initiative firm-wide, so it's definitely kind of a legacy that I've left that I feel really proud of. I helped found a women's empowerment fund there (called the Glenmede Trust Women’s Empowerment Fund) that's still doing extremely well and it launched actually right after I left.
Then, I started Fashionkind in April of 2014. I started it as an informational blog on Instagram, leveraging the power of social media. I would shed light on statistics, like the ones that I just shared with you and then post images of brands, products from brands that were thinking differently, kind of tackling these statistics in a different way, how can we use fashion as a means for positivity. The feedback that I got was wonderful, but soon people starting saying, "Well, this is amazing and now that we know this, we want to change our shopping habits, but where can we get all these things? There's not one place.”
I researched to confirm and what I found was that there are a lot of platforms that were championing ethical and sustainable fashion, but they lost the fashion element, so it's not really items that would stand on their own that are pieces that I would still want to wear. They have a great story, but that's half the battle. Think about why people shop. They might first see something in a magazine. Well, they don't know the story attached to it necessarily. It has to stand on its own as a piece of fashion. For me, I wanted to maintain my style, like my clients, and impact investing wanted to maintain their values and returns without sacrificing my values, sacrificing my style and so there are a lot of parallels that I see between my impact investing work and my fashion work.
There can be a million magical stories in one single outfit. I have vegan cork leather sandals that are made in Portugal. I have these vintage jeans that benefit art therapy programs in children's hospitals. I have a silk bandana that was made by artisans in India. This bag was made from scrap leather by women in Pakistan. Everything has a story. If you think about how many countries that are represented in one outfit and how many hands went into making this (outfit). It's kind of magical.
We're constantly trying to find better ways to quantify that impact or to address the impact on our site. It's a process, so we're always open to feedback and suggestions, but very generally and simply, the impact could be the underserved populations that are employed, the materials that are used, processes that are implemented or initiatives that a company aligns itself with.
What does self-care look like to you?
What I've learned is I'm really not good at spending time on myself. I'm always trying to help others, because that's just what I live for, but it can take a toll on your body. I've tried to be better at relaxing. Doing yoga every day is really helping me. I've been doing it for a long time, but it's something that I'm not good at. I'd rather be working.
As an entrepreneur there are always things I could be working on or emails I could be answering, so it's really hard for me to "turn off." When I'm in the office and not running around, I love that my Apple Watch reminds me to breath and get up every hour. It's little things like that that can make a huge difference. I also always have my dog, Vela, with me (who I am completely obsessed with!), so I make sure to take her out for a walk at least three times a day. The walks are great for her but also important for me - it's amazing what fresh air can do for the mind and soul! Seeing her so happy and her little ears bopping as she walks always puts a smile on my face. Lately, I just really am trying to cook more, cook myself meals that are really healthy, lots of veggies. I'm not a vegan. I have an intestinal condition that is triggered by a number of foods, all of which I don't know, but the ones I do know include dairy and gluten, so I really have pretty much a dairy and mostly gluten free diet. Maybe once in a while or inadvertently I'll eat them, but it flares up and I get a really bad pains and so I try to avoid them. It also just makes me feel better, like mentally, emotionally and clearing my mind.
With everything going on around us in the world, self-care is more important than ever. Investing in your health, well-being and happiness is one of the best investments you can make.
What are you most excited about with Fashionkind right now?
This is a really exciting time for the ethical and sustainable fashion space as a whole, and Fashionkind is uniquely positioned to benefit from the growth of the industry and increased consumer demand. We are expanding our platform to include more elevated Fashionkind designers this Fall, and we are also launching our Fine Jewelry Vault: the premier curation of the leading ethical and sustainable fine jewelry designers from around the world. We felt there was a gap in the market when it came to ethical and sustainable fine jewelry, so we are excited to fill this void, and it is a natural segue for us and our brand. What gets me excited every day is being fortunate enough not only to have found what I love (I think that can be half the battle!), but also to be able to pursue it. I feel so lucky.
What kind of legacy do you hope do leave in this world?
I've said it many times, but the first word that always comes to my mind is impact. I really want to leave the world a better place, for my friends, for my family, for the artisans and designers we work with, for the fashion industry in general. Of course, I dream of that. Luxury and impact go hand in hand and I say luxury because not only is it important for those consumers and for me to be able to maintain their style without sacrificing their values, but also because the luxury industry has a trickle down effect. It shapes the industry as a whole, so if I can influence change at that level and show it's not that hard to make a difference and you don't have to sacrifice style to make a difference.
We dream of working with these mainstream luxury labels and creating capsule collections with our artisans. We have so many ideas of how to make a difference that we know work, connecting that with the luxury players and then growing that legacy for them after I'm gone. That would be huge for me, so influencing change on a positive level, having a positive impact both directly and indirectly on many lives. I think what I want someone to think of when they think of me, like at my funeral or something, which is so funny to think of, but is just that Nina wanted to make a difference and that's what everything she did in her life was about. How she tried to make a difference in this person's, in that person's life, and in the world as a whole.
I would want that to be how people remember me— I just want to make an impact and I believe I can. I believe everyone can. There are many vehicles and ways to: from smiling at a stranger or holding a door for someone to rocking an upcycle leather jacket made 100% sustaibably. I’d want people to say, "I've never known someone who wants to change the world as much as Nina does." I want to change the world, and I'm sure others think it's a stupid thing to say, but I really mean it, and I think in each person's own way, we all can.