(*Originally published on LinkedIn)
My enthusiasm for all things Disney started early. I was drawn to the total escapism that the parks provided, the joy that families experienced when engaging with the brand, and the storytelling pervasive in everything Disney touched. I love the House of Mouse so much that I wrote a significant portion of my case studies at Columbia Business School on the company, its culture, and the entrepreneur that imagineered it, Walt Disney.
My devotion to the brand extended to fashion. As a child, my mother was big on self-expression. My daily uniform consisted of a white, long undershirt with a repeating pattern of Minnie Mouse’s face, which I styled with a turquoise bathing suit, opaque stockings, and a skirt. Fortunately, social media didn’t exist yet.
DISNEY, BLOOMINGDALE’S AND TO THE MARKET
Fast forward to adulthood, where I began building a career around engaging and empowering marginalized communities through dignified work. I founded TO THE MARKET to connect ethical suppliers of apparel, accessories, and home goods to brands, retailers, and corporations around the world. We work with some of the biggest Fortune 500s across all business sectors. I love being a part of changing the retail industry, and I’ve picked up a bit more fashion sense along the way (although I can often be found sporting a Mickey Mouse pullover sweatshirt).
Imagine my delight when an opportunity presented itself to align so many of my passions.
TO THE MARKET was recently included in the Bloomingdale’s Style Kingdom Carousel, a collaboration with Disney for the recent relaunch of The Lion King. TO THE MARKET’s products were sourced from Sub-Saharan Africa and provided a lens into what is possible with ethical and sustainable sourcing from non-traditional suppliers in all parts of the world. Our collaboration with Bloomingdale’s underscores the critical importance of responsible sourcing for authenticity in storytelling and achieving more transparent supply chains in the retail industry.
RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNITY = GOOD BUSINESS
TO THE MARKET’s introduction to Bloomingdale’s was entirely built on relationships and the power of community (thank you power sisters Jen and Marissa Galante!). The Lion King journey began about a year ago as we started planning a trip to Kenya to meet makers for the collection and to capture information that could be extended to the storylines behind the products. Deeply understanding the handiwork, love, and dignity of work behind each and every piece was critical to the authenticity of the collection. My now dear friend Kevin Harter, SVP of Integrated Marketing for Bloomingdale’s, made the trip with TO THE MARKET to Kenya, where we met with makers and watched product come to life. This included spending time in Nairobi with artisans working with aluminum, paper, metals, and wood. Each group of makers had a different and compelling story to share.
The group then traveled to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where we spent time with amazing women from the Samburu tribe. It was incredibly special to see a retailer I have long admired, Bloomingdale’s take the time to sit with the makers, understand their day-to-day lives, and hear first-hand the impact of their orders.
PURCHASE THE COLLECTION IN SELECT STORES AND ONLINE
The Style Kingdom Carousel launched in July in select stores around the country and is available online. You can view it here. You can also watch one of The Lion King’s stars, Florence Kasumba, talk about her role in curating the store. The launch event was magical in itself, evoking that same sense of wonder that Disney has always inspired in me.
But, even more importantly, it reinforced the vision behind TO THE MARKET, powering an ethical supply chain. Responsibly sourcing this collection allowed for authentic storytelling, economic empowerment for TO THE MARKET’s maker network, and beautiful products that enable consumers to harness their purchasing power for good.
HARNESS YOUR PURCHASING POWER FOR GOOD
I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to participate in such a special collaboration. In the end, Bloomingdale’s orders empowered eight untapped artisan groups from seven countries, making available thousands of products to the US consumer that have backstories as compelling as their designs. The order helped provide access to food, shelter, sanitation, and health care; reduced susceptibility to extreme poverty due to unpaid work; and increased the investment artisans could make in their children, including nutrition, health, and education.
Happily, TO THE MARKET’s relationship with Bloomingdale’s carries on (check out our ornaments when the holiday shop launches!). But the success of the launch underscores my growing confidence that retail IS changing for the better, one magical (and ethical!) product at a time.