April's Featured ICON
Each month we showcase an incredible woman to be our featured Amaiò ICON. This woman is someone who has style, grace, kindness, and integrity, all while inspiring us on a daily basis.
Our Icons have a certain je ne sais quoi. They carry themselves with poise, they have an effortless and distinct style, and they are more than skin-deep.
Nina Farran, founder of FashionKind
Ms. Nina Farran is the true embodiment of beauty and brains. Nina attended the University of Pennsylvania where she launched a humanitarian fashion effort that built schools in sub-Saharan Africa. This is where she first discovered she could marry two worlds she was equally passionate about: fashion and sustainability. This inspired Nina so much that she created an educational blog dedicated to these two worlds, launched it on Instagram and called it Fashionkind.
From then, Fashionkind gained an enormous following and progressed into something so much more than a blog. It has now evolved into a complex e-commerce platform dedicated to the leading ethical and sustainable luxury brands from around the world. It is known as a mecca for all things high-style and luxury, all while changing the narrative of luxury fashion and online consumerism. Nina's accomplishments and success of this platform were rightfully acknowledged as she was named in a Forbes 30 under 30 list, and named as one of the most influential women of the modern era by Town and Country.
Nina is the ultimate champion for creating a positive impact on the world, not only by changing the way people view luxury fashion but how it is sold. She takes the time to carefully vet each designer to ensure their aesthetic meets her high standards. She is then able to create a curated and unique shopping experience. She wants Fashionkind to empower its customers, knowing that by purchasing through them ensures you're supporting ethical and sustainable brands that are dedicated to making a positive impact.
High-style, sustainability, and empowerment are the future of fashion, and we are so thrilled to highlight Ms. Nina Farran for leading the movement and making a positive change in the industry.
Can you tell our readers about Fashionkind?
Fashionkind is an e-commerce platform dedicated exclusively to sustainable luxury. We vet leading sustainable luxury designers from around the world. We evaluate them first on a series of fashion criteria to ensure there’s absolutely no sacrifice of style, quality, fit or design. If they meet those criteria we then evaluate them on a series of impact criteria. We then curate collections of their design or create exclusive pieces with them.
We’re experts in sustainability, so we see that as a vehicle in which we can not only give consumers more sustainable options that are just as fashion-forward as they would find elsewhere, but also transform that traditional experience they would have when shopping for luxury online.
Why do you think there is such a big market for sustainable fashion now, especially sustainable luxury?
For so long it’s just been product-focused all transactional, there’s not much depth or human emotional connection. When designers give their products and brand over to work with retailers, there’s an inevitable sacrifice of your brand identity. We really believe we’re a new standard when it comes to fashion and shopping for luxury online because we place equal value on fashion, the impact of the products and the story. We’re champions of every designer that we work with and really seek to represent them to the best of our ability and create a connection between their work and the consumer. We want consumers to feel a sense of discovery when they shop our site. You can shop by region, you can shop by cause, you can also shop with traditional methods, such as dresses, tops, skirts, etc. There’s also this sense that when you purchase from Fashionkind you’re not just buying a piece, you’re buying part of a story and you’re connecting to numerous places across the globe.
How did you first conceptualize Fashionkind?
I started Fashionkind originally in 2014, it was an educational blog on Instagram to raise awareness about the impact the fashion industry had on the environment, such as how much water is used, pollution it caused and human rights issues it perpetuated. We started to get organic feedback and organic growth. People were saying they had no idea fashion was the second biggest user of water (second to agriculture). They also wanted to know where they could find brands that were using fashion to reinforce a positive change.
I did a deep dive into the space and found there were few platforms that championed sustainable luxury and they unanimously lost the fashion side of the spectrum. They weren’t pieces you’d see on the street or on social media or in a magazine and would want to purchase. I felt very strongly that if this is going to become the norm, which was our goal, we had to show that sustainability and style could be synonymous. We launched FashionKind the platform in 2016 and specifically targeted the luxury end of the sector as numerous data sources showed the massive influence luxury fashion has with changing the industry overall. We then relaunched the website at the end of 2018 and since then have strived to be the ideal retail partner for our designers and the go-to place for our consumers to be a source of influence and betterment in the industry as a whole.
The way you present different brands is one of the reasons AMAIÒ is so proud to be on your website. Can you tell us about the specific criteria you look for in deciding which brands you’ll carry?
We divide our evaluation process into two categories which are fashion and impact. Within fashion, we address style, quality, fit and design. Within impact, it’s not as straight forward or black and white. We view impact and sustainability as encompassing both the environmental side of things as well as the social side of things. So often when people think of sustainability they only think of the environment. We look at the people behind the brand, who is being empowered, employee benefits, what materials are being used, where they’re sourced. Then we look at the processes that are implemented in the materials being made such as the use of water recycling technologies. We look at the initiatives brands align themselves with, which often are in the form of givebacks, NGO partnerships or a dedication to a greater cause with the sale of their products.
What drew you to carry AMAIÒ as one of your sustainable luxury brands?
First and foremost it was the pieces. There was a very clear design aesthetic that was different and unique. The designs are super chic and elevated with feminine details. It’s very different from what you see in the typical swimwear market which was exciting for us not only because of how the pieces look but the different ways they can be worn. Another part of being sustainable is purchasing pieces that are investments that you intend to keep as long as possible, to take care of and honor. To have pieces like AMAIÒ, you can mix and match and wear them from the beach to dinner to drinks or even around the city. These are bathing suits that are made in a way that can be worn as tops or bodysuits. It’s about extending how we view our typical purchases. What first drew me to AMAIÒ from the impact side was that we loved that you work with heritage mills which tend to be more sustainable, more focused on quality and committed to their workers instead of just producing for the masses. This produces more mindful fabrics that don’t use as many synthetic materials and produce materials that are made to last. Of course, the giveback with your NGO partners, Drip by Drip and WGEF is also important because it directly relates to your brand and shows you're conscious of the effect the fashion industry has. AMAIÒ actively works to support organizations that empower women around the world and that give back to communities whose waterways are affected by the fashion industry. That’s why we love AMAIÒ.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Working in fashion, this is a question I should have an immediate answer for but my style is always continuing to morph and change as I grow as a woman and become more comfortable in my own skin. As a businesswoman, a leader, a colleague, friend, daughter, dog mom (lol), it’s always changing. As I'm on the go a lot, comfort is really key for me. I tend to wear a lot of athleisure if I’m running around doing errands or with the dogs but I also love putting on a beautiful dress. You could say as long as I feel unstoppable, from a dress or even a long skirt paired with a t-shirt, as that can look so chic. For me, it’s about comfort while being chic, of course sustainable, and feeling confident. I have a few key pieces I work with and have fun styling in different ways which makes me more mindful of my personal style. With shoes, I’m a boots gal, you will rarely see me in flats as I feel like I can take on the world in heels! For jewelry I have a lot of sentimental pieces I tend to wear every day. I always wear the same three rings I received from my parents and one from a FashionKind designer, Pili Restrepo, it’s all handmade from mercury free gold. I have two necklaces I wear every day, one was a graduation present from my parents and one from a Los Angeles based designer, Azlee, that gives back to ocean conservation initiatives. To sum it up, my style is more simple and comfortable but always chic and powerful.
Who are some of your own icons? Whether it’s in fashion or style, or even a woman in your life who has been a source of inspiration?
It would have to be Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx. I don’t know her personally, but I saw her speak at a Forbes 30 under 30 summit about 5-6 years ago. I didn’t know much about her at the time, but as she started speaking she told us her story (she’s a great storyteller, great humor and personable). She was actually a fax machine salesman when she started Spanx. She would visit factories in efforts to have her product made, but no one would take her seriously because all they saw were panty-hose that were cut off. Finally, a factory took a chance on her and produced some samples. She heard a lot of no’s until she finally got a meeting with a Neiman’s buyer. She had purposely worn a pair of white denim jeans to her meeting and after the buyer’s reluctance, she asked her to go to the fitting room. Sarah showed her a before, wearing the white denim jeans without the Spanx and then she changed into a pair of her Spanx and put the jeans back on. The buyer immediately purchased the Spanx for all of their stores. I think she is such a great example of perseverance and confidence that’s needed as an entrepreneur, the unwavering confidence in your vision and never take yourself too seriously and be afraid to do things differently as sometimes the greatest ideas just need that chance.
I would also be remiss not to mention my mom as an inspiration. She raised me by herself as a single working mom until I was about 7 which is when she met my (now) father. She was offered a position to be the head of the Executive Education Program at MIT but had to turn it doesn to take care of me. She was then offered the same role at Wharton. It just showed how to deal with adversity, how to persevere and maintain your strength and create your own path. I’ve learned from her that just because things have been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the way they should always be done. Rethinking the path forward and being grateful and thankful for those who support you. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my mom and dad. They will always be icons for me, personally and from a business perspective.
You’ve been on a 30 under 30, were on their board of advisors and named by Town & Country as one of the most influential women of the modern era. We are so thrilled to name you our April AMAIÒ ICON. what does it mean to you to be an AMAIÒ ICON?
Thank you for featuring me and it is such an honor to be among the other women you’ve featured. Being a pioneer as you say, can be a difficult thing. It inevitably means doing something new which people aren’t necessarily ready for, but you know they eventually will be. The immediate gratification isn’t always there. As an AMAIÒ Icon, it’s women who are willing to bet on themselves, yet they’re selfless in other ways. They’re gracious, giving and empower other women instead of breaking them down which I think, unfortunately, as women we tend to compete with one another and want to compare ourselves.
We are so much more powerful when we band together and lift each other up and recognize how we are all different but how beautiful our differences can be.
Of course, it means being chic, confident and having a point of view but still being relatable and being open to connecting with women, no matter how different we may seem, we have more similarities than differences.
The COVID-19 outbreak has far-reaching effects on how many industries are being impacted. Fashion retail is no exception as we have seen first-hand. How is FashionKind doing and how has it been affected?
We don’t know how long this is going to go on for. For example, one of our favorite female-founded fitness studios announced they had to lay off 98% of their employees. As a founder, that is the most heartbreaking decision for someone to make. This made me realize how severe this really is. Big or small everyone will be affected by this in some way. Speaking to our creative director who’s based in Brooklyn, we wished we could do more for artisans we work with. This has forced me to think about this in the day to day, how we can create a positive impact, further showing the sands of communities with the relationships we’ve already built with our designers and customers. We’re real human beings behind these brands and this has shown me that we have to re-evaluate how we connect with people. We want everyone to know that we are all in this together. I hope a result of this is that we come out of this much more aware of how connected we all are and have a sense of community and responsibility for our day to day decisions impact people around the world. My hope is that creators and consumers emerge from this with the mindset that we’re not just buying products. We’re buying stories and becoming some else’s story.
Living in New York and after the COVID-19 pandemic, what does your life look like right now as opposed to 2 months ago?
It’s been a very interesting time. I always say that the life of an entrepreneur is an adventure and this is a whole different type of adventure. In terms of my day-to-day, it’s been very different. Usually I’m traveling between Philadelphia and New York every week and now I’m not traveling at all. I’m working from my home office with my boyfriend and 2 dogs (he’s definitely not used to barking dogs in the middle of the day!).
I definitely feel it’s important, to be honest about how we’re feeling right now. This is the first global crisis we’ve faced as a generation so it’s eye-opening. Personally, I’ve been feeling so many emotions; loneliness, fear, despair and I feel for people who aren’t as fortunate as I am or aren’t able to put food on the table and work remotely like I can or have a safe place to weather the storm. I know that’s certainly not the case for everyone. I try to count my blessings and tell the people I love how much I love them and keep pushing forward with FashionKind. As a global brand, now more than ever, it’s so important to support the communities that we’ve built and worked with around the world.
This disaster has brought an increased awareness of things we should be doing every day in terms of counting our blessings, reaching out to people to see how they’re doing and being honest about our feelings when we need help.
But like everyone else, I’m trying to power through and keep some light during this tough time.
Amaiò Swim is made for women, by women. At Amaiò, it is our goal to not only help women look beautiful in our pieces, but to create a community of encouragement and support. Each piece is designed with each woman in mind. All the women of Amaiò are thought of in the design process and all of these women inspire us daily. We want every woman who wears our pieces to feel elegant and channel their inner Bardot.
We pride ourselves on positivity and constant personal growth. With this being said, our Amaiò Icons initiative was born. This initiative was created to continue the support and growth of other women alike, women who inspire us, who uplift us, and who do all of this while looking effortlessly chic.
Amaiò Icons are mothers, career women, wives and friends. She has no boundaries of who she is or where she wants to be. She is always evolving, always progressing. Her style evolves with her growth; sometimes she feels sophisticated, other times she feels playful. She has a taste for adventure, for experiencing all the world has to offer her, and of course, a taste for fashion and beauty.
Know an ICON?
Do you know an incredible woman who should be featured as our next ICON?
We're always looking for the next inspiring woman to feature. Let's continue to fix each others crowns, shall we? An Amaiò ICON can be from any walk of life and in any career field. See below for more information how to nominate someone, or even submit yourself!