With their debut at the Spring 2016 Denver Fashion Weekend, Lions in Four is now a brand working its way into the hearts of the fashion lovers of Denver. The brand’s hand-dyed scarves and minimalist approach to handbags bring, “Hermes-like quality” to any collection of staple items. Not only are these pieces made with delicate, hand-done precision, but they are constructed by girls and women in India learning the skills necessary to become economically and socially independent young women. Lions in Four has discovered how to blend old heritage luxury and social responsibility to create an innovative and gorgeous line of products.
In 2005, Julie Martin, co-founder of Lions in Four made her way to Sumayapurum in Tamil Nadu, India and discovered what would become the birthplace of her fashion venture. After getting to know many of the young girls spending their youth in the orphanage system, Martin was inspired to develop a program that would do more than just teach basic elementary ideas to the young women. She wanted to help break the cycle of poverty and help the girls become a part of a project that would give them technical skills and access to a higher system of education that they could not otherwise afford. Together with Sheila Martinsen, this goal was made a reality.
Lions in Four produces an array of handbags and scarves produced in various regions of India. The silk used is made in Kerala, India where the scarves and handbags are constructed- with the exception of some of the bags being completed in South Africa using the Kerala-based silks. The women are paid a fair wage, based on the location where they are residing and working. As a non-profit, the artisans are guaranteed fair trade wages in addition to annual production-based bonuses. At the end of each year, proceeds from the products are divided among the working women based on their workforce participation. An additional 10 percent of the proceeds is channeled into the We Care program founded by Martin at the Pratheeksha Orphanage where young women are able to attain an education higher than basic elementary classes while learning textile skills, namely cloth dyeing, that will help them become valuable assets to the international workforce. The 501(c)(3) organization also works with other organizations and “acts as a liaison between donors around the world and organizations local to South India.”
The program in India is key to making Lions in Four the uniquely integrative brand that it is. But to make such a program successful, Marie Farchione, the Denver area sales representative, emphasizes that the apparel items have to be memorable with or without the social responsibility aspect. People buy from Lions in Four, “because the products are beautiful- from the quality, the texture, the material and everything in between. They don’t buy because they feel sorry for the girls in India- they buy because those girls are creating something amazing.” The brand’s mission to, “create sustainable demand for the beautiful and luxurious textiles crafted by women artisans in India,” is what elevates the brand beyond its competitors.
Denver is a special place for Lions in Four. Our city has proven to be its most receptive market- demonstrating Denver’s love for fashion that moves beyond material purpose. As of today, you can shop the Lions in Four store online, in addition to finding the products at featured at pop-up shops, private parties and special events among local Denver boutiques. In the long run, having a retail location would be ideal for the company. But right now, they are focused on putting as much love and precision into each item while building lasting relationships with the women making and purchasing the products.
Farchione can be contacted to host private events and bring Lions in Four directly to you. To learn more about the brand and shop the collection, visit the site here.