By Hannah Payne
The room was bursting as myself and all of the other university sophomores were filling out class registration forms for our upcoming semester abroad in Florence, Italy. I knew this was my only chance to take fashion and design classes, while graduating with my traditional communications major. Although I knew I wouldn’t be getting any credits that semester, I was determined to find a way to make it work – which is why I took a full semester of classes in summer school and convinced my parents it wouldn’t delay my graduation date.
With two huge duffel bags and a sewing machine, I embarked on a semester that would forever change my life. I discovered my true passion for design and a greater calling for helping women in need. Flash forward to two years later, sitting in my social entrepreneurship class and discussing our final paper and project for the year. It was our last big project before graduation and subsequently, ‘real life’.
The assignment was to create a company and business plan that was unique, but also gave back to the world in some sort of way. I was beyond thrilled for this assignment because I could finally create a business plan for the clothing company I had been dreaming about, including my passion for empowering women. I got started right away and my first step was to speak with the director of a local women’s shelter in San Diego.
Growing up, my mother was very active in volunteering, fundraising, and helping in anyway she can at a shelter in Denver, but this was the first time that I had visited a shelter as an adult and discussed the issues they experienced on a daily basis. It was the first time I fully grasped that the shelters can’t just be a short term, two-day escape for these women and their children. They need long-term housing with childcare, education, job training, and therapy to really break the cycle of abuse.
The director told me their biggest issue was turning down women on a daily basis. These women were ready to leave and make a change, and unfortunately they had nowhere to go. On average, at this shelter, they turned down around 30 women and their children every day. Obviously I understood that they had to turn down these women because they didn’t have enough space. The shocking reality was they were the only shelter in the city of San Diego.
As I did more research, I found out that there are more animal shelters than women’s shelters in the United States. This disturbed me on a deep level! That was the moment I knew that I wanted to create a brand that made women feel empowered, gave a percentage of our sales back to shelters, and eventually would be able to fund long-term housing in the future.
I figured out the social aspect of my company, but I wanted to do more and have this message embodied within the brand. I have always been a very feminine designer and to me, I feel most empowered and beautiful when my clothes are exuding femininity. I wanted my brand to make women feel not only beautiful when they wore the clothing, but also empowered. I wanted them to feel strong, secure, and confident.
Women do not need to dress “masculine” to be taken seriously – femininity is equally as commanding and powerful. I believe that an amazing outfit can be life changing, as the woman can feel like she can conquer the world. With all of the aspects of my brand coming together, I needed a name that represented and embodied this message. I thought a lot about the strong women in my life and decided to name it after my grandmother, who I never met. From all the stories I heard about my grandma and the three strong women she raised, she embodied the brand without doubt.
She is one of the strongest women I have heard about and I wanted to honor her strength and character. As a young teenager, she endured the horrors of a concentration camp, moved to America not speaking any English, and became an American citizen. She had 6 children and at 42 she lost her seven year battle to breast cancer. She was a force of nature and I knew this brand needed a namesake of the strong and powerful woman that was Luba.
This college project was really the start of Luba. When I graduated Parsons School of Design, I decided to turn my dream into a reality. The last piece of the puzzle was naming the fund. I wanted something that was directly related to Luba. Luba means “love” in Russian and this could not have been a more perfect name for our charity. The Love Fund was created and launched along with our brand Luba in February of 2015.
In honor of domestic violence awareness month this October, we will be launching our first annual LOVE T-shirt. 50% of the sales will go to local shelters. The road to creating and growing this brand has not been an easy one, but I am determined for Luba, for myself, and for all women to continue to create beautiful clothing that empowers, strengthens, and helps break the cycle of domestic abuse.