About a year ago, I was having dinner with a colleague, where we were discussing our respective desires to put our dollars toward the best use possible. I mentioned that it was almost overwhelming, given the devastating number of causes in need, when my associated said to me, “Education for girls.”
It was then that my colleague began to list the myriad positive outcomes that result of greater education for girls. Women are more likely to share their knowledge and education, for example, and reinvest it back into their families and communities. The impacts I heard about over dinner that night, in fact, were almost exactly the same ones listed on the website for Le Dessein: A fashion label dedicated to access to education among girls in developing countries.
That ethos is due in large part to the story of Eric Coly, Le Dessein’s founder and CEO, and the inspiration he draws from the women of his lineage. His grandmother – in position unconventional for women from any country in the 1930s, let alone a suburb of Dakar – was a full-fledged working woman, as a pioneer of midwifery in the African city of Rufisque. That participation in the workforce set the tone for Coly’s mother, who grew up with what he calls, according to Le Dessin’s website, the “almost taboo notion that women had an irrevocable right to be educated.”
Coly’s mother, of course, has pursed that path and continued the sentiment of that right to education: With both her pharmacy studies and France, as well as the emphasis on education with which Coly and his siblings were raised, bringing his inspiration behind Le Dessein full circle: The hybrid of his passion for both the creative and philanthropic.
Today, Le Dessein donates 25 percent of all profits to tuition at the More Than Me Academy: An institution that looks to shift the common path of girls in Liberia from “exploitation and poverty” to, instead, “education and opportunity.” Moreover, the line’s clothing is embellished with art composed by the girls of the More Than Me Academy, such as the drawing found on this white turtleneck.
The clothing, too, is unconventional in its ability to break the pattern of stereotypical “do-gooder” fashion brands, in which lackluster pieces are just outshone by an admirable mission. Le Dessein, with is Fall/Winter line, uses bold material like leather and other dark fabrics to accomplish a visual edge, without cheapening the overall look. This maxi dress, for example, serves as a material Goldilocks of sexiness: With a dropped line that exposes the back, and not much else, it leaves just enough to the beholder’s imagination. What’s more: Le Dessein doesn’t seem to conform to physical stereotypes with the models in its lookbook, either. These are clothes that truly serve women, intellectually and aesthetically.
Simply put, it seems that Le Dessein produces clothing that one can wear proudly, between its story and its uniquely functional, yet nearly boundary-pushing pieces. Consider us educated.
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Image: Le Dessein Fall/Winter Lookbook