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Anna Taylor of Judith & James

Anna Taylor of Judith & James

Judith & James is a vibrant and innovative fashion brand that was founded by Anna Taylor in Kenya. This unique label employs widows and vulnerable women from the slums of Kenya and utilizes stunning local material to produce sustainable boho chic.

Judith & James has created a way to translate African prints, bought in markets, into global gypsy attire whilst preserving the authentic integrity of the materials. Perfect for Malindi Beach, walking safari or keeping cool in the city this is a versatile label with a heart.

In addition Anna has also given hope and dignity to a number of women whose lives have been transformed by the brand and this remarkable young woman, who realizes that preserving parts of culture in modern society is as much about the people as the label.

 

We asked Anna Taylor our first Eco Hero from Kenya about her inspiration, aspirations and motivation:

 

What inspired you to set up the company and to employ Kenyan widows?

My inspiration came from years of studying fabrics in 3rd world country markets. It was baffling for me to see such beautiful fabric come from such poverty-stricken countries such as Guatemala, Kenya and Rwanda. The colors and vivacity of each piece told a story and made me want to share the beauty.

Anna Taylor, Founder & Designer

Anna Taylor, Founder & Designer

‘Widows’ was always a key word in my mind. James 1:27 says to “care for widows and orphans in their distress” so if I ever got a chance to take care of widows, I would take it.

That opportunity came when I visited my family who was living in Kenya during my sophomore year of college. On that visit to Kenya I was walking and talking with a Pastor in the slums. I told him that I wanted to pay African women to make clothing that I designed with African fabrics. He told me that he had two widows who knew how to sew that I could start working with.

I started working with the two African widows right after I turned 20 and designed and sold the products. We added a sewing training program for the women who had zero sewing skills and experience so that they could come and learn. Once they graduate from sewing training, they are offered employment by us at Judith & James.

 

Where did the name come from?

The name came from Judith, the first widow who we employed and James 1:27 that says to “care for widows and orphans in their distress.” Judith is a beautiful lady with strength and determination to sew.

 

You grew up in Kenya, how does the country inspire you in other areas apart from your work?

The country inspires me in many ways. Africa is a land of beauty, energy, purity and innovation. I think that Africa inspires me the most when I see people who innovate due to lack of resources. Men riding bikes with 5 chicken crates strapped to the back seat, or cars with dead fish tied to the hood because it acts as a “refrigerator” are things that really inspire me to think outside the box and innovate to maximize the potential of the things that I have to work with.

When I lived in Kenya at age 20, I was inspired by the beauty I saw when climbing Mt. Kenya, rafting the Nile River, snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, exploring caves and watching shooting stars at Tiwi Beach in Mombasa, Kenya.

I learned that when you take risks to help people (moving to Kenya mid-college) that God blesses you with little gifts for you to enjoy such as trips to exotic beaches and fun adventures. I am so inspired by the warmth of the people in Kenya, they make me want to slow down and treat people with selfless care.

 

The line is all produced sustainably, do you plan to maintain that and do you plan to expand the line into other products?

I plan to keep the singer treadle sewing machines for the line. I like them because they are eco-friendly and user friendly. The products we have now are all fabric; I do plan to keep it handcrafted.

 

Tell us about how Judith & James has changed the life of people you work with and how it has changed you.

Judith & James has changed the lives of the women in Kenya because they have money for food. When we first started working with the women, the pastor said, “you know what this means, right? This means they get to choose what they eat.” The women had no choices in life. They had no choice of food, they only could afford a few things and they were lucky if they had money at all.

The women were living in a desperate state. They looked every day for little tasks to make ends meet. One lady had been selling chicken feet in the slum to try and earn a living. The ladies had no money and no options for making money since the slum they are living in is a wasteland. There is no option for growing crops or making food to sell. Judith would not lift her eyes from the floor when I first met her. Look at her now  – She is full of strength and dignity and can laugh with no fear of the future. She gets paid every month and has money to buy food for her children. She is courageous.

Judith & James has given me the strength through these women and my beliefs to create a different life for these women and myself.

Judith & James showed for the first time at New York Fashion Week in September 2013 and will be available soon to buy in The Eco Gypsy Bazaar.

Left to Right: Judith & James dress, Judith & James tunic, Judith of Judith & James

Left to Right: Judith & James dress, Judith & James tunic, Judith of Judith & James

Photos courtesy of Judith & James.
 
 
© 2014 The Eco Gypsy - Ethical Exploration.
   


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