By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
BAHAMIAN D’ANDRE Wilson combined her love for fashion with her desire to see young women educated and empowered by launching her bag and accessory line.
Ziri Bags and Accessories is not the ordinary fashion line. It represents fashion with a purpose, giving Bahamian women opportunities to pursue higher education.
D’Andre started the line in Spring 2012 to raise funds for scholarships and awards for young women. She said Ziri Bags is her way of giving back to women who seek to make a difference in society.
“The line was started around the same time that I was graduating with my Master’s Degree in Financial Engineering and preparing for my wedding. The first months were difficult, trying to get my designs right, finding the best material at the right price point and finding a quality manufacturer. I am very excited to have the product launched in 2013 and looking forward to the future success of the business,” she said.
Bahamian women deciding on engineering as a career path are perfect candidates for a scholarship funded by Ziri.
“I am a female engineer. Engineering is one field of study that has been dominated by men for years. Recently more women have taken interest in this field and I want to continue to encourage that. I also want to empower women to follow their passion, whatever that may be, and to continue to make an impact on their communities while inspiring other women to do the same,” she said.
Ziri Bags and accessories offers three awards, all named after bags: Ziri Bold, Ziri Duo, and Ziri Edge.
Ziri Bold is awarded to a young woman who has made a significant impact on her school or community through leadership. The Ziri Duo award is given to the individual who is gifted in the arts, and uses creativity with technology to inspire others. The Ziri Edge award is given to those currently pursing or interested in pursuing a degree in engineering or computer science. Women under the age of 30 are eligible for the awards.
Nominations for the awards are open. The board of Ziri Bags reviews all submissions and based on the quantity and quality of the submissions, three finalists are selected for each award.
Finalists must submit a video to Ziri, explaining their aspirations and why they should receive the award. The videos will be posted to social media and the public will vote on the winner. Award winners then receive a fund comprised of 50 percent of Ziri’s profits.
“Scholarships are completely dependent on sales of the handbags. We are estimating that the awards could range anywhere from $100 to $1000 each.
“This initiative helps women by giving them recognition and encouragement for all of the hard work that they do. We want to show these young women that their efforts are not in vain and we appreciate what they do for their schools, communities and for themselves. We offer awards that will give women that little extra seed-funding to kick-start their dreams and to make an even bigger impact,” D’ Andre said.
Ziri handbags are made from recycled leather, currently in colours black and brown. They are styled with African wax-print cotton, a type of fabric made through the batik wax-dyeing process, very similar to Androsia, she said.
“My personal style is to wear bright bold colours and I love African inspired attire, which is why I chose the wax-print fabric for the bags. The three styles I have right now are three of my personal favourite bag styles; a satchel which is perfect for every day, a crossbody which is great for casual wear, and a clutch that works well for evening wear. I already have some other designs drawn up and I am hoping this first collection is successful enough for me to expand,” said D’Andre.
“I am hoping that Ziri Bags and Accessories will continue to expand and offer a large selection of quality handbags and accessories for every woman. I want to have Ziri Bags in multiple retail outlets and even open my own retail store some day. My main goal is to continue to raise funds and to raise awareness of the awards, to grow them to be bigger and better and to make as much of an impact as possible on the lives of young women,” she said.
D’Andre moved to Canada to pursue her Master’s Degree in Engineering in 2006. There, she was married and founded BrainSTEM Alliance, an initiative that works to develop outreach programmes.