Made for Freedom
It all started with a pair of Thai fisherman pants and a visit to a safe house in India for girls rescued from sex trafficking.
Those two things set St. Louis native Dawn Manske on the path to founding Made for Freedom, a social enterprise that uses fashion to raise awareness about the sex trafficking industry and to empower women who have been victims of it. The company, which was started in October 2011, sells products made by women who have been rescued and taught how to make handicrafts as a dignified way of making a living.
Made for Freedom specializes in Creabeli pants, a modified version of the traditional Thai fisherman pants purchased in Asia. After tweaking the design of the pants to make them more attractive to the American shopper, Manske coined the name, which comes from the phrase “Creating a beautiful life.” Manske says Creabelis are comfortable, loose-fitting, and adjustable.
Creabelis are made in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by women and girls who have been rescued from brothels and other types of exploitation. Made for Freedom sells the pants for $59 a pair.
The company also sells $28 T-shirts that are made by women rescued from the largest red-light district in Calcutta, India. In addition, Manske hopes to soon add bags made at a center in Ghana and jewelry from China and India to Made for Freedom’s product offerings.
“Even before we made one sale, as we built our inventory, we already had provided many hundreds of hours of dignified employment,” Manske says. “The pants don’t go without the story.”
In addition to purchasing products made at rehabilitation centers around the world, Made for Freedom donates 20 percent of its net profits to help provide education and training to newly rescued women.
“The name is what we’re all about,” Manske says. “It talks about the women, the pants, all of us. We are all made for freedom.”
So far, 2014 has been a big year for the company. At the end of May, Made for Freedom received a $50,000 Arch Grant. Just one month earlier, it also won a grant in the YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition (SEIC).
Made for Freedom products can be purchased at Nicole Rae Boutique (117 Concord Plaza Shopping Center, 314-270-9191), the Collective at MX (626 Washington Ave., 314-241-5420), or at Made for Freedom’s website.