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My mantra has been, “Persistence beyond what seems reasonable.”

Abi Ferrin was named Texas’ Next Top Designer by Stanley Korshak in 2007. Along with the title came a package valued at $25,000 to start her company, a $5,000 business grant to start her business and a loft in downtown Dallas. Since 2007, Abi Ferrin has been well known in the Dallas fashion scene and her clothing has been spotted on celebrities such as Molly Sims, Vanessa Williams and Perrey Reeves. In 2010, Abi Ferrin Inc. grew 400%, and even in times of economic downturn, the company continues to grow significantly each year. Her designs are sold at Nordstrom, boutique stores nationwide as well as online.

Abi Ferrin Inc. is a purpose driven style house that delivers progressive designs to women all around the world. Her unique and versatile designs are not the only thing that set her apart. The Freedom Project is the philanthropic arm and foundation of the company. Her collection ignites awareness of global issues through fashion with freedom and purpose, with each Made in the U.S.A. garment featuring a hand-crafted adornment made by men and women rescued from human trafficking situations in Nepal and Cambodia. She recently launched The Freedom Project Collection, expanding ways to give back. The company embraces the highest standards of creativity, integrity, quality and service throughout the organization and the clients they serve.

MO: How have you managed to start your company with $500 and a sewing machine in a garage to an internationally recognized brand?

Abi: My mantra has been, “Persistence beyond what seems reasonable”. Most of the people close to me were very worried for several years as I worked around the clock, seven days a week. As time went by, other people jumped on board and believed in the brand and me. Sweat equity is a great replacement for hard cold cash, sometimes even better as we had to be smart and resourceful in order to survive and grow. It’s been a trek, but it’s exciting to be on the other side and to have maintained ownership in my company in spite of all the odds.

MO: Where does your love of fashion come from? Who or what were your early influences and inspirations?

Abi: I believe most women are born with some love of fashion, but what holds many back from admitting that is lack of access or understanding of how to attain that. I was on that side of things for many years growing up in Wyoming, so my love is really just breaking the rules, and expressing myself. This has given a lot of women permission to do the same–it is effortless and easy!

Early influences and inspirations were Audrey Hepburn, the work of Erte, and the backdrop of the Grand Tetons where I grew up in Jackson Hole.

MO: How integral has social media been to your marketing plan?

Abi: Social media has been key. Having the ability to control my message without relying on a budget or a plan is critical. I know how to market, but prior to social media I would have had to go through PR firms that I couldn’t afford at the time. I now have an amazing PR firm in SSPR, and they continue to make social media and bloggers a huge priority for our media strategy.

MO: Can you talk about the philanthropic arm of your business, The Freedom Project? Why did you start it and what do you hope to accomplish?

Abi: The Freedom Project is a charitable foundation that aims to eradicate poverty and rescue men and women out of human trafficking by providing alternatives to abusive employment. The idea was born through the vision my sister, Kelly, who has dedicated her life to humanitarian efforts worldwide, focusing primarily on impoverished and at-risk women and children. Inspired by her work, I decided to incorporate this commitment into the Abi Ferrin Inc. business model by commissioning disenfranchised men and women from around the world to contribute to every piece sold from the Abi Ferrin collection, helping to restore their dignity and give them an income. The design collaboration began with the Guardian Village, a non-profit organization in an impoverished region of Nepal and has since expanded to working with Sak Saum in Cambodia. Both organizations counsel, train, and shelter women rescued from the sex trade and other abusive employment situations. Through rehabilitation, fair pay, and training in their craft, a safe environment is created where they can live and build a sustainable life through their own efforts and accomplishments. The micro-businesses created from the collaboration also funds foster care and quality education for children rescued from slavery, prostitution and other abusive environments. Each of my designs is enhanced with a special handcrafted button, toggle or other embellishment, hand-made by the women of the Freedom Project– serving as a symbol of freedom and empowerment.

On my recent trip to Cambodia (March 24-30th, 2012), my colleague and I, Rania Batrice, of The Freedom Project, spent several days with Sak Saum founder Ginny Hanson and Sak Saum Director Theavy Kang touring the facilities, training teams on new techniques and identifying the needs of the program to increase the scope of support provided by The Freedom Project. I was overwhelmed to see the growth in the individual girls as well as the new Freedom Facilities and overall success of Sak Saum since my trip six months ago. There were new faces amongst the many familiar girls as the capacity of this thriving business continues to grow, despite the many challenges of dealing with a country facing an 86 percent poverty level.

The day after we left Cambodia, program director Kang was robbed and abducted until she narrowly escaped after three days of captivity, highlighting the danger that these brave people face by taking trafficking head on. We are more committed than ever to provide resources and try to ensure the safety and success of Sak Saum. After personally seeing the danger that these people face by claiming their freedom and fighting for that of others as well, we are truly inspired. Real changes are being made in people’s lives without layers of overhead and bureaucracy in the way.

MO: What celebrity or public figure would you be most excited to see wearing or promoting your designs?

Abi: Princess Kate

MO: What can we expect next from Abi Ferrin?

Abi: Aside from dressing Princess Kate (I’m putting that out in the universe), we are going to continue to grow and expand our reach as a brand, and continue to change the lives of an increasing number of women employed by the brand as we do it!

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