Tuesday is the 100th anniversary of the final ratification of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote, and a fashion industry veteran is commemorating the milestone by launching a socially conscious brand called Trouble.
Bari Harlam, former chief marketing officer at Hudson’s Bay Co., and her business partner Meredith Curren, who has a background in angel investing and in politics as campaign chair for Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, bonded over the idea of women causing trouble, and decided to turn it into a new venture. They are launching Troublemaker-themed products, including T-shirts, hats, bandanas, tote bags, water bottles, some with inspirational quotes, with 10 percent of net proceeds supporting organizations working for gender equality. Initial partners include the League of Women Voters and Higher Heights advocating for Black women in politics.
The brand is sending 100 Trouble boxes to leaders and influencers to help spread the word. The founders have a lofty goal to raise $100 million. “We are looking to grow this into a big engine, and a B corp to generate as many proceeds as possible for gender equality to make the next 100 years much more productive than the last,” said Harlam.
On the decision to launch around the suffrage anniversary, “The combination of social justice, the election, MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movement makes this anniversary incredibly important. And it’s going to be a call to action for women to vote,” Harlam explained, noting that the brand’s logo font, with a flame motif added to the letter “L,” is inspired by handmade signs used in the Suffragist movement. They have also created an online platform to showcase content around accomplished women.
The partners started working on the project in November, before “Good Trouble,” the film celebrating the late civil rights leader John Lewis and his signature tag line, made its debut in June. But they said the coincidence was affirming. “Although it wasn’t intended, the opportunity to honor the legacy of someone like John Lewis is a privilege,” said Harlan. “And it’s important to remember when the 19th Amendment passed, 75 percent of women of color could still not vote because of other barriers. It took until 1965 to get rid of polling taxes, literacy tests and so many other things that were preventing African American women from voting,” said Curren.
Trouble joins a burgeoning category of socially active brands with product and designer collaboration components including Phenomenal Woman, started by vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris; I Am a Voter, backed by CAA, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and Toms, among others, which encourages voter participation through celebrity actions and public awareness campaigns on red carpets and fashion show runways.