It's not every day that fashion and philanthropy mix, so when they do, it's likely a story worth telling—and this particular story is extremely close to my heart. Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Colombia with the nonprofit Style Saves and jewelry brand Miansai for a trip visiting multiple orphanages, bringing them needed supplies and endless amounts of love. To give you a little background, Style Saves raises money for underprivileged students around the world.
"Style Saves works with a wide range of partners, including retailers, designers, hospitality, art, and more to provide these students with necessary materials for school. The mission is to give students the self-confidence and assurance they need to succeed, both academically and personally," the nonprofit's site describes.
Founder Rachael Russell Saiger saw an opportunity to turn the fashion industry's profitability into projects that could profit children in need. With a mission like that, I couldn't help but fish as much information as possible out of Saiger and her husband, Miansai founder Michael, while on the trip. After just a few days, my heart was so full from the time spent with the children and all that I had learned and experienced. Ahead, read all the beautiful details on how these two fashion insiders founded a company that is doing good all over the world.
Before we dive into Style Saves, tell me a little bit about Miansai. How did it start? What's the brand's story, and what's your involvement now?
RACHAEL RUSSELL SAIGER: Style Saves started in 2011. I've always loved being involved in charity work and never really connected with a particular organization, so I decided to merge two things I love in order to make an impact: fashion and philanthropy. We fundraise through fashion-focused events, partnering with different brands such as Zimmermann, Balenciaga, Topshop, Rebecca Taylor, Sandro, and the list goes on. We also host an annual event, our flagship fundraiser called Style Saves Swim, that funds our biggest annual outreach, called Back to School, in August. Back to School serves over 5000 students in Florida, providing them with brand-new uniforms, shoes, and back-to-school supplies. It's always my favorite time of the year.
MICHAEL SAIGER: Miansai started while I was attending the University of Miami. I was experimenting with different materials and decided to start creating bracelets. People were drawn to the nautical, utilitarian aspects of my designs, and the brand grew naturally. Miansai has two brick-and-mortar stores and is carried at the best department stores and online retailers worldwide as well as at our nine mobile retail units. My involvement now is extremely hands-on; I'm very detail-oriented, and I'm always working closely with my team across the board.
From there, how did the idea for Style Saves come about?
RS: The idea came about for Style Saves one year when I was taking my little brothers shopping for their first day of high school. I remembered, and I think everyone else can relate to, that anxiousness for back-to-school and staying up the entire night before from excitement. I started to think about kids I went to school with who didn't have anything new or the means to get it, when I realized that styling kids for back-to-school would be a great charity. I was 23 at the time, and when I told my parents the idea, they were more confused than anything. I was in the midst of the college-student struggle, trying to get by with limited funds, and, as they put it, "needed charity myself" before I could even think about starting my own. But helping others is something that has always been really important to me, and my financial situation, age, or any other obstacles weren't going to stop me. I've always felt that fashion could serve a greater purpose through philanthropy, and this was the perfect chance to combine both. It was really a simple idea, and because people could easily connect with the cause, they thankfully all gravitated toward it.
MS: After meeting Rachael and working with Style Saves, I was immediately drawn to the cause and became more involved with the organization. Rachael and I are always together, whether we're at home as husband and wife, working together as creative director and fashion director at Miansai, or trying to change the world as vice president and president of Style Saves.
Can you tell us about some of the work Style Saves has done in the past? We'd love to hear what you have coming down the pipeline as well.
RS: Just recently, Style Saves traveled to Medellin, Colombia, for an annual service trip. We work with a local private orphanage that cares for about 40 kids, and it's really special because we've been able to watch them all grow up over the years. Our Prom Shop is also just wrapping up now in June, where students come in and shop for brand-new dresses, suits, shoes, and accessories for free. Coming up is Style Saves Swim on July 13, our annual fashion show fundraiser, and Back to School on August 18 and 19, our annual giveback.
We've also just launched a charity line with board member Isabela Rangel Grutman, called The Community Collection. Isabela and I have been close friends for a while and bonded over our shared passions for selflessly helping others and, of course, fashion. Collaborating on this project has been a really fun process, and we're really excited to share it with everyone. The three shirts in this first season are a reflection of the values that inspire and motivate us to continually dedicate our time and effort to serving the community. The kids we work with every day are the true inspiration behind it all; they're the reason we do what we do, and we wanted the shirts' impactful messaging to illustrate that point. We don't just want to make the world beautiful; we want to make it better, and 100% of the proceeds from this line directly benefit the students of Style Saves.
Brands are prioritizing now, more than ever, giving back, sustainability, etc. What sets Style Saves apart from the crowd?
RS: Style Saves really paved the way for most fashion companies looking to give back through their fundamental resources. We've given them a network to distribute excess inventory, be really hands-on with and see the change in a really impactful way. I started the organization when I was 23, and everyone who ran it was around my age, which is probably what made it so fun and cool to be a part of.
MS: Everyone at Miansai volunteers with Styles Saves in their own way, using their own talents. Our art director develops creative assets for their fundraising efforts, while our in-house photographer and re-toucher team up to create content for them to promote. Our CIO helps out with logistics, particularly when SS is doing disaster relief. He's helped organize efforts to ship donations for hurricane relief to neighboring countries, and packages of school supplies to farther countries like Brazil. And Thier, our beloved co-founder, is really involved hands-on and can usually be found sorting donations or painting murals in countries that Styles Saves visits.
What has been the most valuable lesson Style Saves has taught you?
RS: There are really so many! We're always learning more, and the kids we help teach us something new every day. The biggest ones, I'd say, are knowing what's really important in life, staying grounded, and always being thankful.
Why do you think it's important for the fashion industry to continue to strive to give back in some capacity?
RS: The fashion industry should consistently give back because it has the means to. Having such a large platform comes with great responsibility and speaking up for those who can't should always be a priority. The influence this industry has supplies it with the voice that is necessary to inspire change and contribute to a greater purpose.
MS: The fashion industry has the limitless potential to merge creativity with philanthropy to produce meaningful results. Rachael and I have always viewed our respective business in this light and continually strive to use our collective resources to truly make a difference in the world.