When designer Alexandra Taylor says her bold scarves make a statement, she means it. A humanitarian one. Each purchase of her boldly designed scarves contributes $10 to Nothing But Nets, a charity that provides malaria nets to poor families in Africa. Her scarves allow the wearer to look great and feel great about making a positive difference.
At first glance, it may not be obvious that Taylor’s scarves are inspired by mosquitoes. From a distance, the scarves seem almost abstract, but closer examination reveals an anatomically-influenced mosquito print, designed to evoke the cause her pieces benefit. The lining, fashioned with netting mesh materials, also keeps with this theme.
“I wanted something that would be vibrant but also subtle,” she explained. “I made the collection so I can merge my aesthetic for things of luxury and of quality and a certain fashion aesthetic with this idea of being able to give back at the same time.”
Attracted to natural elements, Taylor sometimes finds her inspiration gets almost scientific when she pores over library books researching mosquitoes, their environments and the countries to which she donates her nets. Also an antique junkie, her trips to vintage stores have unearthed finds that strike her fancy and become a foundation for new projects.
“I can get inspired anywhere from the natural landscape, like taking a trip somewhere, as well as colors and materials,” she said. “I love just going and finding different materials or going into antique stores and looking at things that have been around for a while. You can get inspiration from everywhere, but I am definitely more of a visual person, so I love researching and learning about stuff as well.”
Underneath each sale lies the hope that customers will realize the power they have as consumers. Every time they open their wallets, they can make an effort to buy things that help others.
“I created collections that speak to me and bring up different issues at hand and are thought provoking,” Taylor said. “I try to do something different and make collections not just to make clothes or a profit but to do something that inspires my customers or viewers to think more about what they are wearing and what goes on every day. I think the big thing about the collection is the story behind it.”
After experimenting with various clothing styles throughout her childhood, Taylor thought going into design was a natural choice. It was at Parsons School of Design, while majoring in fashion design, that she discovered her true passions.
“I really realized that I wanted to pursue fashion design, and not just fashion design to make clothes. I really wanted to merge it with my interest and my passion for humanitarian work … I was really into this idea of mixing fashion with a better cause, a bigger cause, and coming out of college, I realized I wanted to pursue that,” the designer said.
As a self-professed scarf lover and, considering it a smaller, easier project, she elected to tackle the accessory rather than an entire clothing line. Having worked with Nothing But Nets during her college thesis project, the decision to support the organization was an easy one.
Sponsored by the United Nations, Nothing But Nets sends malaria nets to impoverished families worldwide to eradicate malaria, the leading cause of death for children in Africa. Thus far, the charity has provided more than 4 million $10 nets, which offer protection for an entire family for up to five years.
“It was and is a huge issue,” Taylor said. “It brings people together … Even though you can’t see it – the people are across the world – it definitely is a cause people need to be more aware of. It is something so simple.”
Taylor has made a commitment to help those less fortunate through monetary donations, but her socially conscious efforts go beyond mosquito nets. Companies, she points out, are in position to make a difference by what products they use and where they source those products from. She eschews artificial materials in favor of natural fabrics like silk and cotton, and prints all her scarves locally in New York City.
“How you start your company puts out a message of who you are and what you are committed to,” the scarf designer said. “I wanted to start with a foundation of good and a foundation of knowing that I am doing something to better the world. There are a ton of companies doing really great things that aren’t acknowledged for it, and it is kind of a duty of a company and a brand … to do something that gives back. It really doesn’t take a lot to really help tremendously.”
Her formal training at Parsons allowed her to acquire the knowledge of design and construction that make her scarves not just charitable but also well-made pieces that can stand the test of time and the test of fashion. To her, a scarf is the ultimate transitional accessory, able to add the perfect finishing touch to your outfit year round.
Her Spring 2012 womenswear, also designed with this charitable business model, is based on the concept of global warming, with prints designed to embody climate change.
Next on the menu for Taylor is a line of men’s silk ties, also inspired by the Nothing But Nets campaign, as well as new styles and ideas for her women’s scarves collection. And, of course, more philanthropic efforts with many more causes still left to tackle.
Perfect with all kinds of outfits, her colorful scarves can make a spectacular holiday gift that gives back to an exceptionally worthy cause. To purchase one, visit her website.
For more about Nothing But Nets, visit www.nothingbutnets.net.