How I Went From the Arab Spring to the Spring Collection

Two years ago I was in the midst of my first revolution. A colleague from the English language school where I was teaching had just been shot in the ass. Tear gas filled the sky, protests raged in the street and I was forced to abandon my apartment where six other Americans and I were holed up after government thugs attempted to break in.

In the space of two weeks, Tunisian President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, and his fellow countrymen became the inspiration for young revolutionaries with democratic aspirations throughout the region. After Tunisia I made my way to Egypt at which point I had become an accidental freelance journalist. From Cairo I would go on to witness three more revolutions: I traveled to Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Bahrain, searching as much for a story as for the chance to witness an historic movement sweeping the Middle East.

Those early moments of the Arab Spring were fascinating, uplifting, and terrifying. I observed incredible acts of bravery, sacrifice, and compassion. I also saw profound grief and despair. In my nine months covering these revolutions I was shot at, tear gassed, and shelled. But above all, what I remember the most was the desire among the local populations to keep striving for a better future.

Two years later I am in rather more comfortable surroundings, living and working in DUMBO, Brooklyn. And while I’m no longer an aspiring journalist, I am nevertheless caught up in what might be called a second revolution. I turned my hand to business, and today is the day my sustainable fashion retailer, Modavanti.com, launches.

How does an Arabic major begin a career in sustainable fashion? The truth is I was always torn between the Middle East and social entrepreneurship. At Georgetown I helped start a campus fair trade tea delivery service around campus and always knew I eventually wanted to start my own business.

I believe passionately in the potential of for-profit businesses to do social good. I also believe that our generation has an obligation to protect our environment and promote the labor rights of our fellow men and women.

The current path our society is on in respect to how we approach environmental and labor rights issues needs to change. In many ways we’re making improvements. Organic food is all the rage, more and more consumers avoid the "Made in China" label and if you throw a plastic bottle in the trash, people will stare and shake their heads in disgust. But when it comes to fashion that same sense of social awareness hasn’t caught on … just yet.

What we wear is a defining part of who we are, what we believe and how we represent ourselves. Yet until now there has been no recognized destination for socially conscious shoppers to find stylish, sustainable fashion that fits their values without sacrificing on style.

That’s where Modavanti comes in.

Our mission is to promote and lead the sustainable fashion movement by building an active community around a social shopping experience that allows you to shop your favorite styles, share the newest trends with your friends and learn about the latest advances in sustainable fashion. No longer do you have to choose between looking good and being environmentally and socially aware. At Modavanti our amazing brand partners ensure that you can look good, feel good and do good.

Our motto "look good, feel good and do good" refers to the cycle of sustainability. The last part (do good) refers to the fact that we’ve partnered with three causes (Nest, Charity Water and 19th Amendment) and with each purchase our customers can chose which cause they want to donate to. We feel it’s not only critical to support our fantastic brand partners that are committed to sustainability and moving fashion forward but also the organizations that are working on the ground level in African villages to provide clean water, or working in rural India to help women artisans preserve their craft or helping the next generation of American designers produce sustainably and keep their production in the U.S.

A sustainable fashion website is certainly a far cry from the Middle East but that same sense of hope that I felt so often in the Middle East, is one that I still feel today. Like the thousands of young Arabs who took to the streets hoping for a better future, I believe in the power of business to lead our society on a better path and hope and believe that through Modavanti we can leave a lasting positive impact.