Ayesha Mustafa ’02: Fashion ComPassion

Ayesha MustafaImagine a world in which you could fill your closet with stylish, handcrafted, sustainably manufactured clothing and accessories. Now imagine that it’s affordable and the artisans (mostly women) who created it are paid well, and that their communities benefit in myriad ways from having your business.

That’s what Ayesha Mustafa ’02 was picturing when she quit her nicely paid job at Pepsi and went out on a limb to start her own business. “The biggest challenge was my own mindset,” she says, “in the economic climate that we are all in it was just really hard to make that decision and say ‘ok, you know what? I’m going to follow my heart.’” Just a few years later, her dream is thriving.

Fashion ComPassion, an online retail platform for fashion brands, takes social responsibility just as seriously as style. The labels include Beshtar, meaning “more” in Dari (the idea being to do more for Afghan people); Bhalo, meaning “good” in Bengali; and Inaaya (“empathy”), a Pakistani brand.

Celebrities are even taking note. GUNAS brand’s eco-friendly Red Rockstar bag was recently seen on the arm of actress Anne Hathaway, and Beshtar’s green burqa dress was selected by Livia Firth, eco/ethical fashion champion (and wife of Colin Firth), for Vogue’s Green Carpet Challenge. To top it off, the British Museum featured Fashion ComPassion brands in its gift shop during last year’s Hajj exhibit. “It’s not about money, it’s about feeling that you count.” Says Mustafa, whose longtime dream was to empower women in a new, innovative way. “A lot of it has to do with my upbringing, but a lot of it also has to do with coming to Mount Holyoke and being around women and seeing the positivity that comes from that.”

—By Zanna Katlyn McKay ’13

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