Tag Archives: Freedom and Fashion

All The Right Friends in All The Right Places

A friend loveth at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

It’s that time of year again, an in-between. It’s the time we say goodbye  to the past–to all that was lost, and embrace the new year again–to start over. Bittersweet. As much as we want to hold on to those glory days, we have to let them go if we want new and greater things to come. And I believe they will come.

2009 was a year of surprises. Sure, it was dominated by vampires and mutants and cars that could transform into robots or even machines set on exterminating the human race (again). But it’s also the year America’s first black president took office and surprisingly (for some) won the Nobel Peace Prize. We may have said goodbye to our loved ones for the last time, or even those we’ve admired, such as Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Ted Kennedy, and Brittany Murphy.

There were definitely great surprises, like Susan Boyle on “Britain’s Got Talent,” who reminded us that appearances don’t matter, as she drew in 120 million views on Youtube and sold more than 1.8 million copies of her debut album. And of course, there were awful surprises, like when Kanye West stole Taylor Swift’s light when she was getting her award or how we learned that Tiger Wood’s pure image became tainted with scandal.

Yes, surprises. 2009 was filled with them. But we say goodbye to all that.

And at this time of year, I have a tradition of acknowledging the people in my life who have affected me in some way. Think of it like an extended Thanksgiving, but I think it’s important that we lift others up because to many times we bring people down.

So here’s to you:

The greatest parents

Troy Aikman graduates with the class of 2009 in Sociology

Mom and Dad. You’ve supported me so much through school–from kindergarten to even my years at UCLA. When I was down over something, you always manage to get my head focus, to realize that it doesn’t matter about my circumstances–what matters was my drive to achieve my dreams. It’s because of you that I get to fulfill my childhood dreams, walking on that stage, receiving my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from UCLA. And hey, I did it with style, doing it with Troy Aikman.

Alpha Gamma Omega and Jon Foreman of Switchfoot

Alpha Gamma Omega. What a crazy year I’ve had from being an active to being a chapter advisor. I love seeing you guys grow as faithful men of God. And your testimonies and example of service has especially strengthened my own faith, that the God I serve is the God who comforts and the God who loves despite my shortcomings. From those classy date events, to other social events, to engagements, to those late night BBQs,to flag football at Pismo, to seeing Jon Foreman perform on our stage–all of you guys have made my year. Iron sharpens iron. And I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you in the future. And thanks James, for allowing me to see America through your eyes, all the novelty that had warned off since moving here. Looking at it with fresh eyes, I realize more how grateful I am. Oh, and I also love you guys to at USC, SDSU, Berkeley, UCSB, Cal Poly Slo, Cal State Fresno, and UC Davis.

Venice trip with Bailey, Jose, and Jillian (Steven took the picture)

Alpha Delta Chi. Those beautiful, gorgeous, women of God with high standards of what they want in a man. You go ladies! To my lil sis, Bailey, my big sis, Rae’ven, to Jessica, Jillian, Alisa, Kimmi, Jackie, Leah, Ana, Lauren, Amy, Kati and the others who I can’t all name (because there’s a lot of you)…a guy is lucky to be surrounded by such classy women. Thank you! You guys have supported me through the year and taught me many things about women. For example, the only way I’m going to get a girl, is if I become a stone cold vampire and glitter in the sun. Oh, and sometimes, a guy’s just got to sing a little of Taylor Swift or Celine Dion on a porch bench at USC. I love you all.

Ohnine of IVBCF

At fountains just outside Royce Hall

Ohnine and Intervarsity Bruin Christian Fellowship. Thank you guys for being so patient with me. You guys are my backbone. Every time I dwell into the world with you guys, I get so enlightened–perhaps because we study the Bible like no other. Seriously, my mind hurts sometimes by all those thought-provoking questions we ask. And you guys don’t know how welcomed and accepted I feel every time you guys include me in various events.


The Class of 2009. That’s you Emanuel, Brandon, David, Jose, Ted, Josh, Arvin, Kim, Shannon, Alex, Kirsten, and all those others I can’t name. We did it. And for those of you in Sociology…haha, we survived the mayhem. You’re going to do wonders where ever you are!

UGADA. You taught me to care about the world around me, and reminded me that we can’t stay young forever. This issue of Alzheimer’s disease is of great importance because it just doesn’t affect one person–it affects the entire family. Others live on through our memories and when we lose that, we lose them. We need to continue to educate people so that one day we will find a cure and by the time we reach a certain age, Alzheimer’s disease will be no more! UGADA find a cure!

Freedom and Fashion. I’ve neglected the issue of human and sex trafficking like it was some kind of bad dream. I was reminded by the capacity we have for evil, and that slavery hasn’t disappeared–it just has taken on a different form. But God’s heart is for all those that are broken, and for the rest of us who can, we must do God’s work and fight for those without a voice. Thank you for allowing me to join the fight with putting on a grand fashion show educating people of fair trade products, as well as the fact that these hidden things are going on all around us. I’d like to think of us as superheroes without masks…and definitely more fashionable and fashion conscious.

And to all the others who I didn’t name, I apologize. But I thank you.

And most importantly, to Christ, the Savior of my soul, who provided me with all the right friends in all the right places. You truly know where to place them and exactly at what time in my life.


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Gifts That Keep On Giving

The "I am ____" Definicion shirt. Photo courtesy of Freedom and Fashion

Working with Freedom and Fashion has made me more conscious about what I buy, especially with all the things that are going around in the world. I want to make a difference, and you can too. This Christmas, why not give the gift that keeps on giving?  There are a lot of designers whose products benefit a particular cause. These organizations were also featured on the Freedom and Fashion (FNF) show last month. Read up on all the causes, from human and sex trafficking to clean water for underdeveloped countries to helping those affected by the North Korea crisis.

The summaries were provided courtesy of Freedom and Fashion and can be found in the FNF magazine. I’ve also made some comments on the products. If you know of non-profit organizations you think I’d be interested in, let me know!

Definicion Clothing

Cause: Education for Tibetan Children

Not only is Definicion Clothing comfortable to wear–I get to express myself. I bought one of the “I am _____” shirts and had fun defining myself. – Gio

Definicion seeks to define life with compelling messages and empower others to redefine the world. Each t-shirt is centered on a word or phrase that would inspire a dialogue among the public about the injustices affecting millions in the world. Definicion’s simple, yet powerful t-shirts speak the truth of a hurting world and gives at least 20% of its profits to organizations helping others redefine their lives through efforts such as education, job training and housing. Definicion is about defining life and doing our part.

Punjammies. Photo courtesy of Freedom and Fashion

Punjammies (The International Princess Project)

Cause: Women enslaved in prostitution

All my female friends love it. They say it’s extremely fashionable without taking away from the comfort. Hopefully, they’ll make a men’s line. I’ll be the first to buy it. – Gio

The International Princess Project is a way for women to sustain an income by sewing PUNJAMMIES™, drawstring pajamas made from beautiful sari fabrics that would be sold to consumers in the US. All profits from PUNJAMMIES™ are given back to these women to help provide for their housing, counseling and job training, creating a viable alternative to prostitution. IPP seeks to provide women with the opportunity to live physically, emotionally and spiritually restored lives of freedom and empowerment. “It humbles me to know that our little efforts can literally save lives,” Shannon remarks. “IPP will serve as a voice for those who have none.”


Cause: Homelessness, Clean Drinking Water, Environment/Trees, Children with Autism, Refugee Relief, HIV/AIDS, Pediatric Care, Oral Health, Breast Cancer, and World Hunger

Kauzbots have quickly become my favorite gift to give by far. The cute 18″ plush bots are one-of-a-kind, with 10% of its retail price being donated to a non-profit organization. Each color is associated with a “kauz.” I bought Kruz, a blue Kauzbot whose kauz is to provide clean drinking water. – Gio

Multi-colored Kauzbots. Photo courtesy of Freedom and Fashion

Introduced at the International Toy Fair in February 2009, Kauzbots have caught the eye of the media and retail stores everywhere and have made their way into the arms of such celebrities such as Lisa Kudrow and Allison Sweeney. Non-profit gurus and former church pastors David Totter and Keith Paige have set out with the direction of John Weeks to put this creative idea into action to show how people of all ages can take tangible next steps to provide much-needed resources to communities everywhere.

KAUZBOTS are currently sold online  and in retail stores throughout the United States.

Dresses from Lalesso. Photo courtesy of Freedom and Fashion


Cause : Poverty in Africa

They have gorgeous bright designs. I’d buy it for my girlfriend. It would be nice to stroll around on the beach or a summer night around town with her wearing one of those dresses. She’ll make me stand out. – Gio

When Joanna Maiden visited Ukunda, a coastal town in Uganda in 2007, she learned of a program that employed local Kenyan tailors by paying a living wage and helping them meet a gap in the market. Joanna saw that the program was in need of the resources and staff to facilitate its growth.  In February 2009, Joanna made the decision to move to Kenya to establish SOKO, a project aiming to create sustainable and creative long-term solutions in Ukunda, Kenya by providing international markets with community driven, ethical and environmentally aware fair trade products.  After being in business for 7 months, SOKO has produced for several international fashion brands such as Lalesso, and seeks to create a sustainable business model that can be replicated in East Africa.

SOKO focuses on aiding men and women in poverty due to the economic downturn by providing training and employment in tailoring, sandal making, and accessories. 70% of SOKO’s profits are used to benefit local projects supporting orphans, disabled youth, schools and rehabilitation centers while 30% is used to expand the business.

Run DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone). Photo courtesy of Freedom and Fashion

LINK (Liberty in North Korea)

Shop LiNK from LiNK Global on Vimeo.

LINK takes North Korean propaganda and puts their own creative spin on it. the Run DMZ shirt is my favorite. It’s strong and stylish, an obvious reference to Run DMC. – Gio

North Korea is a country currently undergoing a devastating human rights and humanitarian crisis. Under the Dictatorship of Kim Jong II, North Korean citizens are virtually denied fundamental freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and worship. Over one million people perished in the mid 1990s famine due to gross government neglect and mismanagement. Citizens are indoctrinated at an early age to worship their dictator and those who are caught “subverting” the Kim regime in anyway are severely tortured or killed. In 2004 Adrian Hong and Paul Kim learned about these horrendous human rights violations occurring in North Korea and felt compelled to share with others what had been hidden away for too long. Adrian and Paul started by educating college students and young leaders about the crisis, and together they formed LiNK with the hope of spreading awareness and affecting real change.

Made in Mongolia bags. Photo courtesy of Freedom and Fashion

MIM (Made in Mongolia)

Cause: Mongolian women and children

MIM doesn’t just have handbags. They have all kinds of products, including pillows, toys, and scarves. I dig the scarves. They’re unique. – Gio

What does a Tibetan Monk and an Irish Designer have in common? Demonstrating how people from all walks of life can make a difference in the lives of others, Made in Mongolia(MIM) was formed through a partnership between the Mongolian organization Asral NGO, led by Tibetan monk Panchen Otrul Rinpoche, and Irish Designer, Pat McCarthy. Asral NGO started out as organization dedicated to keeping families together and preventing children from ending up on the streets. In the Autumn of 2009, Made In Mongolia(MIM) introduced fair trade crafts as a crucial endeavor to helping support women sustainable futures for Mongolian women in Asral NGO’s social welfare projects.

Handbag by Malia Designs. Photo credit: Malia Designs

Malia Designs

Cause: Human trafficking in Southeast Asia

I’m not a big jewelry fan (I love my class ring though), but they have all kinds of designs you can buy for your wife, girlfriend, sister, or even your mom. However, they do have some options for men. – Gio

Lia and Maria both independently witnessed first hand the horrors of human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Despite international recognition of these crimes and the government’s efforts to prosecute perpetrators,  Lia and Maria realized how pervasive the problem of sex tourism was Vietnam and Cambodia.  Being two socially-conscious entrepreneurial women, Lia and Maria formed Malia Designs as a way to combat human trafficking by providing a means for women to secure income and produce development in their communities.

Malia Deigns promotes handbags made by non-profit organizations that employ impoverished women in developing countries as well as small family producers across international borders. By exposing their craft to Western markets, Malia Designs help victims of human trafficking by donating portions of their profits to local and international non-profits in order to provide a larger amount of sustainable income for families in these regions.

Necklace by NightLight. Photocredit: NightLight


Cause: Trafficked women and children in Thailand

It’s a great organization doing great things for women. Support them! – Gio

After ministering to women prostitutes in Thailand for 5 years, Annie Diselberg had the vision to start NightLight as an economic alternative for women and children trapped in the sex industry. With a team of 5 others that came alongside her, this vision became a reality in the Winter of 2005 when Nightlight became an officially registered Thai jewelry company. Women who had originally felt no hope for freedom from their circumstances could now learn how to make earrings, necklaces and bracelets and feel proud of their craft.

Shoes by Not For Sale Campaign. Photo credit: Not For Sale Campaign

Not For Sale

Cause: Human Trafficking

They have products for men and women. And the fact that it’s called “Not For Sale,” really gets people thinking. And when you realize that they’re talking about human beings–well, that stirs something deep down in a person’s soul. – Gio

The “Not for Sale Campaign” was launched by University of San Francisco Ethics Professor David Batstone. After becoming a firm advocate and expert on human trafficking, Professor Batstone decided to get his students involved in mapping slavery in San Francisco, the 12th largest human trafficking hub in the world. This daunting task sent students looking for ads of massage parlors in newspapers and magazines to discover possible human trafficking sites. Students spent months on watch investigating and observing these sites to see how many women would enter and leave during the course of a 24 hour day. Students had reason to believe that human trafficking was occurring when women who had confirmed to be working were not seen leaving to go home at night. Some students would walk into shops posing as customers looking to find women to entertain their bachelor party in a hotel next door. Students were shocked by their finding and recorded them on a slavery map using open for public to access and use over the internet. As word of these investigations spread, advocates all over the country became empowered to began their own investigations in cities across the country. Slavery maps began to spread and soon today there are over 140 confirmed human trafficking sites recorded across the nation.

Tag Bag. Photo credit: Tag Bag

Tag Bag

Cause: Residents of Kayamandi, South Africa

They are one-of-a-kind bags. No two license plates are exactly the same. They’re unique and if you are traveling around at night…well, I think it’s a safe bag to carry because it illuminates when you are crossing the street. – Gio

Tag Bags are handbags made from recycled South African license plates, which supports a global initiative to reduce carbon footprints. There are 8 different bags, all named in honor of a woman in the township of Kayamandi who is making a difference in her community. Tag Bags create jobs for members of impoverished communities and tells the stories of real people with real needs. With a growing market in the US, the expansion of Tags Bags overseas allows for increasing employment opportunities for the residents of Kayamandi suffering from poor living conditions. Tag Bag has been featured in Beverly Hills Lifestyle magazine and as well as on a series of websites including BagBunch.com and PurseBlog.com.


Filed under Entertainment, Fashion, Issues/Causes

Freedom and Fashion and everything in between

It’s been about three weeks since my last real post. Busy body. It’s been about four days since I got to see all my hours of hard work come in fruition in the form of the Freedom and Fashion show. Post busy body. However, I’ve got to say that the fashion show against human and sex trafficking and the exploitation of women, as well as other important social justice causes–the fashion show was a huge success. I think we got the message across to people in a clear, yet creative way.

One of my friends wondered why we use fashion as the medium because the fashion industry tends to exploit women. Women are told to dress a certain way, to be a certain image, to be a certain size–isn’t it ironic? Well, dear friend, isn’t that the point? We want to reclaim the fashion industry, to bring into light the injustices it has done to women, and more importantly, to change the way we perceive fashion. Think of it–fashion CAN be fair-trade, and it CAN go to a good cause, and it CAN still be fashionable. Social justice is in, and apathy is out. When we forget that–perhaps that’s when we forget our identities as compassionate human beings.

UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom was packed. Every seat was filled, and after walking the VIPs and donors to their seats, I had to stand back a bit, look at the catwalk, and stood amazed that the day had finally come. Once everyone got to their seats, the hosts introduced rapper Jason Medeiros, where he performed two songs. One of the songs, “Constance,” is based on the true story of a Filipina girl who was sold into the sex trade industry. Then, the fashion show started. As soon as the song started playing, my heart skipped a bit. This is it! This is it! I remember thinking to myself. To make a long story short, I’ll let the pictures and video speak for itself. The pictures were taken by my friend, Kenny Gulley, during dress rehearsal (although it’s not everything featured on the actual fashion show) while the footage of the fashion show was taken by Freedom and Fashion crew and is streamed on Livestream.

If you are interested about social justice issues, check out Freedom and Fashion.

Check out some of the clothes featured on the fashion show (or at least on the photos below), by such clothing lines as Definicion Clothing, LiNk (Liberty in North Korea), Lalesso, Tagbag.

Lalesso Clothing

Lalesso Clothing

Lalesso Clothing

Lalesso Clothing

LiNK Clothing

LiNk Clothing

Freedom and Fashion Line

Definicion Clothing


Filed under Fashion, Issues/Causes