ANGELA LUNA / CEO & FOUNDER OF ADIFF / NEW YORK NY
Meet Angela. Her revolution started with a photo—a photo that sparked her to refocus her high-fashion ambitions and instead, start tackling the refugee crisis one garment at a time. When she launched her Kickstarter, her impeccably made tent jackets went viral. Then she revealed her entire collection of beautifully transfigurative jackets—a backpack, flotation device, sleeping bag, child-carrier—showing the world that no matter what your career, we can all do our part. So yes, Angela is changing the world and blooming like crazy.
I’ve seen your TED Talk, but can you tell us a little more about Adiff?
ADIFF is a humanitarian fashion start-up that uses design and innovation to assist refugees and displaced persons. It started during my thesis presentation at Parsons, where I wanted to investigate the idea of whether or not fashion could potentially save lives in the refugee crisis through purposeful design. I started from there and when I presented at the Parsons thesis show, I received overwhelming support and the project went viral. I moved it forward from a senior thesis to a sustainable brand and that’s where I’m at now. We have a donation based business model and on our Kickstarter, we did a buy one give one model and for every jacket purchased, we donated one to a refugee.
My interest in the refugee crisis started first with that picture of Alan Kurdi that was going around. When I saw that picture, I knew I couldn’t ignore what was going on in the world anymore. I told myself that I needed to do more research on the crisis and see if there was any way that I could help because I could no longer do nothing.
At the time, I was in fashion school at Parsons School of Design and I wanted to focus on eveningwear and couture. My goal in life was to be a couturier, live in Paris, and dress celebrities for the red carpet. But when that picture came out, I started to reevaluate all of my life choices. I knew I wanted to help, but I didn't know what it would look like, and I had a year to complete my thesis project. I knew I wanted to better the world and bring attention back to what was going on internationally and offer a new idea for fashion itself.
What advice do you have for those who want to help in an impactful way but don’t know where to start?
You can always do more. Even I could always do more! It may not always take the form of physically going abroad and doing a mission trip, it might take shape in another way. Everyone has the potential to make a difference in the world whether you are an accountant, a lawyer, anything. Every industry can have an impact and if you if you want to help people, try to think about the skills you have already and find a way to use them.
What are your short & long term goals for Adiff?
Short term, I'm trying to find an investor so we can bring things to scale. Right now we have around 2,000 people interested in ordering the tent jackets. When the video went viral, I collected emails of all the people interested to take inventory. It would be great to find a way to finance that production, build up the product line, see what it would look like to expand into other product areas, and basically take the collection I did in school and make it come to life.
Long term, I see this company being a large thing. I see us having our own factories, brick-and-mortar stores, and I hope that we can play a large role on a political level such as in refugee resettlement and combating displaced persons and homelessness. Right now we are doing a buy-one, give-one model where we're donating jackets but I would love to establish a non-profit to able to offer more opportunities for these populations through scholarships or sponsorships. I want to look into more systematic ways to address the refugee crisis other than just through clothing.
How will you bloom in the next year?
Right now my life is kind of overwhelming, but I feel like I have been blooming through understanding other cultures and trying to be a businessperson as well. I have this background in fashion and I don’t have as much of a background in marketing or merchandising, or any of that. These have been things I have been trying to learn and bloom into and I think it will all come together in the next year. I'm also at this weird point where am transitioning from a girl who doesn't really know much about anything to the girl who’s got her shit together a little bit more. It’s this really sweet spot, and I hope that in the next year that I am not only taken seriously as a designer, but as a businesswoman too.
What motivates you?
That is a great question, because yes, every day is actually hard. It's important to acknowledge those days where you need to take a personal day to figure it out and relax. Last fall, I visited some refugee camps in Greece, and being there was my motivation, as it was the whole reason I started this project. Now that I’m back in New York, whenever I have my doubts, I remind myself that this project is not about me. This project is bigger and it’s about the refugees that I met. I might be having a hard time right now but there are people having an even harder time.
What advice do you have for blooming entrepreneurs?
I'm going to say that it is definitely more challenging than you anticipate and your timeline is going to be so messed up. I think it is important to be realistic with your expectations. I am someone who is impatient with expectations because I want to get things going, but it takes time to build a business. Now that I am part of this entrepreneurial world, I am talking to other people who have had companies for 3 or 4 years and are finally at a point where it's moving forward. It’s important to be patient, to not be so hard on yourself, and to be flexible. Starting a business is not just about being in control and you have to be okay with that. Know that it is going to take time and that you have to keep working even when it sucks. Gosh! I have to listen to my own advice too!
Lastly, what do you want to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as someone who made something better, or changed something that has been taken for granted for a long time. If I can be remembered as someone who changed the way we think about clothing or the way we think about the fashion industry, that would be amazing. So long as I can have a positive impact on the world, I think I’ll be okay.