Philadelphia Fashion Brand to Empower Formerly Incarcerated Women

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) and Grant Blvd, a sustainable fashion brand based in West Philadelphia, have teamed up for an innovative partnership dubbed “Fashion the Future Forward.” The initiative is designed to recruit, train, and employ formerly incarcerated women in sustainable careers that offer a living wage.

The challenges faced by formerly incarcerated women, 58% of whom are mothers, are formidable. The stigma of a criminal record can make it hard to find stable employment, while limited access to education and vocational training can exacerbate the problem. These factors contribute to a high rate of recidivism, where individuals return to criminal activities following their release.

Compounding these issues, the struggle to secure decent housing and the poverty rates in Philadelphia make it crucial to address the systemic barriers that hinder successful reintegration into society. This new initiative aims to break down these barriers and help formerly incarcerated women build a better future.

The partnership capitalizes on WPSI’s established success in linking talented Philadelphians with meaningful employment, paired with Grant Blvd’s dedication to providing formerly incarcerated individuals with meaningful work. The collaboration also provides a growth route for Grant Blvd, the first Black-owned certified B-Corps in the North American fashion sector.

After completing the program, graduates will join the Grant Blvd team as sewists, crafting goods for both the hospitality industry and the fashion brand’s national customer base.

Cait Garozzo, Executive Director of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, highlighted the importance of partnerships in tackling significant social problems like mass incarceration. She said, “United by our shared values, we identified what it is we each do best and are leveraging our strengths and resources to challenge systems of oppression.”

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Dr. Kimberly McGlonn, founder and CEO of Grant Blvd, echoed this sentiment, stating, “Intersectional solutions, ones that center the most marginalized women, are the only way forward for the common good and for our planet. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with WPSI in such an innovative and impactful way.”

The Grant Blvd team will host an open house at their new space in MaKen Studios South on March 7, 2024. Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the manufacturing and training space, hear from Dr. McGlonn and her team, and join the movement towards a future where the fashion industry provides living wage work.

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