The week before Thanksgiving is a busy one for local small businesses. New products need to go up on the shelves, Black Friday discounts need to be finalized and extra hours are needed just to double-check inventory.
Threads by Nomad has been feeling the push. The Houston-based company is a lifestyle brand that designs, sews and creates fashion pieces that “seek to celebrate diversity through design, and to create opportunities to thrive for those who are displaced or in danger of displacement,” according to its website. It exclusively hires refugees and for the past three years, has succeeded in bringing the power of “good business” to the fashion market.
“You can do good and still make money,” says co-founder and Alexandria resident Christen Kinard.
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Kinard started the company with her mom, Nell, in 2016. After growing up overseas for much of her childhood—her parents were missionaries for a period of time in West Africa—she grew up wanting to change the world.
She studied governmental relations, public policy and more in college, but could never truly find a way to combine her love for all things design and style, as well as helping those less fortunate.
“When my mom and I came up with the idea for Threads by Nomad, it was so perfectly me,” says Kinard. “Unlike everything else I’ve done in my life, it feels like I’m living who I am and my purpose.”
Since their start, the company has released up to five fashion lines each year, as well as miscellaneous items including accessories, home decor and more, with five different sourced fabrics and a team of five employees, that range from full time to part time, and contract-based.
Threads by Nomad started a nonprofit arm of its company earlier this year in order to better support current and future employees. The Off Ramp not only provides funds for Threads by Nomad employees and local refugees to get English tutoring, it also raises money for displaced individuals to start businesses in their own homes.
“The nonprofit raises funds and gets grants to support people who come to us needing help, with it no longer affecting the bottom line of our business,” says Kinard. “And [when it comes to refugees], many find themselves in jobs in the construction or services section, when they have master’s degrees in other topics. For example, we have a woman who was a gynecologist back in Iraq, but her education and certification can’t translate to the U.S. market, so instead of finding herself working at Pizza Hut (where she was prior), we started talking to her and found that she had a love of making jewelry. The Off Ramp has helped her develop that brand and products, so she can now sell them back wholesale to Threads by Nomad, and develop a business of her own making.”
For Kinard, the products always offer a sense of pride, but more so, she’s excited about sending shock waves through the traditional business model.
“I truly believe that if we’re going to begin to address global issues, such as climate change and refugee crises, then we have to start looking at tools like business when they aren’t necessarily thought of initially and thinking of them in different ways,” says Kinard. “On a small scale, if you can be successful and have a profitable brand, while truly making a difference and changing the game, it doesn’t have to be done the way it’s always been done before.”
The company is currently planning on “steep” Black Friday deals, according to Kinard, to be announced on social media. Threads by Nomad does have a retail space in Houston, but primarily sells products online, and is looking to open its first retail location in Northern Virginia in coming years.
“It would be very similar to Houston, but it would include a studio where people can come and see how things are made, as well as act as a community space,” says Kinard.
Until then, the company’s newest collection went live online on Nov. 26, and includes a tried-and-true jumpsuit, scarves, a silky tank and some brightly colored floral patterns to take with you through the colder months.
Each piece has been handcrafted by a refugee artisan, from knitted ornaments to Kin & Care hand-poured candles.
“The Kin & Care candles are made by refugee women here in the Washington, DC area, and the fragrances are delicate but warm, and they’re all done using traditional Turkish methods,” says Kinard. “These are my gift go-to items this year, and I even hope someone gifts them to me!”
Whether you’re looking to #ShopSmall this year, or support an organization on #GivingTuesday, Kinard says supporting a company like Threads by Nomad goes a long way for many.
“If you want to feel empowered at a time when we often feel at a loss of what to do, seek out businesses like us that connect you to the people who are connecting these things together, and who are fully upfront about the impacts that their processes are having on the earth and other people,” says Kinard.