Alana Athletica Is Redefining Social Impact, One Legging At A Time
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most prominent countries for producing garments, specifically in regards to women’s intimates and athletic wear. Lululemon, Gap, Victoria’s Secret and other large companies rely upon the Sri Lankan apparel industry, which exports billions of dollars each year. With this influx of fast fashion and corporate profits, comes issues for the Sri Lankan workforce, and, in particular, the women who make up 71% of the garment industry.
With a lack of proper support and resources, many of these women are left powerless; one in four Sri Lankan women will be sexually abused by the time that they turn 18. But the future for Sri Lankan women doesn’t have to remain bleak. Companies, of all sizes, have the power to support their workers, and one of these businesses is taking this mission to the next level.
Alana Athletica was formed with its founders — two of which are Sri Lankan — simply asking, “What can we do to make the world a better place?” The social impact brand aims to ethically produce inclusively sized, transparently priced, high-quality women’s athletic wear. Alana Athletica does so through their three pillars: educate, employ and empower. By ethically making their garments in small, Sri Lankan production houses, the company is able to support a fully female production workforce that receives food, fair wages and a humane environment.
“That's kind of the reason why we started this venture,” co-founder Juan Castellanos says. “And obviously you want to do it in the right way, so, to us, the right way meant producing ethically. We didn't want to work with any of the mass factories that are in Sri Lanka, which is where the majority of brands manufacture.”
From there, Alana Athletica’s mission continued to bloom. They partnered with Emerge Global, a nonprofit that operates both in the United States and Sri Lanka, to provide support for girls and women who have survived abuse and exploitation. This assistance includes the sponsorship of private tutoring, in a variety of subjects including math, art, reading and life skills. Employment opportunities are offered, and women are given the option to undergo a garment production training program, which puts them on track to work at Alana’s factories. Most importantly, Alana recognizes the psychological damage inflicted through traumatic events, and empowers abused women through self-defense courses.
“We were thinking about women's activewear, and something that would be very organic to combine with women's activewear in a way where we could help the community,” Castellanos says. “That's when this whole idea of empowering women who have survived abuse came about. What we wanted to accomplish was for each and every person who contributes —
buys a pant or is part of what we're doing — for them to understand exactly the impact that they were creating, so that's why we like to quantify each purchase with a number of lives helped.
”Similar to the business structure of Toms’ one-for-one model, each Alana Athletica purchase goes directly towards helping those in need. However, since Sri Lankan women aren’t receiving one same product in exchange for the one purchased, Alana provides a more transparent metric for their consumers. A color-coded label, aligning with their three pillars, is listed underneath each product, informing customers whether their purchase will support women’s education, empowerment or employment. You can then click through to each product to see, for example, that the dash side pocket legging teaches self-defense to seven women, or the classic crop tee sponsors private tutoring for five women.
“At the end of the day, people didn't understand exactly how their purchase was contributing. They didn't know if it was a percentage of revenue, a percentage of profit, a donation that we made every so often. So that's really why we wanted to create a, let's call it a business model or a product, that once you purchase, you know exactly what it's going to do for these women in Sri Lanka,” Castellanos says.
Alana Athletica tested the waters with a Kickstarter campaign, and almost immediately saw extraordinary support from those interested in their mission. This prompted the social impact activewear brand to chase after another ambitious project: a free legging campaign to raise awareness for their cause. The initiative asked people to write a letter of encouragement to the women in Sri Lanka, cover the cost of shipping and, in return, they received a free pair of leggings. Over the course of roughly three months, about 18,000 letter writers signed up.
“The campaign that we ran was extremely successful,” Castellanos says. “I think it brought a lot of awareness to our brand, to what we're trying to accomplish, and also to the realities in Sri Lanka. The abuse statistics among Sri Lankan women is mind boggling to hear, and not enough people know about it.”
This momentum has continued, with the launch of Alana Athletica’s new website, which allows those who didn’t participate in the free legging to campaign to purchase their own pair. Supporters can directly see the effect that their purchases make, through Alana’s transparent social impact business model. Upon launching the new site, a few weeks ago, the products sold out in just five hours.
“One of the things we want to accomplish is to bring awareness and help in areas of need, starting with Sri Lanka. In the future, we envision exploring other geographical locations that have a need, from a social impact perspective, and also the capability to create high quality products, as well,” Castellanos says.
While Alana Athletica is still exploring their options on where to go next, the brand has decided to partner with Dream Warriors Foundation to launch another free legging campaign. “We want to position ourselves as redefining what social impact means,” Castellanos says. “We want to be able to bring transparency into social impact. The next step is to launch a local campaign with Dream Warriors Foundation to continue to spread the word about what we're trying to do, and what Dream Warriors Foundation is trying to do.”
Dream Warriors Foundation is excited to team up with Alana Athletica to produce an exclusive Dream Warrior Athletic Pant on Alana’s dash side pocket legging [empower] to help benefit women in Sri Lanka and locally here in Atlanta.
Here’s how it’ll work:
We’re doing an open call for designs to be printed on Alana’s dash side pocket legging. Deadline: Friday, June 21, 2019 at 11:59 PM
Once the design is selected, production will begin in Sri Lanka at Alana’s production centers and we’ll begin our campaign to write letters of encouragement to abuse survivors in Atlanta
Each person who writes an encouraging letter will receive a custom Dream Warrior Athletic Pant to be delivered sometime this fall. We only ask that everyone who participants cover the cost of shipping.
After the campaign ends, all letters of encouragement will be given to Tapestri, an Atlanta nonprofit dedicated to ending violence and oppression in immigrant and refugee communities using culturally competent and linguistically appropriate methods.