I like comfortable, fashionable activewear. I am always on the hunt for ethically-produced clothing that wouldn’t horrify me if I discovered how it was manufactured in a sweatshop. When I found AKO wear Hawaii, I felt relieved to finally put on a shirt that fit me well, that I could wear just about anywhere with a happy conscience. I also enjoyed interviewing AKO’s founder, Fozia Fearnley.
When Fozia wrapped up her tech career in Silicon Valley and moved to Hawaii, she intended to slow down and volunteer at Hawaii Literacy, a local non-profit organization. She felt inspired to help in whatever way she could to assist with this organization’s mission. “It was surprising to learn that 1 in 6 people in Hawaii are challenged with reading and writing” Fozia shares. “I wanted to find a way to raise funds to contribute to this cause. AKO wear Hawaii was born from this idea. I also wanted the business to support other local businesses and community, and to spread awareness about sustainability.”
With a degree in Computer Science, Fozia started her career in technology to pay the bills, which for many years caused her to put aside her natural interest in fashion – until now. When I asked what drives her eco-minded lifestyle, Fozia replies that “it has always been part of my family lifestyle growing up.” Observing and experiencing the difficult circumstances around the globe has instilled in Fozia the motivation not to waste resources. As a British immigrant and now a US citizen, Fozia considers all the people, plants, and living elements on this planet in her life decisions.
In 2019, Fozia created AKO wear Hawaii as a “private label” fashion brand operating from Kaka`ako, using the last three letters of the district for its business name. As a sustainable, ethically made clothing line, AKO aims to support the Hawaii workforce by keeping production as local as possible.
“Our evolving journey and mission is simple, we are Local + Organic + Earth-Friendly,” says Fozia. Each step of the process in creating AKO’s clothing aligns with the mission, from keeping production local by having clothes made in America, to the screen printing and embroidery added by local businesses, and then to give back to local communities with the proceeds raised from the sales. AKO wear uses only organic material. The cotton fabric is grown on organic farms and ethically manufactured in the USA, and all color dyes are chemical free and earth-friendly as defined by Green America Certification for social and environmental responsibility.
“Starting a business during a pandemic has been a challenge” says Fozia. “With no clothing manufacturing factory in Hawaii, I opted to have the clothing production done on the mainland despite the higher costs, versus production overseas. The merchandise shipping cost from the mainland is also a rising challenge.”
One of the highlights of her business journey has been in forming great relationships with the community, local businesses and customers. “I believe we stand strongest when we stand together,” Fozia emphasizes. “It is such a personal choice selecting clothes and we are forever humbled when customers select our clothes”.
AKO wear has evolved to serve a larger customer base in Hawaii and recently gained customers in Japan. AKO wear is more than just wearing comfortable sustainable clothes, it’s about awareness and better choices for ourselves and the planet.
Shop AKO wear at Still & Moving: https://boutique-ehawaii.com/collections/logo-clothing
Learn more about AKO wear Hawaii: https://akowearhawaii.com/
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)