After completing a design degree and working in the fashion industry for 15 years, Rachel Kinley became interested in ethically made products and realised there was a lack of options for people with a modern sense of style.
Rachel started working as a product developer for an NGO employing women coming out of trafficking, and then went on to create her own brand based on her classic and modern signature style.
The name Rachel chose for her business perfectly reflects her mission - 'meridian' is the line of longitude connecting us north and south along the globe, and 'lee' is a place of shelter or refuge from the wind.
Meridian Lee partners with women who have escaped human trafficking and other hardship in South East Asia, Greece, Haiti and South America.
Rachel collaborates with weavers and artisans in homes and small workshops to select the best techniques and materials to create high-quality bags, jewellery and accessories.
Rachel sees these collaborations as true partnerships, and often asks the women for their input on designs and production techniques. This approach has resulted in lasting friendships and business partnerships, based on love and respect.
By employing women who have escaped extreme forms of hardship and paying them fair wages, Meridian Lee is bringing new opportunities to them and their families. In Rachel's words, 'We are able to funnel money directly to women in rough places who use their success to bring up others in their communities'.
And the design process itself is based on empowerment and respect. As Rachel has said, 'For women who haven't had many choices in life, even basic design questions can be really empowering'. You can find our Meridian Lee collection here.
All images courtesy of Meridian Lee