Wider Horizons Spring 2016 Q&A with Jena Murray
After designing and creating an outfit for Montreal Fashion Week and interning for Anna Sui in New York City during her days as a student, Jena Murray (Fashion Design and Marketing 2014) graduated and got to work, building a business from the ground up and successfully launching an Indiegogo campaign last year to support her work. Her company, VEENA, is a social enterprise and sustainable girlswear brand that aims to help girls build courage and find strength in who they are. VEENA offers organic, fair trade certified product and values sustainability, transparency and ethical production practices. Murray works with a factory in India that follows the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and also indirectly supports orphanages, old age homes and a school for deaf and blind children. Murray took some time after returning from a work trip to India earlier this year to talk to Wider Horizons about the global work she is doing to build her girlswear brand and business from her Lethbridge home.
WIDER HORIZONS: How and when did you decide to create VEENA?
JENA MURRAY: Prior to graduating, I had been preparing a business plan. Once deciding to push forward with VEENA, I began to look for ways to set up an overseas supply chain. I knew sourcing and manufacturing were the areas that I needed the most help with. I began looking through different profiles on Linked In and that’s when I came across a company called Source My Garment. They seemed to have all the experience and answers to the difficulties of starting my own line. I sent them a message and began working with them a few weeks later. I consulted with Adila from Source My Garment to create the VEENA mission and begin designing my first season. She connected me to an organic and fair trade certified manufacturing facility called Assisi Organics in India for production.
WH: Tell us about your travels… what has that experience been like?
JM: Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to travel to India as part of VEENA. During the first trip I worked with underprivileged girls in the Punjab state to teach them both jewelry making and English. We created VEENA WARRIOR bracelets that came with a card describing the exact girl who made it. The profits from this project were used to purchase donations for the All India Pingla Ashram during my most recent trip to India. I was able to donate new lunch mats to the school and also prepare donation bags for each of the 170 students that contained school supplies and hygiene products. After volunteering, I travelled to my factory, Assisi Organics, in the south of India. I was able to meet the individuals responsible for the creation of VEENA designs. I toured the sewing and production floor, the printers, the dyers and weavers. Assisi Organics is a fully fair trade and GOTS-certified manufacturing facility. I look forward to a long future with Assisi and feel reassured in the work they do and ethics they uphold. This was the highlight of my entire trip; time seemed to stand still and I knew that was exactly where I was meant to be in that moment. I often get emotional thinking about the journey I’ve had this past year. I am extremely fortunate to be able to live out my dream of developing VEENA as a social enterprise. There is no better feeling than seeing your designs come to life.
WH: Do you still draw on any skills or knowledge that you learned as a student at the college?
JM: I continually draw on skills and knowledge that I gained at the college. I am always referring to previous textbooks or samples to reference things such as stitch type, textile information, hem finishes, techniques or grading rules.
WH: What are some of the challenges you are facing at this point in your career? What brings you the greatest satisfaction?
JM: Currently I am facing the most challenges in terms of marketing and sales. I need to make the VEENA name known and work on expanding my consumer base. There is a ton of competition in the e-commerce space and it is pivotal that I stay relevant. I am most satisfied with the VEENA product. I feel confident in the apparel and know that it can occupy a gap in the market. I also feel passionate about the VEENA mission to help girls embrace who they are and feel good about themselves.
For more information about the Fashion Design and Sustainable Production program at Lethbridge College, call 403.320.3267 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Murray’s business, check out www.eyesofveena.com.
Story by Lisa Kozleski