Entrepreneur Nina Farran was vacationing with her family in North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 2008 when she glimpsed her life’s calling.
“We were waiting for our dinner reservation and I went to explore the nearby boutiques while we waited,” Farran, who splits her time between New York City and Philadelphia, recalled during a recent phone conversation. “I saw a T-shirt with a hand holding up the peace sign and a continent shaped like Africa. The T-shirt was from OmniPeace, a humanitarian fashion brand that builds schools in sub-Saharan Africa.
“I have always been very driven to make an impact and I learned early on that I had to do that,” Farran continued. “But I also always loved fashion. This was the first time I saw those two come together.”
Medium skull charm in 14k gold with Gemfields rubies, $1,270; Luis Morais for Gemfields x MUSE, fashionkind.com
At the time, Farran was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. When she returned to school, she drafted a business plan, reached out to the CEO of OmniPeace, and “three months later launched OmniPeace on the Penn campus,” she said. “I found something I loved that had an impact. That set me on my journey to what I thought was my own humanitarian fashion brand.”
After college, Farran went to work for big fashion—LVMH, Donna Karan—“to understand the common characteristics of successful companies.”
Ruffled ear lassos in recycled 20k rose gold with 7.52 cts. t.w. gemstones in tapered baguette and triangular cuts, including peach tourmaline, andalusite, black spinel, and brown zircon, $8,750; Nak Armstrong, fashionkind.com
She then veered into equity research, in order to “learn what made a company worthy of investment.” Working at a wealth management firm in New York City, she had what she describes as her “second aha moment” when she came across a phrase that resonated with her: impact investing.
“Making ethical investments and aligning them with your portfolio,” Farran explained. “I went to my boss and said, ‘I really think we should be doing this.’ I saw millennials were interested and thought there was a huge business case there. But my boss said we didn’t have time for that.”
Farran wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She ended up persuading her boss to allow her to build an impact investing platform at the firm, an initiative that encouraged her to research statistics dealing with ethics and sustainability, especially in the fashion industry. The experience taught her that fashion companies needed to do better by the environment and the communities they served.
In 2014, Farran introduced Fashionkind as an Instagram feed intended to spotlight brands “that were thinking differently,” she said—by, for example, rethinking the way they used water.
“It organically grew, and people started asking, ‘Where can we find these brands? We don’t have time to research and vet them,’” Farran said.
By this point, the burgeoning curator had come to the conclusion that success in the sustainable fashion segment required one key ingredient: style. “Based on my research of luxury brands that married ethics and sustainability, I knew we needed to put fashion first,” she said.
Farran left finance about two years ago and has spent the time since positioning Fashionkind, which debuted in 2016, as a website “for consumers who don’t want to sacrifice their style for their standards,” according to the brand’s literature.
“We started getting questions about fine jewelry and started looking a year ago into this space, and couldn’t find a curation of leading ethical jewelry brands,” she said. So in typical fashion, Farran created it herself.
Earlier this month, she added a fine jewelry vault to the site brimming with chic pieces by a coterie of ethical jewelers including: Nak Armstrong, Holly Dyment, Luis Morais, Tejen, Anakatarina, Sandy Leong, Lola Fenhirst, Kimberlin Brown, Dana Bronfman, Buddha Mama, Delphine Leymarie, and the Gemfields x Muse Showroom collaboration.
Farran says the next iteration of the site, due to be unveiled in the new year, will focus on storytelling. And jewelry will play a key role. “We felt it was a very natural segue [from fashion to jewelry],” Farran said. “The way consumers interact with it—they purchase it with intention to treasure it.”
Long gold pendant necklace in ethically and sustainably mined 18k gold, $2,505; Tejen, fashionkind.com