Almost 15 years ago, a nun on a train derailed my life – and that’s where this whole thing started.
My name is Julie Martin, and I am the founder of contemporary accessories brand Lions in Four based in Kansas City. We’ve been making purses, scarves and jewelry since 2014, but our journey started long before that when I was a fashion student studying abroad in Paris.
On a short train ride between Paris and Amsterdam, I accidentally stole Sister Jessy’s first class cabin. She was from India, and I was from the United States. She was working as a humanitarian in poverty stricken, rural villages. I was studying high-end fashion in the back rooms of Hermès – home of the Birkin Bag. Her dreams were all about women’s empowerment and children’s advancement. I was dreaming about Burberry and boys.
I know it sounds strange, but something about her resonated with me. I was attracted to the sense of purpose she lived with. In a few hours on that train, she inspired me to take a 180-degree change in life direction that I never saw coming.
Instead of going on to build a fashion empire, I went on to launch a non-profit to help support Sister Jessy’s work with women and children in southern India. Ten years later, we hit a wall.
The girls who we helped educate and prepare for a life out of poverty were aging out of Sister Jessy’s homes and orphanages, with few opportunities for employment ahead of them. After years of hard work, our young ladies were still in vulnerable situations.
That’s when I realized that poverty is a problem that can be solved with commerce, and Lions in Four the business was born.
Now, I’m able to live out my dream as a fashion designer, while employing women artisans in India with reliable work and fair wages. My team and I have stayed dedicated to building a brand that delivers the best quality products, while improving the lives of all the people who touch the brand, and minimizing the impact we make on our planet.
We believe that fashion should be ethical, that accessories should be beautiful and functional, and that women around the world can be connected through something as simple as a scarf.
And it all goes back to that nun on a train who was gracious enough to share her private cabin.
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