It’s cliché to say that Minka Kelly is more than just a pretty face, but within minutes of speaking you'll know it's true. The 34-year-old actress is known for her roles on Friday Night Lights and the new FXX series Man Seeking Woman, but Kelly isn’t one to just sit back and soak in her good fortune—she pays it forward, too.
Since 2009, she has helped raise awareness with the charitable accessories brand fashionABLE and has just designed a handbag with the company (pictured, above). The Hibret clutch (which means "collaboration" in Amheric) will be available on Livefashionable.com beginning March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day. It’s a fitting occasion, as fashionABLE helps create employment opportunities for women in Ethiopia and Kenya who have been marginalized due to being HIV+, formerly sex-trafficked, or poverty stricken. “Our goal is to provide employment for these women by purchasing products from them so that they can run a sustainable business on the ground,” says founder and CEO Barrett Ward. “We’re not about charity, but instead about creating opportunity.”
InStyle recently spoke with Kelly about her new opportunity with fashionABLE, and what it was like to try her hand at designing.
How did you first discover fashionABLE?A year before I got involved with fashionABLE, I lost my mother (to colon cancer in 2008). Grief can bring great depth and meaning to your life, and it helped me internally articulate what my priorities are. That, to me, is to have an undefended heart. I decided that the only way personally for me to fill that hole was to be of service.
How have your trips to Africa affected you?When I was there, it seeing how little they had material-wise but how full they were spiritually, and in their hearts. They are the most loving and grateful and courageous women I’ve ever come across. For example, one of the women went into the sex industry to pay for her sister’s breast cancer treatment.
That's pretty intense. What have you learned from these women?I learned that you can connect with someone on a deep and profound level if you look them in the eye for more than two seconds. You can communicate without saying a word. It affected all the relations with the women in my life when I came home.
How have things for these women changed since your first trip in 2009 to your most recent one in 2014?It’s really exciting to see these women go from feeling unlovable and worthless to being a part of this program and telling me that they feel love and how empowering that is. It gives them the confidence to make these products and live a dignified life.
What was the design process like for you?We went to the factory where they make all of their leather and I just got so excited and inspired by how beautiful the craftsmanship was and said, “Can we make something right now, right here?” (Laughs.) So we started putting together this clutch (pictured, below). When we came up with the design, I thought this is beautiful, but it feels like the fashionABLE aspect of it—the scarves that they’re known for—was missing. So I thought, “What if we have the girls make a scarf in the color scheme that goes with these bags to line the inside of it?” It took a few tries to find something durable enough to handle putting everything in the bag, but it was a really fun process.
Do you have plans to design more?I would love to! I get compliments on these bags every day and it makes me really happy to explain to them where these bags come from.