Abi Ferrin Helps Cambodian Women Through Fashion Design
Clothing designer Abi Ferrin has a few curvy celebs going gaga for her dresses. But Ferrin’s story is more one of triumph over challenges than the usual fashion fluff piece. She started designing eight years ago, at home with $500 and a sewing machine. She had escaped an abusive relationship. Physically unscathed but financially a mess, her ex had left her $80,000 in debt.
Ferrin was living in Los Angeles and working for the PBS anchor, Jim Lehrer to pay off her debt. She needed clothes for the office and events, so she sewed them herself.
“I grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, and learned to sew at the 4-H club. When I started designing and sewing clothing in 2003, it was out of necessity. I had no money to buy clothes. Dayna Devon from Extra happened to meet me and noticed what I was wearing. For some reason I said told her I was a designer. It was light bulb moment for me. She asked me to make a couple of things for her. She was photographed in US Weekly—and the rest as they say is history,” Ferrin says.
In 2005 Ferrin left Los Angeles to live with her cousin in Dallas, Texas, save money, and pursue her designing interests. In 2007 Ferrin was named Texas’ Next Top Designer. The title came with having her clothing line hang in the luxury independent department store, Stanley Korshak; a trip to New York for fashion week, $5,000, and a rent free loft to work out of for a year. She opened her first boutique in Dallas in 2008.
A slow but steady rise to success, Ferrin’s collection recently moved to the racks of the Nordstrom stores last year—with an average cost of $350 per piece.
Ferrin’s line of figure flattering tops, dresses, pants, and skirts have found popularity because they’re well fabricated and thoughtfully made. Celebrities Vanessa Williams, Jennifer Hundson, Eryka Badu, and Nene Leakes of Housewives of Atlanta fame, are all Ferrin’s clients. “The secret is the draping, the weight of the fabric, the flexibility in how pieces can be worn, and they’re made that way because I wanted clothing that would look good on me. I’m not a small girl,” Ferrin says.
Ferrin has also started what she calls the Freedom Project—a philanthropic arm and the foundation of her company. Ferrin employs women in Cambodia to create silk handbags called “Sak Daums”—which means dignity in Cambodian.
“The facility gives these women a safe place to work, and has a domino effect on their communities. Not only employing them, but giving girls who’ve been rescued from the sex trade a new start at life. After experiencing personally what it felt like to be a victim of abuse, I know my purpose and am single-mindedly pursuing it. I design clothing that makes women feel confident and beautiful. I make them my partners. We’re educating, empowering and supporting women who needed a voice. This also creates awareness of a Global problem that is not fully understood.” Ferrin says.