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(Vogue) How One Model Is Using Fashion’s Sneaker Obsession to Increase Electricity Access in East Africa

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Saturday, 20 October 2018

How One Model Is Using Fashion’s Sneaker Obsession to Increase Electricity Access in East Africa




A trip can shift your entire perspective. Indeed, when model Grace Mahary visited her parents’ homeland in Eritrea for the first time back in 2011, it changed the course of her life. As she toured through the country, Mahary was struck by the lack of something she’d considered a basic: power. “I was astounded to see the number of citizens who live without access to electricity,” says Mahary who embarked on the journey after her first season of runway work in Paris. “It was a very humbling experience to recognize that the youth and citizens didn’t have the same career and educational opportunities within their countries because of a lack of access to energy.” Eager to find a way to improve the situation, Mahary started Project Tsehigh, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a sustainable energy infrastructure. Over the last four years, Mahary and her team have worked to provide the people of Maaya, a southern village 2 hours from the capital of Asmara, with solar panels and sustainable solutions to the issue. Now for the first time she’s connecting her humanitarian work with her fashion career.Pinterest

Together with Suns shoes, Mahary has launched a limited-edition collection of sneakers with a distinctly Eritrean twist: a sunburst print inspired by a scarf Mahary picked up during her travels. Proceeds from the shoes will go right back to the community and provide solar energy to families and schools. Like all Suns’s footwear, the pattern changes the moment you step outside, revealing the alternate color scheme beneath the classic white trainers. For Mahary, the synergy between the brand and Project Tsehigh was there from the start. “I love the mission behind Suns shoes, that kindness is contagious, and the solar component to their product,” she says. “My team was looking for new, nontraditional ways to fundraise and speak to our followers, and this opportunity incorporated my love for fashion into our fundraising plan.”

As she travels the globe for modeling gigs with the new sneakers at her feet, Mahary is beating a new socially conscious path in the world of fashion, quite literally. “I’d love to do collaborations with sports brands because fitness and wellness are important aspects of my life,” says Mahary who was a basketball star back home in Canada before modeling came along. Still active on the runways and in the pages of glossy magazines, Mahary would love to see her fashion peers get involved in giving back, too. “We often take having access to electricity for granted and we often don’t think about how light can define a family's safety or education. The gratefulness from the people of Maaya was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” she says. “This industry turns you into a global citizen and I believe it’s our responsibility to then use our resources, connections, and platforms to advocate for those who will greatly benefit from our support.”


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