While shooting our Fall/Winter campaign in Morocco last year, my eyes were opened in ways I’ve never encountered before. Granted, it was an emotionally, physically, and spiritually challenging experience, but also one that changed my life.
It was in Morocco that I was introduced to Maryam Montague. We were connected by a mutual friend who had stayed at her resort, Peacock Pavilions, on the outskirts of Marrakech. Maryam is a distinguished writer and designer and upon meeting her I could immediately tell she was a strong, kind and passionate woman with a big heart. We took a few photos at her resort for our catalog, but when she and I started talking, I learned that there is so much more to Maryam than what meets the eye. Not only is she a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman, she is also the co-founder and director of Project Soar, a non profit organization in Morocco dedicated to empowering and educating girls in the underdeveloped world. (She is also the co-founder of Agent GirlPower, the Arab world's first feminist fashion brand.)
As we spoke, I quickly learned the real reason why I was led to Morocco. She invited me to the Project Soar school the next day and my life changed in unprecedented ways.
As I walked up to the school, I was immediately greeted by the Project Soar staff, whom Maryam selflessly credits for all of the incredible work they collectively do. They were warm and being with them felt like I was in the presence of family. Established in 2013 and headquartered in Marrakech, Project Soar teaches teen girls an empowerment curriculum to help them understand their voice, value, body, rights, and path. Project Soar believes that empowered girls lead to empowered women, able to uplift their family, their communities and ultimately their nation. This initiative is unique, especially in Morocco, because they are dedicated to supporting teenage girls to become leaders of today and tomorrow, leaders who are activated, concerned, and powerful voices for inclusion and democracy.
As I was visiting the school and meeting the girls, I was full of excitement. The joy, hope, and strength of the girls was palpable and it immediately rubbed off on me. In the prior week of being in Morocco, I didn’t see any girls on the street playing or interacting, so it was refreshing to see how comfortable the girls were there. They were shy but unceasingly happy. I could tell they felt safe and supported.
I can hardly put the connection I have with Project Soar into words. But visiting the school totally transformed my trip. I experienced many obstacles, especially being a woman in that culture. So when I visited Soar I witnessed something amazing: these young girls were given a voice and hope! They could fulfill their dreams to have an education and a future that they wouldn’t otherwise have without the support of Project Soar empowering them to develop themselves and pursue their dreams in a culture where it’s very difficult for women to be seen and heard.
So with this new collection made in collaboration with Project Soar, I wanted to share with you my experience on the importance of education for young women that don’t have access, opportunities, or freedom to fulfill their dreams. Especially in the developing world where often they are not seen, heard or have the opportunity to learn and be powerful leaders. Limited resources and support make it close to impossible for girls in this part of the world to make it outside of their homes or villages. Without something or someone to inspire and give them the opportunities, there is nowhere for them to go. Project Soar is changing all of that.
After returning home, Maryam and I got to work on our new collection, Girls Soar. She suggested the idea of community and direction as they are constant themes of Project Soar. To represent these ideas, we came up with the symbol of an arrow and a vertical bar. Maryam interpreted the arrow as direction and the vertical bar as community and togetherness. To shop the Girls Soar collection, click here. 30% of all proceeds go towards uplifting these strong girls and supporting Project Soar’s beautiful mission.