The very first time Beth Doane tried to save the rain forest, she was 8 years old and began collecting lunch money from fellow elementary-schoolers.
It was a misguided plan, she admits today - one that got her nowhere but in trouble.
Now, at age 24, the Whitehouse resident has a new vision to accomplish that same objective.
Today, Ms. Doane will unveil her first line of environmentally conscious clothing - Rain Tees - at the Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles. The week-long event features everything from accessories to haute couture. And on a special runway that will come to life at 6 tonight, organic cotton T-shirts, sundresses, and summer skirts adorned with the creative drawings of youngsters living in rain forest communities will offer a chance to look good while championing positive change.
"They were asked to draw a couple of different things, what they loved about where they lived," Ms. Doane said. "Older kids were asked to draw what they saw happening around them. When you see these drawings from these young kids, you really realize what is going on."
What was going on involves the slow degradation of the one of the earth's greenest environments, she said.
A 2001 graduate of Anthony Wayne High School, Ms. Doane studied communication, theater, and writing at Eastern Michigan University. After earning her degree, she traveled to Europe to explore.
She spent time in Italy, Spain, and finally London. In each destination, she gravitated to the local outdoor markets. Among the stands of cheeses, flowers, and paintings, she encountered designers and artisans with products ripe for the U.S. market.
It was in those markets in London that she found APOC, or A Piece of Cake, the first product in her import and distribution company. With that line of women's accessories Andira International Ltd. was born, a company with a focus on eco-friendly accessories.
The source of inspiration for the name of her company? The nearly extinct Andira tree located among the quickly disappearing rain forests of Central and South America.
"I had to decide, do I want to have a job or do I want to do something that I'm passionate about," she said. "I never really wanted just a job."
Ms. Doane's travel continued and her company flourished. She sold the products at trade shows. And the more she learned of the industry, the more she "realized how it worked."
So when she developed an idea for a line of women's casual clothing, Ms. Doane said she decided to bring it to life herself.
She had the right idea, met the right people, and had the right intentions.
"It all came together through circumstance and serendipity," she said.
Andira donated school supplies to children living in endangered rain forests in Central and South America. Each child was asked to draw what they see happening around them.
The child's name accompanies their drawing on Andira Rain Tees, and they include a tree crying tears of leaves, a brightly colored tropical bird, and vines of pink, blue, and yellow flowers. Some of the children wrote poems or phrases.
"I love living in the rain forest because it is a place of peace," said an 11-year-old boy living in Ecuador - a phrase that now adorns the brightly colored cotton of Andira's clothing.
"Our goal is to educate consumers while giving hope to the people and wildlife of rain forest communities," Ms. Doane said in brochures for the new collections, literature that features photographs of the children at play and as they draw.
"For every Andira Rain Tee sold, a child involved in Kids Savings the Rain Forest, Costa Rica will receive a tree that they can plan in an area of rain forest that has been destroyed."
The collection - which uses only sustainable and earth-friendly fabrics - will be unveiled today, but Toledoans looking to don something from the Andira Rain Tee line won't be able to help the rain forest just yet. It will be a few months before the line will be available for sale to the public.
Locally, the collection will be on sale at Red Envy, a boutique in Cricket West shopping plaza on Central Avenue at Secor Road. Already the local sales location for APOC purses, Red Envy owner Amy Foreman said she is excited to bring Rain Tees to Toledo.
"I love the products. I love the prints. It's a great line," said Ms. Foreman, a longtime friend of Ms. Doane's. "People can feel good about themselves. It's a conversation piece."
Although not yet priced in stores, the brochures suggest a price of $48 for T-shirts, $36 for tank tops, $72 for hooded sweatshirts, $52 for sweatpants, and between $96 and $144 for different styles of sundresses.
With the help of her team of designers and producers, including Bethany Armstrong and Janelle Gramlin of Milwaukee, Ms. Doane said she hopes to create more eco-friendly lines to help educate the public and inspire positive change.
"I was always a step in the other direction. I grew up on a small farm. My best friends when I was a kid were my sheep and kitties," she said.
"I think [my passion] started in elementary school when I was reading about a gorilla named Coco, I was fascinated by it. We were talking about [it] in school and how the rain forests were being cut down. I knew even as a kid that that was so wrong and that we would suffer," she said. "I was always trying to save something."
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