Meet Jena Murray – a former intern at the Canadian Space Agency, an Alberta Sports Hall of Fame honoured athlete and fashion designer. Yes, it seems like she’s done it all, but now Jena’s focus is to empower girls to gain self-esteem through the exploration of art. But let’s see what Jena had to say about her latest endavour (VEENA), as we had the pleasure to sit down and interview her.
“I am very proud to own VEENA because it embodies many of my own personal beliefs and it represents who I am as a person. It took several rounds of brainstorming, idea generation and self exploration to reach this point. I feel fulfilled knowing that I am trying to make a positive impact on the world through business.”- Jena Murray
Luevo: What is your favourite thing about being a designer? What path would you have followed, had you not become a designer?
JM: My favorite part about being a designer is having the freedom to create. Designing allows me to explore the world around me and combine it with my imagination to create products that are innovative, thoughts provoking and so much more than they appear to be on the surface.
Luevo: What obstacles have you had to face and overcome to get where you are today?
JM: It has taken a lot of determination and perseverance to get where I am today. I have never been one to settle and I am an extreme over achiever. Some of the decisions I have made and experiences I have overcome include leaving a full time position as a 3D artist to go back to school for Fashion Design & Marketing, making a drastic switch from the sciences to fine art during University, completing an internship at the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal, moving to New York and completing an internship with Anna Sui, and deciding to pass up opportunities in the fashion industry to chase my entrepreneurial dream.
Luevo: Tell us more about VEENA WARRIORS, what is it?
JM: VEENA WARRIORS is a program for girls that I have started in tandem with the VEENA clothing line to help girls build self esteem, strength and courage. During VEENA WARRIORS sessions girls take part in creative and artistic activities that help them reflect, communicate and share their thoughts with others. A staggering number of girls suffer from low self esteem and it is my goal to help girls feel better about themselves using art. As I begin to develop sessions for next year, I want to focus on four key areas; body image, media pressure, fears and anxiety. We will address each of these issues individually and conduct workshops that help girls learn about themselves, their environment, and peers.
When girls create artwork by participating in VEENA WARRIORS, I will be using their artwork as direct inspiration for the upcoming season of VEENA clothing. I will also be naming specific styles after girls participating in VEENA WARRIORS. I want girls to feel empowered when they wear VEENA clothing and I want it to represent who they are.
Luevo: Why did you decide to build this program?
JM: I decided to create the VEENA WARRIORS program because it brings my ideas full circle and fulfills my personal goal of helping girls love themselves. I want to have a company that represents something more and affects individual lives on a personal level. I also want to build a personal relationship with girls that will be wearing my product. I want the items we create through VEENA to hold a strong meaning and I want them to tell a story far beyond the style, cut and stitching.
Luevo: Are you targeting a particular group of young girls, or anyone can join your VEENA WARRIORS program?
JM: VEENA WARRIORS is open to all girls under 16 years of age, regardless of ethnicity, background or economic status.
Luevo: Tell us about the factory you are using for VEENA clothing
JM: VEENA works with a factory that was established in 1994 in Southern India, Assisi Garments. The factory was set up by Franciscan nuns and provides training and employment for deaf, mute and economically disadvantaged women. Their workspace expands over 50,000 square feet and their product comes with FLO certification, meaning it is both Fair Trade and follows Global Organic Textile Standards. Assisi was one of the first factories in India to work with organic cotton, free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They offer a safe working environment, employees are paid fair wages, and they both support and contribute to an old age home, cancer hospital and orphanage in South India.
Luevo: What does sustainability mean to you?
JM: Sustainability means that you are conscious of your ecological footprint and the effects your actions have on the world.
I am passionate about being a social enterprise because it is important to have some kind of greater purpose and responsibility as a business owner. I place a high value on being fair trade and organic certified because traditional manufacturing and business practices in the fashion industry are extremely harmful. Personally, I wouldn’t feel good about selling a product that negatively affects our planet or people.
Luevo: We know you are crowdfunding, why did you decide to take this route and why did you choose Indiegogo?
JM: I chose to do a crowdfunding campaign to build a customer base for VEENA, generate brand awareness and raise funds to expand the VEENA WARRIORS program. I chose Indiegogo because they offer flexible funding options, support Canadians and have a stronger artistic and creative following.
Luevo: Finally, what do you see in store for VEENA for the near future?
JM: I plan to grow VEENA as an online e-commerce company and to expand the VEENA WARRIORS program. I would like to prepare a series of VEENA WARRIROS sessions for next year that focus on helping girls in 4 key areas; media pressure, body image, fears and anxiety. I also plan to re-visit India and volunteer in schools helping girls learn a creative skill and English. While in India, I will be visiting Assisi Factory and working on the development of Spring 2016.