In the last three years, Liberia as a country has become almost interminably linked with civil war and the Ebola epidemic. The most recent outbreak of Ebola plunged the country into hubris, with several hundred people dying in the interim. This caused mass panic, forcing many people to flee, including Miss Archel Bernard. Bernard had returned to Liberia after several years in the US to open a fashion boutique. While in the US, she decided she needed to return and make a change in her home country, whatever the consequences may be. This brief background serves as the beginnings of the Bombchel factory.
With a staff made up primarily of female Ebola survivors and one outlet, Ms Bernard’s former boutique, Bernard seeks to commercialize her adventures into fashion while helping to give sufferers and survivors of Ebola who are ostracized by their communities for having contracted the virus (Ebola is transmitted via bodily fluids and in extreme cases can be transmitted by touch).
To help them expand, Bernard has started a Kickstarter fund to raise $53,000 to help modernize the process of production and help Bombchel attain sustainability. Bernard’s design philosophy is simple. She uses African fabrics, imported Dutch wax and locally woven fabrics for her clothes, favouring them for colourful motifs.
She also keeps her designs largely simple, drawing inspiration from the way Liberians already dress and reinterpreting items like ‘Lapas/wrappas’ (a piece of fabric wrapped around the waist to make a long skirt) and blouse styles. Hiring and training indigenous artisans allows them earn a living with wages that match international standards.
It is important to note at this point that the Bombchel Factory is not a charity, and has no plans to become one. This is one of the stereotypes that Ms. Bernard has had to fight in her bid to turn her business profitable. But spotlights on international fashion website Fashion Bomb Daily has helped change perceptions of her. She continues to expand her business and improve the lives of those around her.
To donate to the kickstarter go here