From Flint, Michigan, under a continued COVID-19 quarantine, Ali Rose VanOverbeke, Founder and CEO at Genusee, the first circular economy eyewear brand, joins Fashioncast via Zoom to share her inspirational and motivational story of struggle, renewal, and awakening in her quest to build a company that matters.
There’s no denying Ali VanOverbeke is on a mission. The Parsons School of Design graduate began planning her fashion career in the second grade and set her sights on Parsons in the fourth grade! Innovative, intelligent, visionary, and driven, the articulate VanOverbeke leaves the audience spellbound after detailing her time spent in the design trenches of New York’s ultra-competitive fashion world before a short sabbatical and finding karma in India. Ali’s story as a creative is as much about finding herself, and her role in the world, as it is about art and fashion.
In 2016, after elevated levels of lead were confirmed in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water, both state and federal emergencies were declared. Notably, this is when the story takes a major turn, not only for VanOverbeke and for Flint, but likely for the future of fashion. On an unplanned and voluntary mission working with the American Red Cross delivering water to Flint residences, Ali’s genesis of Genusee takes place and her “calling” is absolute.
Genusee is the most unique and compelling fashion fable we’ve encountered. If you’re not awed by its multifaceted missions regarding job creation for Flint’s structurally unemployed, or its manufacturing of sustainable eyewear from single-use water bottles, then surely, you’ll be awed by its product design and quality. While many of the principal fashion brands adopt social and sustainability policies and dole out checks of solidarity, upstart Genusee “walks the talk” and is defining a new and refreshing standard in the fashion industry.
But, setting new standards is hard work and VanOverbeke seems to be pushing all boundaries at once. For example, the maverick manufacturer is justifiably critical of America’s recycling industry. Imagine, according to the EPA (2017 latest data), 75.8% of all plastic material generated in the U.S. Municipal Solid Waste stream was sent to landfills! Clearly, there’s much work to be done.
Lastly, Ali briefly discusses the future of Genusee, the current importance of Instagram as the marketing tool of choice, utterly downplays the role of influencers and shares her hard-earned business acumen with those contemplating a career in fashion or entrepreneurship.
Ali VanOverbeke is living Genusee’s motto–“Be the change you want to see.” Bravo!!