Fairway native Sacha Nana combines fashion and philanthropy in launch of NEVA athletic wear company

Sacha Nana wearing her company NEVA's athletic jacket at Fariway's Peterson Park, just a few blocks from where she grew up.
Sacha Nana wearing her company NEVA’s athletic jacket at Fariway’s Peterson Park, just a few blocks from where she grew up.

A Fairway native with family roots in the garment industry has combined her passions for philanthropy, fitness and fashion in the launch of a venture designed to shift the typical storyline associated with garment workers.

Sacha Nana, with the support of her Prairie Village-resident brother Taimoor and Digital Evolution Group CEO Neal Sharma, this month launched NEVA Activewear, a fitness apparel brand that seeks to empower southeast Asian women through its atypical approach to production and distribution.

The first line of clothing will have the message "Be the change" handstitched on the sleeve.
The first line of clothing will have the message “Be the change” handstitched on the sleeve.

The company is aiming to directly employ women to hand stitch inspirational messages onto each garment — and to pay them 10 times the standard wages in the area to do it. The approach is intended to take advantage of the embroidering skills many women in the region possess and allow them to turn it into a real livelihood.

Nana, 31 and a graduate of St. Teresa’s Academy, says that just one-third of the region’s working-age women are employed, and those who have jobs are often underpaid; the typical hourly wage in the area is around $1.50. But using a direct-to-consumer distribution method by selling the products online, the Nanas and Sharma think they’ll be able to cut out substantial costs and shift the saved funds to worker pay. The significantly higher wages should help the workers pay for food, healthcare and education that are simply too expensive for many to afford otherwise.

“There has been so much coverage lately of garment workers and the poor treatment,” Nana said. “Our family has close ties to south Asia, my dad is from Pakistan, and we thought we could make a difference there.”

NEVA has two products designed — a fitted nylon and lycra athletic jacket and a relaxed-fit terry cotton hoodie — and is in the process of raising funds needed to produce a first run of the garments. They launched a Kickstarter campaign Nov. 6 with the goal of raising $50,000 – and quickly raised more than $14,500. NEVA’s Kickstarter crowdfunding period runs through Dec. 12.

(You can see the products and learn more about the business model through the Kickstarter campaign page here.)

“The thing that inspires me about this approach is that it’s more than a one time thing,” Nana said. “We want to do it because it’s a sustainable lifestyle for these women — actual employment instead of just a one-off contribution.”