NaaAmerley Badger is in many ways just at the beginning of her fashion journey, but itâ€™s already been an unusual one.
As creator of the brand Paulo Redeem, Badger recently won the first-ever Amiri Prize and landed a $100,000 grant â€” without any formal fashion training to her name. Rather than spending the last decade plus bending over a sewing machine or attending fashion school, Badger spent it working as a teacher, then as an assistant principal, in the public school system in Philadelphia.
She started her brand, which focuses on rescuing unwanted clothing and textiles and garments and turning them into new clothing, as a response to excess in her own closet.
â€œI had a lot of clothes, as many people do, and I was thinking about how I could maybe rework some of them versus just donating them,â€ Badger says in a phone interview. (It was a smart move from a sustainability standpoint, as much of the clothing we donate ends up in landfills.)
Badger started pinning things together, adding cargo pockets to a jacket or ruffles to a hoodie to create a handful of beautiful Frankenstein-style garments. She got help sewing the pieces together, received affirmation from a designer friend that the designs were something truly special, and before she knew it, Badger was creating a whole collection.
She spent the next two years of nights and weekends plugging away at the project while continuing her work as an educator during the day, before making the leap to quit her job to focus on Paulo Redeem full time in 2021. Moving to Mexico City to be nearer to potential production partners followed closely after.
â€œTwo years ago I had this idea: What if I remixed clothes, using things that already exist to create something new? And now Iâ€™m at this place where I can actively do that,â€ she says. â€œIâ€™ve been able to receive the support that I think I deserve. And that is going to allow me to express myself more creatively and to dream even bigger.â€
We hopped on the phone to chat with Badger about her unique journey into the fashion industry, the rich history of Black sustainability, and more. Read on for highlights from our conversation.
Whatâ€™s the story behind the name of the brand?
I was inspired by The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; thatâ€™s why I selected Paulo. And then â€˜redeemâ€™ comes from this idea that the clothes are redeeming their impact on the earth, and weâ€™re redeeming them by using them to make something else.
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