Story V 1.0

2ecc527Mirona Constantinescu is founder of Bridge to Bohemia, the first and only e-commerce site dedicated to ethical fashion inspired by cultural heritage. Bridge to Bohemia started with a wound. It is the fruit of my healing. As a refugee from  Romania growing up in Idaho I was always thinking of my family back home and the economic disparity between us- not only in distance but in quality of life. Being a young refugee from Romania turned into a  lifelong dedication to economic justice and ending poverty. I also had an artistic side and my first major in college was fashion design. In high school I did belly-dance performances and created my own costumes. I loved to sew and create clothes. But I needed something more meaningful…While my parents fought very hard for the ‘American Dream’ and achieved a great deal – I found there was a much bigger paradigm operating behind the push and pull factors of our immigration. I saw a sweater called “Bohemian Sweater” at Urban Outfitters that had a common Romanian pattern on it. I thought to myself, “Why is urban outfitters making money from this and there are people in my part of the world that are very poor?” Something sparked, right then, I decided I would modernize folkloric clothing with the money going back to Romania. That was 2005.Although I had the seed of an idea, I didn’t know if it was practical or if anyone would “care.” I took a class and wrote an extensive business plan. The professor for the business plan class looked at me like I was crazy – remember, this was 2005 and few people had heard of Social Entrepreneurship or Fair Trade at that time.MironacostumeThe closest field I could find was Fair Trade. United Students for Fair Trade had just been formed the previous year. I was chosen to be the West Coast Delegate in a strategic planning session to Nicaragua with the group. I envisioned a cultural restoration in an authentic and restorative sense – in an empowering sense. I believe that cultural hybridism is beautiful and desirable but I have a problem when the person or organization being “inspired” and designing is making money, while the culture or people who created and preserved patterns on the loom for hundreds of years are poor or starving. I went to UCLA and graduated with a degree in Economic Development in 2009 thinking I would be able to start my business right away! But I soon found…I had many personal, theoretical, and philosophical hurdles to overcome.

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