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    Cincinnati-based Geetha Minton is a clothing designer with local roots, internationally-inspired designs, and a global vision to end human trafficking. Read more about her clothing line, GKM Design, and how she’s infusing Indian textiles and colors with Western silhouettes to create a stylish (and lifesaving) fashion empire.

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    Geetha Minton, Founder of GKM Design.

    Human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic that has impoverished thousands of women across the world. This concept of modern day slavery isn’t just limited to one country or one particular part of the world.

    From the U.S. to the Middle East, the fight to stop human trafficking has emerged in a number of ways. Geetha Minton, Cincinnati-based founder of GKM Design, is doing what she can to help women in Moldova who have been rescued from human trafficking.

    “GKM Design is a Freedom Business that helps support women who have been rescued from the red light districts of India and Moldova,” she explains. A percentage of the sales from GKM Design go to the organization Freeset, a fair trade business that helps to employ women who have been rescued from the sex trade.

    Photo by Sherri Barrber P
    Photo by Sherri Barrber Photography

    When working on the designs for her own dress line, Minton says she wanted to create something similar Western cut dresses but with the look of a sari or lehenga.

    “The Indian fabrics and embroidery are incredibly unique and the detail is like no other,” she says. “However, growing up in America I really admired the the style and drape of Western cut dresses. So I thought, why not marry the two?”

    So, with that idea in mind, Minton was able to fuse Western cut dresses with Indian textiles, colors and accents to insure a one-of-a-kind creation that you can’t find anywhere else.

    She knows all too well that you can’t find this design elsewhere, as she was first inspired to create this unique style when searching for bridesmaids dresses for her wedding. Frustrated in her search, Minton, with no formal design background, ended up designing her five bridesmaids dresses, each unique to their body type and personality.

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    That, she says, is where she found her passion for fashion design. Soon after, she began designing her own dresses for events and special occasions. Then, she began researching fabrics, embellishments, and regions where she could source her products and skilled workers.

    Today, while the majority of material needed for her dresses is sourced from India, Minton says that anything she can’t get from there is purchased from local businesses.

    Minton officially launched her business in Spring 2016, and her first collection will debut at the second annual Cincinnati Fashion Night on July 22 at Performance Lexus Rivercenter, in Covington KY. “We will be showcasing our signature dress line, which currently consists of 6 dresses, as the fashion show sponsor at the event,” she says.

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    More photos, details about the line, and information about Cincinnati Fashion Night event will be posted soon on her GKM Design Facebook page. Minton says she hopes to have the website launched by the end of July.

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    Learn about the locally-launched fashion line that’s on a mission to fight human trafficking, and how you can help through their Kickstarter campaign.

    The Parative Project
    The Parative Project supports the rescue of women in India from human trafficking.

    It all started with a simple conversation. “During a conversation over lunch with my friend, Ryan Berg, who talked to me about human trafficking in India for the first time, I knew I wanted to use my project to spread awareness on the issue,” Drew Oxley recalls.

    Shortly after this eye-opening conversation, Oxley created the Parative Project. With a play on the word partitive, which means to “break apart,” Oxley, created a T-shirt company that not only tells a story with every single T-shirt design, but they would be made by the hands of those whose story is being told.

    The Parative Project is getting funding backing from Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website designed to accept donations from your peers to fund project-based companies. According to the Kickstarter website, it supports a variety of projects from films, games and music to art, design and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people.

    The Parative Project items are designed by an Ohio local artist, Joshua Minnich. The T-shirts have simple yet heartfelt catch phrases such as “Our freedom is tied together” and “You are loved.”

    “[Minnich] is great! I’ve been working with him for about a year now. I can’t put to paper what I’m thinking design­-wise, but Josh has a knack for nailing every design,” says Oxley when talking about the design process.

    One of the T-shirt designs available through The Parative Project.
    One of the T-shirt designs available through The Parative Project.

    According to Oxley, the women who will be constructing the garments in India have been rescued from human trafficking. “They will now receive a living salary, health care, retirement and proper aftercare,” he adds.

    In India, working conditions for civilians are sub par compared to other countries. Recently in January of this year, a story in the Huffington Post focused on a women’s garment workers’ union in Rajasthan, India. According to this article, garment workers sew nearly 150 pieces an hour, and make up for any shortfall in daily targets without overtime pay, even if pregnant or unwell. If they don’t meet their quotas, they face deductions from their wages and even lose their jobs. “None of those practices are being done with our partners’ workspaces,” says Oxley. “Our company and our partners are people over profit.”

    As for the women who are rescued from trafficking in India, the government offers them a one month aftercare program. This program is unpaid, though, and many women opt out of going. For the women who do go, many are forced back into being trafficked. The Aruna Project and Freeset—The Parative Project partners—are set out to be an alternative way out, as women are immediately paid for their training, which leads them to a self-sustaining job. The women are also offered assistance in finding a place to live, care for their children and aftercare rehabilitation.

    Another T-shirt design offered by The Parative Project.
    Another T-shirt design offered by The Parative Project.

    Now, there are only four days left to contribute to The Parative Project, and they’re only about $400 short of their $20,000 goal. “We had several backers in the first minutes. Our customers and fans were awesome right from the start,” explains Oxley.

    The Parative Project items—which includes T-shirts and recently expanded offerings such as children’s T-shirts, tote bags and flags—are for sale now by visiting their Kickstarter website. There, you can find more information about the business, their mission and follow their journey.

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