I love how you have been involved with multiple brands and organizations to join forces and raise money for Armenia Fund. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been working on?
I never hesitate to get involved in helping Armenia, even though it can be frustrating being so far away. Watching my homeland deal with economic collapse and COVID-19, I knew I had to do more during this pandemic. Armenia has survived a genocide and is currently dealing with Artsakh, a region of ethnic-majority Armenians, potentially being stripped of its sovereignty. With this cataclysmic collection of events happening right now in Armenia, it is so important to get the word out to mainstream news sources. Most people are not familiar with what is going on, as the conflicts and history of Armenia and its people are vast and complicated. So when my dear friend Olivia Jamgotchian reached out and asked if I would become a founding board member and advisor for Armenia Support Fund, I, of course, did not hesitate to get involved. ASF was founded on the premise of helping Armenians stimulate the Armenian economy with grants to bolster small businesses in Armenia. We believe in encouraging businesses to make enterprising long-term decisions—empowering them to succeed through promoting sustainable business models and infrastructure. So far, we have awarded 45 grants to small businesses, but the work is not done. We continue to raise funds to make more relief available for many business owners in Armenia.
ASF’s latest endeavor, Shop Shouga, is a virtual bazaar that mirrors the open-air markets of Armenia to support local designers and producers. The goal is to help Armenians sell their wares and for Armenians and non-Armenians alike to experience Armenia from the comfort of their own homes. This will be under the umbrella of ASF. Each time a purchase is made, a contribution will go to the small businesses in need of capital to expand their opportunities.
Another project, a collaboration between myself and Omnes All (sold on ShopStyleguise), was designed to blend fashion and giving back because, What is the point of creation without finding a way to pass along some of that good fortune? A bracelet, with the colors of the Armenian flag, tells the story of my past, present, and future. Armenia is intricately a part of me, and what a perfect way to show that with a delicate bracelet holding the hues of all that is Armenia. Also on Styleguise was the Honey collection, a collection of a mask, scrunchie, and scarf, all in a beautiful, rich gold, made from 100% deadstock fabric. The Armenia Fund received 50% of the proceeds for humanitarian efforts in Armenia.
Another passion of mine is Armenian coffee. It’s one of the things I tout as best from where I’m from, so the collab with Henry’s Coffee, creating the ASF blend, was a match made in heaven. Coffee is the ultimate equalizer, and it brings people together, no matter where they hail from. All countries have their own special blend. This blend was especially for this collaboration, and 100% of the proceeds went to ASF. We also created a Homeland Tote, a bag designed to carry a little piece of Armenia with you, wherever you may end up. The bag’s proceeds were divided among ASF (40%) and Armenia Fund (60%) and Kooyrigs (60%) and ASF (40%) on our second round, all assisting Armenians in creating a better Armenia for future generations. With all these collaborations combined, we have raised close to 80k for Armenia!
How has your platform helped you amplify Armenian’s voices?
For us, as children of the Armenian diaspora, we know the importance of “never forget.” We were raised on it and raised on the stories of the Armenian Genocide. We were told of our responsibility to make sure something like that never happens again. The responsibility is where my passion comes from and is why I try to use my platform to educate about the turmoil Armenia faces. My goal is to make Armenian culture accessible and to spotlight the struggles in the Armenian community and in Armenia itself.
I am always so thrilled when someone reaches out saying that they learned about what’s happening in Armenia from me or if they tried Armenian coffee for the first time based on a recommendation I had made. I love to show the beautiful things that Armenia is while also showing the upheaval in the country. Because if people can resonate with a culture, they can care about the suffering of its people. Empathy comes after familiarity. How can you care about something you know nothing about?
Right now, with everything going on in Armenia and in the world, I am simply calling for peace, for kindness, and for patience. For taking the time to understand where someone else is coming from. It’s hard sometimes to not get frustrated or angry watching Armenia in pain while I am so far away, but I try to use that emotion to help, as fuel for my fire.
Only time will tell what will happen in Armenia. Things seem to change by the minute. But what I do know is that I will continue to speak for Armenia in any way that I can. Armenians cannot and will not be silenced. It’s against everything that we are as a people. We simply cannot forget.