People to Watch Class of 2014
JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPH
Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Passion Lilie
In 2012, Katie Schmidt traveled to India to help a home décor workshop become Fair Trade-certified.
Chatting up a woman in a small impoverished village, Schmidt posed the question, “If you could have anything in the word, what would you have?” The woman responded, “happiness and prosperity for my children.”
Her words resonated with Schmidt. “These women are in desperate need of good, reliable jobs, medical assistance and general community development,” she says. Thinking about ways she could help, Schmidt realized she could combine her background in costume design with her humanitarian efforts.
“I noticed a lack of Fair Trade dresses that were affordable, casual and what I would wear,” she says. So she founded Passion Lilie in March 2013, a company that seeks to change the world through ethical fashion, selling Fair Trade clothing at retailers around the country and online.
Schmidt’s duties entail designing and creating samples for the collection, and she continues to visit artisans in India to make sure all Fair Trade standards are met. “There are so many things I love about my job,” she says. “The humanitarian and creative aspect are really the driving forces. It isn’t easy working with artisans overseas – cultural differences, weather and festivals are just a few things that can create obstacles, but the women who do my stitching have become like a second family.” She hopes to grow the company and says that by purchasing a Fair Trade garment, “you may be saving a person’s life.”