Olivia Rose Fay was content with her career as a marketing professional for high fashion brands — like Prada, Cartier, and Alberta Ferreti — but when she saw the documentary "Girl Rising," everything changed.
“When I saw the documentary, it was impossible for me not to relate personally," Fay told NBC News about the documentary, which focuses on access and equality when it comes to girls' education. "I saw glimmers of myself, my mother, and my grandmother in the film’s stories. It was heartbreaking. I really loved my job in fashion PR, but I realized that I needed something more."
In 2013, Fay left her marketing career behind with the goal of starting her own women's label: Rallier, which launched officially at the start of 2016, features dresses made in New York and inspired by the school uniform, embodying the aesthetic of “grit and grace” that speaks to the stories of young women across the world that are fighting for their right to have a decent education.
“To me, fashion is more than the clothes. It’s about the culture, and how it reflects what’s going on in the world,” Fay said. “When I saw 'Girl Rising,' it knocked me over the head. It made me ask, 'What can I do about it?'”
Further research had led Fay to discover that one of the barriers that prevented girls from going to school was the inability to acquire a school uniform. At Rallier, for every dress sold, “school uniforms are sourced from regions plagued by gender inequality and given to local schoolgirls,” according to Rallier's website.
In January, Fay went to Kenya to visit Rallier's founding non-profit partner, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), which operates tuition-free schools for girls in one of Africa’s largest urban slums. “The girls at the schools are overwhelmingly bright," Fay said. "They have unlimited potential because of the environment that SHOFCO has created. It was amazing to see firsthand.”
Fay, who is half-Chinese and half-Jewish, said she knew early on in her life that she would work in fashion. Growing up in San Francisco, Fay described being influenced by global fashion all her life. Her paternal grandparents came from the French quarter of Shanghai and immigrated to California during the era of communism. Fay’s grandmother grew up Shanghai during the era when the fashion industry rose to new heights, and was heavily influenced by the French culture that was leading the global fashion movement, according to Fay.
“I relate to being mixed. I embrace difference, and it’s something ingrained in who I am,” Fay, who studied Art History, Fine Arts, and Sociology as an undergrad at George Washington University, said.
As for the impact Fay is creating with Rallier, she says she hopes to make social responsibility an accessible feat. “For this millennial generation, social responsibility is part of a daily lifestyle, not just something we do a few times a year," Fay said. "I believe fashion has always been reflective of who you are and what you value.”