Cheryl Najafi is the face behind a fashion brand championing social justice causes
Cheryl Najafi is the face behind a fashion brand championing social justice causes.
By Michelle Talsma Everson
Local author and businesswoman Cheryl Najafi grew up in a small town in Missouri where, she admits, everyone looked like her.
“I was clueless that the world outside of me was so vastly different,” she says. But, when she went to Arizona State University for college, she says her world opened up.
“I was in awe of how many different people there were,” she says. “As I made new friends, I noticed there were subtle tones of differences as to how my friends were treated versus how I—as a white woman—was treated. That planted a seed in me of awareness and empathy.”
After college, Najafi married Jahm Najafi, a local businessman and part owner of the Phoenix Suns. He also happens to be an immigrant, and when the couple began having children, Najafi says that the concept of inclusivity became even more important.
“My husband is an immigrant. When we had kids together, I realized that at some point, we would need to nurture our children to stand up for inclusivity while also instilling a great sense of pride in their cultural heritage,” she says. “Now, more than ever, we try to emulate the change we wish to see in the world as an example to our children.”
While her three children (18-year-old twins and age 17) were growing up, Najafi founded a multimedia lifestyle brand called Everyday Dishes & DIY. She also became a best-selling author of two lifestyle books. But, on January 27, 2017, she felt called to take her career in a new direction.
“On that day I heard news about the travel ban and my greatest fears felt real—the strains of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry had boiled to the surface at a level I had not experienced before,” she explains. “I’d been thinking about these issues for decades wondering how I could make a difference without knowing exactly how to do it. But on that day, I thought: we are a nation built by immigrants, we shouldn’t be imposing a decree that keeps immigrants out of our country based on where they came from.”
“Differences are good, differences should be celebrated,” Najafi continues. “I had to draw a line in the sand and say that this isn’t okay. I wanted to use my platform—the community I built online—to create change.”
Najafi looked around for clothing to match her views of inclusivity but says she fell short of clothing she wanted to wear. So, she started Love Over H8 Apparel, a direct-to-consumer clothing line that raises money for groups who have been disenfranchised. Through the brand, $5 from each sale goes toward a charity of the consumer’s choice that helps to counter violence and bullying, hate and racism, sexual prejudice, or sexism and gender inequality. Not only do her clothes have the Love Over H8 logo on them, but also they’re made in a way that’s environmentally and socially conscious.
“It is extremely important to us that we have a minimal environmental impact,” she says. “For example, our signature joggers and hoodies are made with 95 percent modal—a natural fiber made from recycled wood pulp—our cotton blends are organic whenever possible, and we use dead stock and upcycled fabric that would otherwise get thrown into the landfill. Furthermore, our clothes are made in Los Angeles by workers paid livable wages, attend development and self-improvement classes, and work in a clean and safe environment.”
While the brand just launched this past January, they already made waves at L.A. Fashion Week, where the models showcased their athletic leisure clothing with picket signs down the runway.
Najafi says that she has big goals for the Love Over H8 brand—she hopes to see it become a mainstream brand within the next few years.
“The pieces are very well made; couture level quality at a direct to consumer price point,” she says. “With a quantifiable donation amount going back to nonprofits that have boots on the ground doing good work for causes we care about, we believe it’s a formula for success.”
To learn more, visit loveoverh8.com.
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