Olivia Fay Rallies for Socially Responsible Fashion

Gabriella Bower
MBA grad Olivia Fay started her fashion brand Rallier to provide uniforms for girls in Kenya.

Rallier: defined as one that rallies, someone who brings people together for a common purpose —  and most recently the namesake of Olivia Fay’s socially responsible company. Fay is a Stern MBA grad from the class of 2015 who, in February 2016, launched her fashion brand which specializes in dresses. With each purchase of a Rallier dress, one to three uniforms will be donated to a girl in Kenya allowing girls not only the opportunity of education but also for a better life.

However, becoming a social entrepreneur in the fashion industry is not something Fay initially planned for her career. After graduating from George Washington University with a degree in Art History, Fine Arts and Sociology, she became a fashion publicist working for brands such as Cartier and Prada.

“My dream job was to be a fashion PR girl of Prada and I thought, ‘If that happens I will be happy the rest of my life,’” Fay said.

Then, Fay saw the documentary “Girl Rising,” planting the seed for what would become Rallier. “Girl Rising” tells the stories of nine girls from various places and cultures all over the world, each story striking and moving in its own right. Fay in particular remembers the story of Wadley, a young girl from Haiti.

“Seeing ‘Girl Rising’ and learning about girls who don’t have access to education is a very different view of education,” Fay said. “There were moments like when [Wadley] said goodbye [as she was leaving for school] to her mom who is sitting at a little stand. [In this scene] you see the contrast of opportunities she has as a little girl if she does get an education versus her mother. That for me that just shows how education can take you down two different paths.”

So in 2013, Fay decided to go back to school to get her MBA with intentions of acquiring a skillset to successfully launch her social entrepreneurial venture.

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via www.rallier.com

Growing up, her grandmother owned a dress store in San Francisco and Fay was always interested in the process of product development.  

“I didn’t view it as social entrepreneurship at the time but she really gave me an appreciation for how things are made and why they’re made that way,” Fay said.

During her time as an MBA candidate at Stern, she participated in the W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab, a start-up competition. Fay was also a SIIF Fellow which allowed her to be compensated to work full time on Rallier over the summer.

Now a year after graduating with an MBA, Fay has officially launched the company she has been working on since 2013. Rallier works to take traditional uniforms and reinterpret them for the modern woman.

Fay’s designs are especially inspired by history, such as the image of Elizabeth Eckford from the Civil Rights era. In this photo, Eckford is walking poised and powerful in a peter pan collared shirt with a full ankle length skirt, gingham adorning the bottom half. She is surrounded by white females and police officers who are in clear opposition of Eckford’s mission of going to an integrated high school following the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ruling.

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“I found the image when I had already come up with the idea of Rallier. I was looking for gingham throughout history and particularly educative dress and how it played out,” Fay said.  “When I came across this image it was just so serendipitous. She wasn’t in uniform and she just happened to be in gingham. She walked the line of being feminine and strong. There was so much about that image that aligned with the essence of what I wanted Rallier to be.”

Every dress is named after an influential woman — a Rallier — a woman to which the consumer can aspire and be empowered by. Moreover, each dress donates one to three uniforms which provides girls in Kenya an education. The cost of uniforms is a common barrier for girls in their pursuit for education.

Stern MBA candidates are generously allowed to take many classes outside of Stern to make their masters degree more well rounded. Fay particularly remembered Elisabeth King’s class: International Education Development. King speaks of Fay in the highest regard.

“As an educator, it is particularly heartening to see the influence of our classes and conversations in Olivia’s approach to not just try to do good, but to ask — and answer —  tough questions about what works and what doesn’t in international development and about our place in the world.”

Rallier is partners with Shining Hope for Communities. SHOFCO is a nonprofit based in New York City founded by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner-Odede.  Kennedy Odede is from Kibera, Kenya which is where the uniforms that Rallier helps fund are locally sourced. Fay chose SHOFCO for their authenticity as well as the potential for the two non-profits to grow together. Fay is also on the SHOFCO Leadership Council.

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via www.instagram.com

When asked where she sees the future of Rallier going, Fay is hesitant to name specifics due to her mission of becoming an expert in one particular category. However, she hopes to authentically expand the brand while remaining true to Rallier’s socially responsible integrity.

“Social responsibility is about your every day, every minute decisions. It’s really a way of life, it’s a way of thinking, it’s a way of being.  I think the behaviors [of millennials] that we’re seeing are going in a positive direction and it is just a testament to how we now have this generation that’s really engaged in what’s going on in the world. We no longer have the excuse of ‘I didn’t know about it.’”

A version of this article appeared in the April 18 print edition. Email Gabriella Bower at [email protected]

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