New Standards of Social Responsibility Set for "Green" Fashion Industry by Leading Humanitarian Efforts to Install Solar Electricity into Women's Fair Trade Sewing Cooperative

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Austin, Texas designer, René Geneva leads efforts to install 19kw solar electrical system into women's fair trade sewing cooperative with the Sun Power Project. Recent travels abroad with Joseph Marino of DC-Power Systems sees this project is one step closer to completion.

Small business is setting higher standards in the fashion industry. Designer René Geneva, of Faernyn's Grove is providing leadership to facilitate the design and installation of a 19 kilowatt solar electrical system into the Fair Trade Zone of Nicaragua. The design can include an off-grid system with battery backup and an off-roof, movable array to ensure maximum exposure to the sun.

The Fair Trade Zone, which manufactures Geneva's eco-friendly clothing, began as a project of the Center for Development of Central America (of the nonprofit Jubilee House) to help those who fled from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Located within a Free Trade Zone where wages are typically too low to meet the basic needs of the worker, this cooperative is the first of its kind to be certified Fair Trade and owned by the workers, that are paid a living wage. The solar project will also help other efforts overseen by the CDCA that reside on the property, including a spinning plant, builders cooperative, International Training Facility, and a hydro well that serves as an emergency source of water for the surrounding area population. Funds redirected from the current electricity bill can be put toward other CDCA projects such as their community medical clinic and sustainable agricultural programs.

"Typically, they have to deal with 4-12 hours per day of black out conditions and are able to only run a fraction of their equipment from a bio-diesel generator," says Rene. Her first trip to Nicaragua in 2005 was to provide the workers with more technical sewing skills and grow their customer base. Geneva has been committed to the success of the Fair Trade Zone, and since 2006 has been working to provide solar electricity for the sewing cooperative to help their community even further.

Since the Sun Power Project began, Rene has rallied people in the industry to join the effort. Solar Energy International will provide training for the installation, Suni Solar in Managua will help with hands on design and advice, and DC Power Systems will provide designs and procure equipment. It was the entrance of Joseph Marino of DC Power Systems that took this project to the next level. Marino has experience with completing projects similar to this one in Nicaragua, specifically in Mulukuku where he worked with Dorothy Granada to install an 8kw system into their free medical clinic. Geneva recently returned from Nicaragua where she traveled with Marino, Philip Beard, retired professor and long-time humanitarian supporter, and Douglas Gonzalez of Suni Solar to tour completed and future projects.

While Geneva's designs are eco-friendly, social responsibility is anything but drab in her fashion's. Her designs are unique and funky, made from certified organic cottons, hemps, and formaldehyde-free silks; with a focus on corsets, urban and eveningwear, and "green" bridal gowns. In particular, her famous Lotus Wedding Gown, made from Hemp Silk that has a train that actually twinkles."Coming together in this creative effort, for me, is the best example of being able to make a real difference and meet amazing people along the way. Every step is an adventure, it's what I live for." says Geneva whose new 'green' fashions produced in the Fair Trade Zone will hit the racks soon.

Suni Solar is located in the heart of Managua, Nicaragua. Douglas Gonzalez can be reached at douglas.gonzalez(@)

DC Power Systems is located in beautiful Healdsburg, CA. Joseph Marino can be reached at (800) 967-6917 or on the web at

Faernyn's Grove Corsetry's showroom is located at 509 W. Elizabeth Street, Austin, Texas (512)-762-2918 and on the web at

Ready to Wear Available at:
Ahead of the Curve Bridal, The Arboretum, (512) 343-2317
Unbridaled (512) 444-2743
Blackmail Boutique (512) 326-7670
Moxie & the Compound (512) 441-6699
Parts & Labor (512) 326-1648
EcoWise (512)-326-4474
Storyville Boutique (512) 220-9330
Foundation Garments (503)282-2763

Magazine Article: Austin Monthly, April 2007
Magazine Centerfold: Feedback Magazine, Issue #22, Pg 30-33


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