Kresse Wesling MBE, co-founder of sustainable luxury brand Elvis & Kresse, was the Laureate for Europe in 2011 for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, and last year returned to serve on the European jury. It was at this awards event that she met with Meagan Fallone, director of Barefoot College’s.
Barefoot’s founder, Bunker Roy is a social enterprise legend and Kresse Wesling MBE (co-founder of Elvis & Kresse) has always been a fan. It came at a time when Elvis & Kresse had just started their 5-year partnership with the Burberry Foundation to find solutions to their leather waste. Elvis & Kresse always work to achieve multiple positive objectives. When they started working with their rescued leather system, they were determined to support impactful renewable energy causes, especially as 50% of their profits are donated to charities linked to the raw materials they rescue.
In 2018, at the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Kresse met with Barefoot’s Director, Meagan Fallone. You could credit this meeting to luck, but Kresse says “really you should credit it to Cartier’s incredible effort in building a community of impact entrepreneurs.”
Today, with the first donation made Elvis & Kresse are now able to officially announce that their charity partner for their rescued leather project is Barefoot College. According to Kresse, “We are always working to achieve multiple positive objectives, with Barefoot we can simultaneously help to empower women and generate renewable power… and all by rescuing and transforming scrap leather.”
Here is Barefoot College, in a nutshell:
Barefoot College is a hybrid enterprise founded by Bunker Roy in 1972 and is engaged in education, skills, economic and business development, health resources provision, clean drinking water provision, women’s empowerment and electrification through solar power specifically for rurally poor people.
Barefoot College’s Training Centre in the village of Tilonia, India trains rural women from across the globe to be Solar Engineers. The Centre also provides facilities for night schools to partner communities, in which girls heavily outnumber boys.
Every new engineer electrifies an average of 50 homes when she returns home. This electrification consists of installing and maintaining 1 Solar Home Lighting System (equipped with 2 USB charging hubs, four LED lights and a 75W panel) and 1 solar lantern. There is also a Rural Electronic Workshop (REW) which they bring to their communities by installing a 300W solar panel, with an inverter, powerful enough to run a fridge. This space and energy allows the community to fabricate lanterns and home lighting systems and service them both.
Meagan Fallone, Director of Barefoot College International is equally excited about the partnership; “Elvis & Kresse have really inspired Barefoot College with their creative and innovative reclamation techniques, and their ability to market fantastic ideas in a responsible and ethical manner – we couldn’t be more delighted to be working with them at Barefoot College.”
It takes a year to go from a first meeting to a first donation and that moment is now. Initially Elvis & Kresse predicted that they would be able to create one full scholarship. But thanks to the incredible customers, supporters, and Cartier’s network they have been able to create three!
This is the start of a beautiful partnership and Elvis & Kresse hope to share more and more of their Barefoot story over the coming years. For now, let’s meet the soon to be solar engineers; María, Silvana and Angelica. These amazing women from Guatemala are currently in India becoming training to become solar engineers and bring back the knowledge to electrify their communities.