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ABLE Empowers Women

"A company born out of the need to help liberate and support women."

Article by Morgan Raum

Photography by Nicola Harger

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

ABLE first came to be when Barrett Ward, Founder and CEO of the brand, made it a priority to find a way to create better opportunities for women, who make up 80% of the workers in the fashion industry. At age thirty, he went on a trip to Peru that changed his life forever. Leaving the country with a striking feeling that he was missing the entire point of life, Barrett decided to switch from a career in corporate sales to one in the nonprofit world. Five years later, he moved to Africa with his wife to help provide work for the brilliant women sacrificing themselves to poor working conditions. In 2013, he began teaching women – many of whom had been trafficked – how to make scarves to sell during the holidays. Scarf making is a largely male-dominated industry in Addis Ababa, but with training and dedication, these women sold over four thousand scarves in just two months. Blown away by the success, Barrett knew they were onto something greater than themselves.

He later became aware of the leather factories in Ethiopia that curated goods with intricate detail and design, which inspired him to transition the work from scarves to leather. Therefore, ABLE began collaborating with manufacturers across the world to create leather pieces of their own, as well as continue to support vendors in other countries and help them grow their own businesses. Putting lots of thought into choosing their manufacturers, ABLE values top-quality products, wage levels, and especially how they care for women in the workplace. ABLE’s website states, “We were the first brand to publish our lowest wages, and we’re big believers that you don’t have to be perfect before you can be honest. We are continuing to work toward living wages at all our manufacturers, and currently evolving our auditing standards to make sure they align with the values we’ve had since we were founded.”

Their home office in Nashville is made up of 96% women. Sarah Deveney, Director of Partnerships and Projects at ABLE, speaks on what it means to her to be part of an organization that recognizes and celebrates women every day. She shares, “We support each other and collaborate on things. The women that are a part of this company truly make it what it is. We care about each other and about the greater mission of bringing sustainable jobs and a lifestyle to people across the world. Being able to share that with my coworkers says a lot about who we are – it’s all to support each other and uplift each other every day.”

Sarah has a background working in male-dominated organizations, so she explains that making the shift from being one of the only females to being one of many was a very easy jump to make. Highlighting the supportive community she shares with her coworkers, she says, “At ABLE, I can show up every day exactly as I am. I can be me.” 

With an array of items from high-quality leather bags, shoes, women's apparel, denim & handmade jewelry, each piece is thoughtfully designed to combine style, function, and fit so you can look good and feel great. Prioritizing quality and longevity, ABLE also makes it their mission to find the most eco-conscious materials that stand the test of time and wear. ABLE also works to create safe, dignified jobs both in Nashville – where their home office, jewelry studio, and fulfillment center are - and around the world, through their partnerships with value-aligned manufacturers. 

“Hiring women and training them in skilled positions like creating jewelry became part of ABLE. To have our jewelry handmade in Nashville is a big piece of who we are. Supporting women through the same aspect of employment, [providing] sustainable jobs to help their families [like we had in Ethiopia] and being able to do that in Nashville created that connection to where the company is today,” Sarah shares while speaking on their Nashville community.

Together with their customers, they believe they can move the fashion industry forward and show the positive change possible when brands and customers value both the customer and the worker. For more information, visit

"Prioritizing quality and longevity, we find the most eco-conscious materials that stand the test of time and wear."

“We are clothing women from head to toe with pieces that empower both the women who wear them, and the women who make them.”

Businesses featured in this article