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Heather Hasson ’04

Clothes may make the man. But all it takes is a simple tie to make a child’s dream come true. That’s because, for every tie and bowtie sold by FIGS (Fashion Inspired Global Sophistication), a uniform is given to a child in Africa so he/she can attend school.

March 01, 2011

2011 Forward under 40 Award Honoree

UW Major: Political Science
Age: 28 | Santa Monica, California
CEO and Creative Director, FIGS-Threads for Threads

Clothes may make the man. But all it takes is a simple tie to make a child's dream come true.

That's because, for every tie and bowtie sold by FIGS (Fashion Inspired Global Sophistication), a uniform is given to a child in Africa so he/she can attend school.

FIGS is the brainchild of Heather Hasson, a socially conscious Badger with a keen sense of fashion. "Wisconsin opened my eyes, not only to bratwursts and homemade ice cream, but also to the choices and opportunities provided by an education," says Hasson.

And since a lack of education almost certainly guarantees a life of hardship, Hasson has been committed to kids in Africa and dressing them for success.

What do clothes have to do with education? In many parts of Africa a child may not attend school without a proper uniform, due to the strict rules about pride in appearance within African cultures.

Unfortunately, with much of the continent poverty stricken, many children are lucky to even have rags to wear. And while African governments provide school uniforms where they can, there aren't enough resources available to meet the needs of all children, resulting in a lack of education that's becoming a widespread epidemic.

So Hasson, who credits UW-Madison for building the foundation for her life of social entrepreneurship, decided to do something about it.

"Combining my interests and experiences, and all my thought-provoking ideas I had walking up Bascom Hill, led me to create what I do today," says Hasson.

In fact, her first foray into social philanthropy began with a trip to Vietnam while Hasson was still a UW student. But she wasn't selling trend-setting ties back then. She was in Ho Chi Minh City outfitting more than 170 Vietnamese children in school uniforms.

The experience ultimately turned into FIGS and her trademarked Threads for Threads program — which is currently focused on supplying uniforms to 105 schools within Kenya and Tanzania.

"I am a tie maker. Yes, a simple tie maker," Hasson has said. But, with her vision of providing school uniforms to needy children around the world and her company commissioned to design ties for the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative Conference and the launch of the Whitney Museum in New York, Hasson is more of a dream maker.

In her own words

What advice would you offer to graduating seniors?

THINK BIG. Be courageous. Be curious. Do not wait for opportunity. Make opportunity. Pay attention. You really have to pay attention.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Don't wait until everything is just right, it will never be perfect.

I also like this piece of advice: If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

What's next for you and your company? What do you see happening or hope will happen in the next five years?

In the next five years, we will provide uniforms to tens of thousands of children all across the world so they can get the education they deserve.

Build a brand that invokes confidence with a touch of fantasy, and form partnerships on a global level.

And meet interesting people along the way.

What occupies your free time?

Chess, enjoying Wes Anderson films, and wandering around obscure bookstores.

What was your first job?

My first form of social entrepreneurship was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, helping Vietnamese children attend school where they could not afford to do so. I was always a huge believer in giving someone in need an opportunity.

My first job EVER was selling lemonade...freshly squeezed, of course.

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