MARIE WHITNEY, founder + creative director
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Two Penny Blue?
A: Two Penny Blue is a fashion label with a higher purpose. We are a brand of women's jackets and blazer committed to social change through global education for girls. With every jacket sold we donate a new, locally-made, school uniform to a girl in need in Africa.
Q: Why jackets?
A: I decided to focus on jackets and blazers for several reasons - firstly - every woman loves a jacket or blazers. Every time over the past 9 years that I have told someone about Two Penny Blue the initial reaction is always the same : I love jackets and blazers! And it still makes me smile every time - because of course I love them too. More importantly - to me the blazer is such symbolic piece in a woman’s wardrobe - it has this element of androgyny and becomes of the cornerstone of power dressing. I love the idea of taking this traditionally male piece and making it modern and feminine and ours - while still maintaining all of the power and beauty of the piece. I’m so passionate about designing in a way that adapts the blazer to our needs while still maintaining the strength and power of the piece.
Q: What is the mission?
A: The mission of Two Penny Blue is to educate and empower girls in need throughout the world through fashion. With every jacket and blazer sold we donate a new school uniform to a girl in need in Africa - which often times opens the door to her education and in many ways changes the trajectory of her life. For many girls this may be the first new garment they have ever received and the look of pride and joy they have when receiving it is heartwarming. Also - we strive to have all the school uniforms locally made so not only are we helping girls access education but we also seek to support the local economies in the communications we serve. This is a part of a comprehensive approach for our impact and I am really proud of because it sets our model apart from many of the other one-for-one donation models.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Two Penny Blue?
A: My favorite thing about Two Penny Blue is our mission. To have the opportunity to do work which is creative, but that also has a purpose and impact globally is truly the greatest privilege. I get to lead a team thats comes to work everyday for something much greater than ourselves, or fashion - we come to work for each other and for the purpose of helping girls around the world achieve their highest purpose as well - with education as a key stepping stone in that process.
Q: How did you get interested in donating school uniforms?
A: During my graduate school work at Harvard in global health studies - two themes for fighting global poverty kept emerging - those themes were access to capital and access to education as the key drivers for alleviating global poverty. I kept thinking this is the solution and I want to be a part of making it happen. I then had the opportunity to spend time in Africa and see first-hand the need for girls to have access to education - and that although school is often free , a school uniform is often required to attend. Many of these girls can not afford a school uniform, and therefore have to forsake their dream of attending school. By providing school uniforms to girls in need we are elevating their self esteem and sense of worth and we are opening the door to their education - which truly has the ability to transform their lives and their communities. Now THAT is the power if fashion. The fashion world can at times seem vapid or superficial - but we’ve tapped into fashion at the highest level for the highest good.
Q: How do you set Two Penny Blue apart?
A: I set Two Penny Blue apart is 2 ways; firstly by focusing on one product category - jackets and blazers and pouring my heart and soul into the perfecting the art of jacket/ and blazer design. It’s our signature piece and our clients trust the quality and thought that goes into expertly crafting each piece. The second way I set Two Penny Blue apart - is really the heart of the company; our mission. I believe clothing is about so much more than just what we wear - fashion affects the way we feel, and certainly the way we view ourselves and our capabilities. With every jacket sold , we donate a new school uniform to a girl in need in Africa and this simple act changes her life. If allows her access to education (school is often free but a uniform is required to attend and many girls can not afford them) and it does so much more - the school uniform genuinely increases her self esteem , and makes her feel worthy of acquiring an education and achieving great things. Therein lies the power of fashion.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own business?
A: I decided to start my own business for 3 main reasons: First, I saw an opportunity in the fashion market for high quality, well-priced, blazers. I knew we could meet that need successfully. Secondly, I dreamed of crafting a social enterprise - a for-profit company with a social mission - and I knew that I’d need to create it. And lastly, owning my own company offered a level of control and flexibility that I could not have been afforded in a traditional workplace.
Q: What does the name Two Penny Blue mean?
A: Two Penny Blue refers to the Two Penny Blue Stamp - one of the world's first adhesive postage stamps. Featuring a portrait of Queen Victoria as a 15-year-old princess, the stamp celebrates women in power and symbolizes education and democracy. Our logo is the classic Maltese Cross which was used to cancel the Two Penny Blue stamp as it traveled through the postal system. Our name also pays homage to my mom, Penny– who started her own business at the tender age of eighteen and always inspired me with her big heart and entrepreneurial spirit. Check out the stamp below....