Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Able Made's Maizy crossover bag is made of pineapple leaf 'leather' | Able Made/Facebook
Able Made is a purpose-driven lifestyle brand created to help empower city youth and support
nonprofits with its sustainably made apparel and accessories, and programming aimed at a creating healthier communities through the power of design and sport.
After losing her husband, Ucal — a high school guidance counselor, soccer
coach and city-youth mentor — to sudden cardiac arrest while playing soccer in
2009, Suzanne McKenzie launched the Ucal McKenzie Breakaway Foundation
(UMBF) in 2012 to continue his work empowering
urban youth through soccer. The foundation uses a cross-cultural approach to
teach kids about health, nutrition and other life skills; McKenzie’s sustainable
lifestyle brand, Able Made, was created to help
support the foundation’s work.
Image credit: Ucal Breakaway Foundation/Facebook
McKenzie, who teaches Design and Social Entrepreneurship at the School of
Visual Arts in New York City, received a Sappi Ideas
that Matter Grant in 2010 and
was selected to attend President Obama’s Global Emerging Entrepreneurs event
at the White House in 2015. Through Able Made and the UMBF, her vision is to
raise and reset standards for sustainability with creatively crafted collections
that support local jobs and create healthier communities.
UMBF partners with leading organizations such as Whole Foods, Boston
Children’s Hospital, CrossFit and America Scores, to offer events and
activities combined with soccer for city youth ages 8-18 in Boston,
Hartford and Brooklyn that uniquely combine soccer, health, art and
mentorship. Through its partnerships, the foundation encourages cross-cultural
learning and communication and also provides heart health, CPR training,
concussion and hydration education, and nutrition workshops, as well as arts
Join us for a transformational experience at SB Brand-Led Culture Change — May 8-10 in Minneapolis. This event brings together hundreds of brand leaders eager to delve into radical lifestyle shifts and sustainable consumer behavior change at scale. The trends driving cultural acceleration are already underway, and you can be at the forefront of this transformative movement.
All of Able Made’s products are manufactured responsibly in the United
States, which she said was an advantage during the pandemic. The company was
able to keep factories open and save jobs by, for example, having its sock
manufacturers produce face
Although the cost of domestic, responsible manufacturing is higher than
offshoring, the brand carefully balances price points so that it’s able to
direct between up to 25 percent of its
revenue toward the
UMBF and other nonprofits.
Image credit: Able Made/Facebook
"We have successfully helped raise funds for UMBF, which is now in its 12th year; I’m most proud of that achievement," McKenzie told Sustainable Brands™. "I participate in the camps and have an opportunity to talk with the families and kids, which drives me and the work I do on the fashion side."
Collaboration has been the key for Able Made to grow, raise awareness and help
fund its causes of choice. Puma has been a sponsor and provider of equipment
and content for the UMBF’s camps, which led to collaborating on a capsule
Another collaboration was with Threadless — a
global design challenge where artists from around the world donated artwork and
raised money for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Other collaborations —
with organizations including
Friends of the High Line, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum — have
supported nonprofits such as the American Heart Association, CFDA Fashion
Targets Breast Cancer, Pencils of Promise and more.
Along with fueling positive impacts externally, McKenzie took care to ensure
that Able Made’s products are low-impact, as well — the brand incorporates
alternative fabrics including fruit-fiber
cruelty-free wool, organic cotton, and upcycled and deadstock materials. The use
of agriculture byproducts — which McKenzie said will feature more heavily in the
future — also creates an income stream for farming communities.
Able Made’s current line includes bags made from apple
and organic cotton
“I love the idea of giving new life to existing materials, versus creating
waste,” McKenzie said. “And the use of fruit connects back to our nutrition education that we provide to kids through the foundation’s camps and events.”
McKenzie says Able Made’s products are becoming much more sports-inspired to
celebrate the heritage of the brand. She is hoping to cultivate more strategic
partnerships to reinforce that point of view.
“My goal is to become a leading athluxury brand, and be used as a case for
setting standards high so we can all thrive,” she says. “I want to demonstrate
the power of design thinking and show how many problems we can solve using
strong design — whether it’s creating a more sustainable world; or fostering a
healthier, more connected and empowered community.”
Able Made’s products are available on its website, retail locations in NYC, the
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Sante Fe, NM; and through an exclusive collection
for the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Published Apr 30, 2021 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Miko Takama is a Berlin-based journalist specialised in sustainable development, and environmental and social justice in the fashion industry; as well as working with apparel brands to improve CSR performance.