In today’s society, where there is an large gap between the haves and have nots, Archel Bernard, founder and owner of The Bombchel Factory, has developed a way to combine her calling for fun fashion and empower disadvantaged women in Liberia.
While pursuing a career in journalism, she returned home to Liberia, where fashion proved to be her true mission.
“I moved to Liberia to be the West African Oprah Winfrey. People were not eager to hear my stories, but they were always quick to compliment my outfits. It wasn’t long before I realized that was the business I was meant to be in,” she said.
Bernard opened Mango Rags, her Monrovia boutique, in 2013, but was forced to close shop a little over a year later due to the Ebola pandemic. As the Ebola crisis eased, Bernard focused on a way to provide modern, authentic West African clothing worldwide while providing training and employment to women who were personally affected by Ebola or had survived rape, or were deaf.
“I knew we had to rebuild in a major way. I couldn’t just have a store anymore. The Bombchel Factory allows Liberian women a hand up out of poverty instead of merely giving them a hand out,” she said.
Bernard is excited to bring attention to West Africa as a potential global manufacturing hub. She notes Shinola’s techniques in helping to revitalize Detroit in the manufacturing world.
“People enjoy having the power to wear clothes that literally change lives. I heard Jacques from Shinola speak about creating a great work environment, and in doing so, changing environments that could have been considered failed into a new generation of retail manufacturing centers that positively impact the community and the regional economy. Monrovia can learn a lot from Detroit as we continue to grow post-war, and now post-Ebola,” said Bernard.
Bernard’s resilience is a reflection of the people she employs. As Bombchel grows in the fashion world, her team is acquiring skills to provide for themselves and their families. One of Bernard’s goals is to also help change the face of social cause companies, where people often feel they are “giving” money to a cause. Bernard is adamant that Bombchel is creating opportunities for women of Liberia, who are in exchange providing a service that people can support with a purchase.
This fall, The Bombchel Factory is headed to New York for Fashion Week, an accomplishment they had never envisioned from Monrovia. Bernard has also been working with Detroit-based boutique Zarkpas to help spread The Bombchel Factory locally.
For more information on The Bombchel Factory visit shopbombchel.com or follow their social pages @shopbombchel.