Patterns for Progress - Updates and News!



Patterns for Progress was born in 2012 when CEO Howard Kahn opened a letter from Marcie Erickson of the Grace Center for Children and Families in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Howard's company, Kahn Lucas had donated dresses to the center and Marcie was writing to express her thanks in a way that vividly described the impact of the donation.

As CEO of Kahn Lucas, his family's 125 year-old fourth-generation girls-apparel company, Howard has guided the company with the vision of "Helping girls feel beautiful inside and out," and Marcie's letter both touched him deeply and opened his eyes to the potential of having an even larger impact on girls around the world.

Kahn Lucas has supplied dresses to the Grace Center for a number of years, and you can see the results in the images here. It truly is possible to change a life by giving a dress!

At the same time, Howard had learned of an intriguing program in India that sold pre-cut jeans components to individuals, who could take the kits to tailors and pay them a fraction of the cost of a pair of finished jeans. This was a commercial enterprise, not an aid program, but it benefited the individual as well as the local economy. Howard recognized the potential in creating an entirely new program that was focused on providing clothing to communities in need, while at the same time empowering caregivers, and helping the local economy.

Howard asked his employees "How can we help beyond just giving dresses away? How can we create self-sufficiency amongst caregivers of children in providing for clothing needs?"

Thus began the journey of Patterns for Progress.

Ready-to-Sew Kits!

The Patterns for Progress Ready-to-Sew Kits were developed over a period of 13 months, and associates from all areas of our company contributed to the process. It was a true team effort!

We went through many versions of dress designs in order to finally come up with a simple version that could be sewed by someone with little or no sewing experience, but that would be pretty and make the little girl feel special.

Through a series of test distributions we learned that we needed to provide multiple sizes and prints, so we expanded the kit range to include 3 sizes and 6 fabric patterns!

The instructions were a special challenge. At one point we translated them into French and Arabic, but then decided to go back to the drawing board and use only graphics. That was a great decision!

Buy a Dress. Give a Future.

1. BUY - Look for the special Patterns for Progress hangtag on Sweet Heart Rose dresses. Each purchase of a dress with this identifying hangtag supports the Patterns for Progress program!

2. GIVE - Thanks to your purchases and support we are be able to make Patterns for Progress Ready-to-Sew Kits available and work with special partners to distribute the kits where they're most needed.

3. EMPOWER - Rather than simply giving garments away, we believe in the empowerment of skill-building and education. Learning a skill like sewing is an important way to develop self esteem, and could lay the foundation for creating economic opportunity.

4. EDUCATE - Our Ready-to-Sew Kits include detailed step-by-step sewing instruction that cover basic sewing skills and garment construction in an easy to follow visual format. Also included are all materials that are needed to make the dress: pre-cut fabric patterns, needle, thread, and ribbon.

5. BRIGHTEN - The result is a dress that instills pride in a caregiver for mastering a skill and providing for a child, and creates dignity and happiness for the child through a functional and attractive garment.

Patterns for Progress - Buy a Dress. Give a Future.
Our Partnership with CARE

We selected CARE as our on-the-ground distribution partner, because of their impeccable reputation as a leading international humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.

Since CARE places special emphasis on working with poor women as catalysts to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty, we thought the match with Patterns for Progress was perfect!

We were right!

CARE is a fantastic organization staffed by hard-working and wonderful people, whose relationships with the refugee camps and the neighboring communities contributed to the success of this program.

To learn more about CARE visit:


First Impressions

In March 2014, Howard Kahn and Steve Traut of Kahn Lucas and a team from CARE International visited the refugee camps and five local villages in Liberia.

The goal was to learn about what was working, what was not working, and how we might improve the kits for the upcoming second distribution.

Our first impression of the camps was the sheer size! From the top of a hill, we surveyed the first camp and saw makeshift shelters constructed of mud-bricks, palm fronds and plastic sheeting. Basic sanitation, food, and clothing are all daily issues for the refugees.

We were hopeful that Patterns for Progress might be achieving our goals of providing clothing for children, empowerment for caregivers, and economic opportunities!

Meeting the Children

Children had seen us standing at the top of the hill, and within about minutes, they started to approach us. They were shy but quite brave to come up to us as strangers, and as we came to learn throughout the rest of the trip, they LOVED to have their picture taken.

We started noticing that some of these children were actually wearing Patterns for Progress dresses, that the girls were not necessarily wearing them as we had designed them!

Ths is why we came to Liberia! To see how people actually used the kits so we can make them even beter.

We began to get very excited about what we would learn at our meetings later with people in the camps and the surrounding communities.


As we walked through the camps, Patterns for Progress oufits were everywhere, including on BOYS! We spoke with community leaders, mothers, fathers, children, caregivers, and even some tailors who had started a small business sewing the kits for others. Many thoughtful and extremely useful suggestions were made, and we will be implementing a number of them in our next distribution of kits in 2014! Some of these suggestions included:

-- Kits for BOYS!
-- More sizes for older girls
-- Identify the dress sizes in measurements, not sizes
-- Doubled the thread to increase seam strength
-- Stronger fabrics to stand up to the laundry washboards

Why Liberia?

Liberia -- on the western edge of Africa, just above the equator -- is host to refugees from neighboring Cotes d'Ivoire, which has been undergoing recurring civil war. The first wave of refugees came in 2001 – 2002, and another wave arrived in 2011 – 2012.

Liberia has itself had two civil wars since 1989, leading to 23 years of instability. The refugees from neighboring Cotes d’Ivoire are creating an additional strain on the minimal infrastructure and economy that exists in Liberia.

There are currently approximately 45,000 refugees living in primarily 3 camps which are virtually entirely dependent on aid from care-workers for even the most basic life requirements.