Unsuspecting passersby who peek into the windows of the Abi Ferrin showroom in Dallas will undoubtedly be enchanted by the vibrant, tropical hues of the summer collection. The decorative accents and colors of each garment are inspired by the designer’s recent scuba-diving adventures. Ferrin counts the artwork of Erté and the early designs of Halston as a few of her influences, and it’s evident in her affinity for precision draping, fit-and-flare pieces and halter-top jumpsuits. However, beneath the surface lies a commitment to a greater mission. Ferrin’s collection supports the Sak Saum ministry in Cambodia; she purchases buttons and accessories from the group for her designs each season.
Sak Saum operates in the Phnom Penh and Saang districts, and is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and transformation of vulnerable and exploited women and men. Young women who were sold into the sex trade learn handcrafts through Sak Saum and earn a fair wage to support themselves and their families. Ferrin’s fall 2013 collection includes chic leather double-wrap belts that feature hand-hammered metalwork by Sak Saum boys who are disabled and were otherwise outcast by their communities.
Ginny Hanson, one of the three founders of the ministry, encountered Ferrin’s sister, a full-time humanitarian, in Colorado. The pair bonded over shared interests and Hanson explained her desire to connect Sak Saum with artists. From there, Hanson was connected to Ferrin and the Freedom Project. As a survivor of domestic abuse, Ferrin created the Freedom Project to aid individuals in poverty-stricken countries where human trafficking, abuse and underpaid factory work is a way of life. Sak Saum’s mission of empowerment and restoration aligned perfectly with the designer’s passions, and in 2007 she placed her first order with the organization. The aspect that Ferrin enjoys most is the “teach a man to fish” philosophy that empowers the Sak Saum workers to be self-supporting. Meanwhile, fans of the Abi Ferrin collection can enjoy her timeless fashion while knowing they’ve helped someone on the other side of the globe.
While Ferrin does some work abroad and is based in Dallas, the designer grew up in Wyoming. She spent three years in Washington, D.C. working in broadcast journalism and then five years in Hollywood dressing starlets in her early fashions, but Dallas is the city that speaks to her heart.
“There’s no place like this city,” Ferrin says. “The women here have been so supportive. I have an awesome network in terms of supporting my work and supporting me as a person.”
Ferrin also enjoys how adventurous the city’s women are when it comes to fashion. She says that Dallas ladies travel so much that when you dress them, your work is organically spread across the globe. The type of person who wears her designs is a career woman who enjoys jet-setting with her family; someone who is grounded while being a global citizen but still knows how to have a little fun — much like Ferrin herself. “Approachable” is one of the first words to come to mind when considering the showroom and the designer who put everything into place. They’re both pretty and polished, but there is a warmth that makes you feel welcome. Ferrin attributes that to her Jackson Hole upbringing.
“You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl,” she says.
Photos courtesy of Abi Ferrin