Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez has a new business venture in the fashion space, and it's much more than a mere "design collaboration" or spokesperson gig. The actress has been tapped as cofounder and partner of Naja, a year-old lingerie line with major ambitions to help women (and the environment). The e-comm-only brand is vertically integrated, which shortens manufacturing lead times by up to 80%. "You can trace the supply chain from beginning to end — you know that [Naja] is ethically-sourced," Rodriguez says. Naja's commitment to employing single moms was a compelling selling point for Rodriguez: “During my first year of shooting Jane the Virgin, my college friend and her 4-year-old moved into my very small one-bedroom apartment. I learned firsthand how very difficult it is to be a single mother," Rodriguez says. "Ensuring that women are employed is ensuring that the next generation is educated, this is good for society as a whole and helps in the elimination of poverty. At Naja, we provide special benefits to all of our employees with children so that these children can be ensured an education." The costs Naja saves from being vertically-integrated go towards school books, lunches, and uniforms for employees' children, and there's an emphasis on a flexible work environment. Cofounder and CEO Catalina Girald primarily employs single mothers and heads of household at the Naja factory in Girald's native Colombia.
Plus, more than half of Naja pieces include synthetics (like nylon) that have been fabricated from recycled plastic bottles. "When we make new nylon or new polyester, we are making more synthetic fabrics that will ultimately turn into unused waste when people tire of the clothing," Girald said in a release. "But by using recycled plastic bottles we are taking existing waste and repurposing it; it's so much better for the world." The brand uses digital printing as another environmentally-friendly measure. There is, indeed, a "Gina" bra named after the actress (pictured below), but this doesn't sound like a vanity project for Rodriguez: She has equity in the company, and she'll be working on a number of body-positive initiatives that the brand has in the works. "Catalina is largely responsible for the design, and we've had many meetings, phone calls, [and] photo shoots to collaborate," Rodriguez told Refinery29. "I've been discussing how to implement our mission: to employ single moms, create a brand for women of all sizes and shapes, and encourage body confidence for all women who wear our lingerie." Rodriguez is in pretty good company with her first fashion foray: Naja counts Mindy Grossman, HSN's CEO, as an investor and mentor.
"We want all women to feel beautiful regardless of what the media tells us is beautiful," Rodriguez says. "We also want women to understand that outer beauty is not a measure of self worth; power comes from within." Well, she's got our attention; we can't wait to see just how the brand pushes its body-positive message forward.