The story of Mwayi (pronounced “mwah-ee”) begins in 2014, when Renata Aráuz-DeStefano WG17 was hopscotching across the globe with a microfinance organization and was captivated by the eye-catching, colorful dresses she saw in Malawi and a talented tailor who made them.

Now, that same tailor leads a team of local apprentices—at-risk women who are earning their first living wages and twice the average for tailors in the region—who craft made-to-measure dresses created by a rotating cast of female designers. (The debut collection was the work of a member of the Saturday Night Live costuming team.) Impressive as Mwayi’s social impact and vibrant fashions are, so is Aráuz-DeStefano’s indefatigable drive—she created and launched Mwayi while commuting from Philadelphia to Manhattan for her job as an investment banking associate at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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