Thursday 4th of March 2021

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Bombchel, A West African Clothing Store, Employs Refugees Living In Atlanta

Posted On : November 4, 2020

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The phrase “ethical fashion” covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, the environment and animal welfare.

Bombchel, an ethical fashion brand offering contemporary West African clothing and merchandise made in Liberia, has opened its first shop in the United States. The store opened in October and is located in Ponce City Market.

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Hi everyone! We’ve been heavy on the mask promo since April, but I wanted to take a minute and let you know we have opened our very first US brick and mortar store at @poncecitymarket in Atlanta, GA. Thank you to everyone who has loved us through these growing pains of slow shipping and COVID changes — we’re sharpening up to offer you an even better shopping and lifestyle experience. I think we’re onto something big and I’m so grateful to all of you for riding with us. Please come visit us if you’re around. I’d love to tell you about all our makers, get you in some of my ice dyes, and become a true part of your community. Love you all! Let’s party (with our masks on)!!🎉

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Archel Bernard is the owner and founder of Bombchel (both the factory in Liberia and the store in Atlanta). She joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about her factory, which employs women affected by the Ebola crisis, and the store, which employs refugees residing in Atlanta.

Interview Highlights

Why she moved to Liberia after graduating from Georgia Tech:

“My family is Liberian refugees. My mother and father grew up there and left because of the war, and my grandfather stayed in Liberia for a long time. For me, when I graduated, I wanted to connect with home. In so many ways, I feel like I went back to hopefully see him, even though he had passed. So as I build my business, sometimes I have conversations with him in my head like, ‘Would he be proud of the way I’m doing things?’ Liberia was once such a shining example of an independent African republic, and now we’re consistently the poorest. I know that we as a people are stronger and better than what we may seem to be right now, and I wanted to be a part of that story.”

Why she employs an all-female staff of Ebola survivors in Liberia:

“When the Ebola crisis started to slow down, I returned to Liberia. I opened the Bombchel Factory in 2016 so that I could hire and train women from backgrounds of poverty who wanted to work in fashion, but maybe didn’t feel like they could … similar to me because we were in Liberia. For me, I’m so sincerely proud to be a Liberian woman, and I wanted to bring other women that look like me into this fashion space. I felt like it was the way I could do my part.”

The garments and fashion offered at Bombchel:

“I think every woman should be able to wear this African clothing, but she should be so comfortable. We don’t do any zippers, just a lot of elastic, a lot of wraps and ties, so that things can fit a bunch of different body types in a way that is flattering to you. I feel like we’ve really reimagined the way people can wear African clothing, so you can wear it casually in your home or step out for the night. We just really try to fit a whole bunch of different lifestyles, ethnicities, skin tones and body types.”

Her mission for giving back to the Atlanta refugee community:

“I’m a refugee, and I think when people look at me, they don’t see it. I’m hiding in plain sight, and as I sit in the background and hear conversations around me about what refugees are, and where they should be allowed to go, and how they should be allowed to get there, I think about what my family was able to offer me because they sought a better life. I want us to normalize working around refugees, shopping with immigrants, people of color. I feel like we don’t really know everybody’s background, and I think the more we know, the more we can

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I’m BEYOND thrilled to announce that my second boutique, BOMBCHEL, will be opening on October 7th on the 2nd floor at Ponce City Market in Atlanta. In January, I wrote out my goals. I simply put ‘selling something at PCM,’ but I had no idea it would lead to this. I thought I would put Goddess Hoops in a store and call that a success, but my ancestors are always looking out for me and my God has never played small. Thank you to a true Bombchel champion @cocoandmischa for sharing good vibes in this time of transition from her space to mine, and also for sharing Bombchel with @sheyda_m, who then REALLY advocated for our presence in the property. I’m so grateful for my relationship with each of you. Although you are both making new moves, I know your energy is a strong force that lingers to support me each day.⁣ ⁣ My first experience with retail was watching my Nana work at Penney’s until she couldn’t work anymore. Now I own a store in her city. Generational bridges are being built here, y’all. When I told her I would open my own store “DOWNTOWN ON PONCE?!” she said, “corona or no corona, I’m gonna be there.” Just fussin’ with Mom, “I SAID I’M GON BE THERE!”⁣ ⁣ The beauty of this store truly lies in how many people wanted to see it happen, how many people helped to make it happen, and how many people will sell from this sunny 1200sq ft. The mission will meet you at the door. BLACK DESIGNERS THRIVE HERE. There’s rotating space for other black women designers, in addition to the ethical creators I will wholesale from, and my own collection. BOMBCHEL is for all of us. Whether you know me or like me or whatever, please reach out so we can all win. This will be the best place in Atlanta to shop with black designers, and I know the community will not let us fail so let’s show out!! ⁣ ⁣ Thank you to my beloved ATL HOuse @gladandyoungstudio @eastalahna @socialbysteph @musedenim for the support. Thanks to everyone for years of shopping with me because you prepared me for this opportunity. I’ll see you all Oct 7 and for a long time after that. So many more gems to share and people to thank, but for now I’ll leave you with a classic ATL mantra, I AIN’T GON LET UP!

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Bombchel is located on the second floor of the Central Food Hall, next to Cobbler Union.

Content courtesy of WABE & Nairobi fashion hub  

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