Seattle transplant, Amy Cooper, spent many years living in China with her family. During that time, she fell in love with the food, the culture and the fashion treasures of Asia. While wandering markets and small boutiques throughout Asia, she was on a quest to find the perfect cashmere sweater to wear during long flights back to the United States. In her searching, she discovered that not all cashmere is created equal; until one day while in Beijing, she discovered the warmest and softest cashmere she had ever stumbled upon. With this, she decided to create a sweater wrap for herself.
She started receiving many inquiries about her wrap, including one from a flight attendant who wanted to buy one from her mid-flight. She then decided she should turn this into a business and Red Twist was born!
A Red Twist cashmere sweater can transform a pair of jeans into a terrific outfit, take you from office to a night out over a skirt or trousers and is even great on the weekends over a pair of yoga pants. It’s that versatile any season of the year. The wraps come in 17 colors and retail at $195 each here.
While living in Asia, Amy learned about the hardships that many young women face, especially in regards to access to education. Each Red Twist wrap gives back to help educate underprivileged young women in Asia through a donation to Room to Read. Room to Read focuses on literacy and gender equality in education, helping young women from impoverished areas complete secondary school.
I had the chance to ask Amy a few questions about her life in Asia and how Red Twist came to be.
Tell us about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up (if you aren’t from Seattle, what brought you here)?
I am an east coast transplant, originally from Baltimore. We moved here from Austin in 2002 for my husband’s job at Microsoft. I have a background in public affairs consulting and still consult with my Austin firm.
What led you to spending part of your life in Asia?
Again, his job at Microsoft! We spent five years living in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing for his work there – moving quite frequently. I quit my job and became a trailing spouse, which is wonderful, but after our 3rd daughter was born in Hong Kong, I also started itching for a project. Our daughters attended an international school in Beijing and the school was partnered with an organization called the Josephine Charles Foundation to help send migrant girls to school. I started getting involved and as a mother of three young girls, became passionate about helping girls have access to education. When I started Red Twist, I wanted to create something that would help support this effort, so my original partner was the Josephine Charles Foundation. When their executive director retired, I switched our support to Room to Read, which focuses on literacy, gender equality in education and supports girls to complete secondary school.
Define what “fashion” means to you.
Did you have a favorite type of fashion you found while living in Asia?
Absolutely the cashmere as much of the world’s cashmere comes from the Kashmir region, Mongolia and China – where the cold dry climate supports cashmere goat farming and therefore, much of the cashmere production in the world. It became clear to me that all cashmere is not created equal and I set out to find the fabric to create Red Twist. For more insight on my cashmere hunt, click here.
How did you hear about Room to Read?
Room to Read is very well known for improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world, so when I set out to research new partner possibilities, they were the organization whose efforts best matched Red Twist’s mission. The number of elementary-aged girls out of school in South Asia and Africa is approximately 35 million. This number has decreased significantly in the past 15 years, but imagine what the world could be like if those 35 million girls were able to go to school? For a girl to face the world and succeed, education is essential. In addition to the overall benefits of education — brainpower, emancipation, self-respect, the opportunity for significantly more income and the ability to advocate for herself, teach her family what she has learned and become a change-maker in her community — girls who are educated are also less likely to enter into a child marriage and they are three times less likely to contract HIV. Furthermore, their children are more likely to survive and they are less at risk for a life filled with violence, abuse and exploitation. To me, girls’ education is the most valuable investment we could be making.