I began Photo Shoot for a Cure on a mission to combine my work as a photographer with my passion for raising money for Parkinson's research. So, to put it lightly, I was thrilled when I discovered Squar'd Away -- a handcrafted bandana company from New York City that donates 20% of their proceeds to The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Squar'd Away is run by Sara Harari-Buchnea, who is combining her love of design with her passion for raising money for Parkinson's research, in support of Dad, who was diagnosed with PD 10 years ago.
Squar'd Away bandanas are stunning, luxurious and handcrafted right in New York City. I'm so grateful Sara took the time to talk to us about how decided to start Squar'd Away, and how her Dad's experience with Parkinson's has influenced her life.
Tell us about Squar'd Away! How did you come up with the idea of launching your company?
The truth is I’ve been obsessed with bandanas and neck scarves for quite a while. They’re the perfect little accessory and have the ability to completely transform a look by either softening it or by adding an edge. I had been seeing them all over Brooklyn and realized there were barely any mid-range options between say, a cotton bandana from Levi’s and a super high-end scarf from Hermès.
What is your educational and career background? Have you always been involved with fashion design?
Not at all! As far as experience in fashion design goes, I have one (pretty short) internship under my belt. I wrote for an online fashion magazine for over a year but that’s another world altogether. My education and background are in visual arts. I studied Art History in undergrad and got an MA in Visual Arts Administration, which was half business school, here at NYU. I had been working in the art world for the past ten years, in a few Toronto and New York galleries and museums and even at an art fair for a while. Squar’d Away took me a long time to build because I had to figure everything out as I went along.
What is the process behind handcrafting your bandanas? Can you walk us through the process from first design to final product?
I work with some amazing designers who take my (sometimes cloudy) vision and make it a reality. The scarves are printed with American made inks in lower Manhattan and then they make their way over to Brooklyn where they are individually cut out by hand and then sewn on hand operated sewing machines one at a time. Packaging/order fulfillment is also done out of Brooklyn.
Why is it important to you that the bandanas be handcrafted in New York City?
Working locally with manufacturers in NYC allows me to be personally and closely involved in the production process. This helps me to create the product with a lot of TLC and bring my customers something I’m always proud of.
Can you share some ideas for how to incorporate bandanas into your wardrobe or outfit?
There are TONS of ways to rock your bandana like a boss. If this is your first square, a good way to ease it into your wardrobe is to tie it on your favorite bag or around your wrist like a bracelet. With every order, you get a poster with lots of great and easy ways to style your square and we also have (nearly) endless “square-spiration" on our Tumblr. It is frequently updated with amazing street-style looks featuring bandanas.
20% of all proceeds from Squar'd Away are donated to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. What is your connection to Parkinson's?
The donations to The Michael J. Fox Foundation are in support of my Dad who has been living with Parkinson's for ten years. When he was first diagnosed, my mind was constantly racing with ideas about how I was going to help out and give back, so the time for me to step up to the plate is long overdue.
Can you tell us more about your Dad? How has he influenced your life and work?
Well, work-wise, I definitely got my love for art and aesthetic sensibilities from my Dad; he loves going to art museums and is a beautiful painter. I’ve always had a deep admiration for my Dad because of how well he’s done for himself and his family despite the many challenges he’s faced throughout his life. While his extraordinary intelligence has always fascinated me, it is his true kindness that often shifts my perspective. A lot of the courage that I have to ask for the things I want out of life came from my dad, not just straightforwardly encouraging me, but challenging me to go out and get them.
You are also an active member of Team Fox through Team Fox New York Young Professionals. What is your involvement with the group, and what kind of fundraisers and events do you produce?
The Team Fox New York YPs are a group of young professionals in New York City that raise awareness and money on behalf of The Michael J. Fox foundation. We put on two major fundraising events per year, Sunday Funday and the Foxy Fall Masquerade Ball, which is coming up in December 2016. I’m on the executive board this year in the role of Member Engagement Co-Chair, which means I work with members to organize smaller fundraisers throughout the year or organize social events for the group. This year, we also implemented a type of support group where members get together and discuss their connection to PD in an intimate setting. My co-chair and I aim to have at least one of these events or fundraisers every month.
Have you found that being open about your Dad's journey with Parkinson's has connected you with more people in the Parkinson's community? Was it difficult for you to open up about this part of your life?
Yes and yes. Like I mentioned, my Dad was diagnosed with PD just over ten years ago and I only really started to get involved in the Parkinson’s community last year. It’s definitely been a process of acceptance and adaptation for my whole family and the ability to openly discuss my Dad’s journey developed slowly over the years. The second I decided to start Squar’d Away, however, there was a huge shift as I went from rarely discussing PD to literally saying the words every single day. This, combined with all of the amazing people that I’ve met in the Parkinson’s community, has shifted my understanding of the disease as well as my articulation of it. I’m able to openly say how lucky we are that, all things considered; my dad is doing well and how proud of him I am for striving to live his best life every day.
What's next for Squar'd Away? Do you have any new products coming up?
Absolutely! There will be some exciting new colors hitting the website on time for the holiday season and stay tuned for some cool artist collaborations.
Thank you so much to Sara for taking the time to tell us about Squar'd Away, and her personal connection to Parkinson's, Team Fox and The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Photo Shoot for a Cure is a series of fundraising photo shoots benefiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation, produced by photographer Diana Levine and inspired by her Mom, who was diagnosed with PD 11 years ago. We have shoots coming up in the Boston area and New York City. To stay in the loop, please join our mailing list, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If your company or business would like to sponsor Photo Shoot for a Cure, please visit here to learn more and sign up as a sponsor.