Amy Kratzer’s passion for women has manifested into a successful fashion brand and social enterprise called Girl Set Free.
Located in The Madery maker space and market at COhatch’s Library location in Worthington, Girl Set Free is a lifestyle brand dedicated to women in captivity and survivors of human trafficking. Kratzer, along with her husband, owns and operates the brand that will relaunch with a new collection of handbags and other accessories on June 1.
Kratzer previously worked in the medical field and studied international law before starting the brand. Her work led to over 22 international service trips, cultivating a real passion and dedication to people, and to human trafficking survivors in particular.
Girl Set Free seeks to empower human trafficking survivors on the local level, as well as national and international levels, by offering employment. 98 women total are in the program, and Kratzer says there are 10 women being added in the U.S. The company is also involved in the rescue of women in captivity through its international partner, anti-trafficking agency A21, and working with a nonprofit safehouse to offer employment to human trafficking victims who have received rehabilitation.
Girl Set Free has had two sold out collections over the past two years, with products ranging from t-shirts to skirts and necklaces. Recently, the company decided to narrow its focus toward handbags and other accessories, in an attempt to create a more niche and inclusive brand. “A bag can fit on every woman,” Kratzer explains.
Each bag is made with ethically sourced textiles and leather, produced through fair-trade labor, and handwoven by women in the U.S. and Kathmandu, Nepal. The bags themselves are meant to be empowering, because of the hands being used to make them.
“My passion is empowering the women who make our bags, and the women who wear our bags,” Kratzer says. “A woman who is wearing our bags is empowered because she is rising as well knowing that, if she purchases this bag, it’s actually empowering these women. And we show that on our website. We show our impact, we show our supply chain, we’re very transparent about all of that.”
Krater is focused on real women and real stories. She explains that she once had a woman in the program who wanted to tell her story. With a translator assisting, Kratzer learned that the woman’s mother sold her to three men, and was trafficked and sold to 10 more men a day for four years. Her family abandoned her, and when she attempted to return, she was beaten and thrown in jail. The woman was able to find work through Purnaa, one of Girl Set Free’s strategic partners in Nepal, and still sews products for Girl Set Free nearly two years later.
Like the Nepali woman, the majority of the women Girl Set Free works with have been sold and trafficked from the ages of 6 to 12 years. 82 percent of the women have experienced trafficking in some form, which includes sex trafficking, bondage and forced labor.
This is not a problem that only happens in other countries, Kratzer says. In Ohio, there were 208 potential victims of human trafficking identified in 2017, while 365 total cases were reported that same year. And according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Columbus is ranked in the top 10 cities for human trafficking calls nationwide.
Kratzer points out that there are many more potential victims at risk. “And we want those women in our program,” she says. “That’s who I’m going after.”
On June 1, Girl Set Free will relaunch with a personal story from Kratzer on what Girl Set Free and its mission means to her. The launch will feature four new, unique bags and one scarf available in 2 colors. Products range in price from $108 to $550.
Looking ahead, Kratzer hopes for an impact that allows women in the program to thrive and have opportunities outside of Girl Set Free. She says that while she likes fashion, the main goal has always been to empower women and human trafficking victims.
“It’s never been a me thing, it’s been a we thing,” says Kratzer. “My husband and I, we launched this with the hearts to just give back, and we care so deeply about our impact.”