Named for the stretch of blacktop that leads out of the women’s prison in Chowchilla, CA, Road 22 is an SF-based fashion label with a plot twist inspired by Orange is the New Black—the Emmy-winning Netflix dramedy about women serving time in federal penitentiary.
A fan of the show, Road 22 creator Fif Ghobadian, a onetime mortgage broker, saw an opportunity: “I thought about how fast life changes for these women, and the struggles they go through once they’ve been released,” she says. “I wanted to help them thrive.” Ghobadian, 51, teamed with her friend Alice Cahan, a clothing stylist, to produce effortless tees that would be designed, cut, and sewn by former female inmates, giving the women a chance to succeed at life beyond bars through valuable work experience. The shirts are made from natural fabrics such as Supima cotton and Micro Tencel, a fiber derived from eucalyptus wood.
Within hours of the company’s launch late last year, the inventory was nearly depleted by a throng of fashionable altruists who appreciated Road 22’s cause as well as its fit—the tees are “staple pieces that are flattering for all body types,” says Cahan, 42. An auspicious start for the business notwithstanding, the partners are most gratified by the leg up Road 22 has been able to provide for the women; one, for example, quit her life of gun violence to pursue an honest, steady job at a residential hotel; another is an aspiring landscape designer. “You wouldn’t even know [these women] were once incarcerated,” says Ghobadian. “When you believe in someone, it changes everything about them.”
This article was published in 7x7's February 2015 issue. Click here to subscribe.