Kerry Washington Designs Purse For Powerful Cause

Kerry Washington thinks it's hard to talk about black eyes, hard to talk about bruises, hard to talk about other wounds that happen in domestic violence. But, as the Emmy-nominated actress tells me, a purse is easy to talk about. That's why the women's rights activist thought designing a purse would be great way to raise awareness for domestic abuse, particularly financial abuse. So that's what she did. On Sept. 24, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Kerry Washington unveiled her Purple Purse design to support domestic violence survivors for Allstate Foundation Purple Purse.

The actress tells me at the event,

It’s a good way to crack open the conversation and dissolve a little bit of the stigma around this very challenging topic. And a purse is such a beautiful metaphor. It’s purple, because that’s the color for domestic violence awareness. And a purse is a symbol of your financial well-being. It’s where you keep your wallet, your phone, your car keys, and the things that matter to you financially. So having a purple purse is really a symbol of increasing awareness around financial abuse and hopefully ending it.

The Scandal star joins forces with Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo, along with Saks Fifth Avenue and Allstate to reveal the limited-edition Purple Purse design to an audience of nonprofit leaders and domestic abuse survivors. The purse, available exclusively through Saks Fifth Avenue, represents the start of a month-long campaign to raise awareness and funds for more than 160 domestic violence nonprofits. So it goes without saying that this goes beyond fashion. Washington shows that something as seemingly simple as a fashion accessory can open up conversations about serious women's rights issues.

Before the 38-year-old reveals the purse, she tells everyone she's so excited because it's not about the purse being an "it bag," but instead a way to empower women and unlock the conversation. And it looks like unlocking the conversation is well under way. Just last year, the foundation did not have nearly enough bags to sell on a large scale. But now, the purse is available for purchase at Saks.com and in the Saks Fifth Avenue stores. Twenty-five percent of all proceeds will go to the Allstate Foundation's campaign. But even if you are not able to purchase the bag, purple charms are also available for only $10 to support the cause.

As Vicki Dinges, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Allstate, tells me, 98 percent of domestic abuse cases involve financial abuse, such as controlling the partner's finances or cutting off access to credit. So often, a reason why a woman goes back to an abusive partner is for financial reasons. That's why Allstate wants to help spread information about repairing credit and more through the fashion industry. "A purse is a woman's center of her financial control," Dinges says. She adds that Washington is using both her passion and influence to help people realize just how important that economic empowerment for women is.

Washington herself tells me that she has been working towards helping end violence against women for a long time, and it is all because she has a very important endgame in mind. She says,

The goal is hopefully one day, we put ourselves out of business. Hopefully one day I don’t have to design this purse because there is no longer any financial abuse or domestic violence. But until then, I think we’re going to do whatever we can do.

It is truly inspirational that she is using the dual platform of celebrity and fashion for such a positive cause. Fans of hers could all do well to follow her example.

Images: Allstate Foundation Purple Purse; Jaclyn Anglis