Hope from heartbreak: How fashion designer Nina Kharey is making a difference
By Cassie Weiss, Staff Writer
Sometimes, even the least suspecting person can be a hero, and any one thing — big or small — can change a life forever. It’s the traditional plot of a Marvel movie, but it is also a statement that refers to Nina Kharey, a Calgary raised fashion designer.
With a passion for design, hoping to follow in the footsteps of her parents who worked diligently in the clothing and textile industry, Kharey’s plans were soon changed when she lost her younger brother to gang violence. Deciding to keep her head down and follow a more traditional path, she became an engineer — although something with that decision never sat quite right with her.
“It all goes back to my brother; 15 years ago. It prompted me to develop a passion to educate children against being recruited,” Kharey mentions, discussing the harsh reality that young children in grades five and six are finding themselves consistently in danger.
“It’s becoming more of a problem. Children find they don’t have support at home. They don’t have a place to belong and [these gang members] become like big brothers or big sisters.”
Two years after her brother passed away, Kharey states that she began working with the Calgary Police Service, and although her role has changed throughout the years, her message has not.
“I’ve been [working with] CPS for years. I talk about the experience we went through as a family. I saw the reality, but so many people only see what is in the media. I tell the story of what it was like to lose him.”
Having lived the experience, Kharey knows how important it is for children to recognize the strength in themselves. The truth is sad, but she states that it always starts the same — with a child who doesn’t feel accepted, one just looking for someone to talk to.
Kharey adds it is extremely hard for a family to watch their child fall deeper into the trap, while not having any idea of what to do about it. She believes those are the hardest conversations to have.
“I talk one-on-one with the children with concerns. I’ve seen them listen with wide eyes, hear them wanting to help out their friend or their sibling. It’s definitely worth it.”
Her weekly presentations in Calgary schools are not the only thing that makes Kharey stand out among the crowds. It is also her drive and passion to design the clothing she had always dreamed about.
Launching her brand, NONIE, in 2012, the celebration of the modern woman became her focus with “clean lines and bold patterns designed to flatter every figure,” according to her bio. With strength and resilience in mind, Kharey created NONIE “in an effort to teach her daughter to believe in her dreams and work hard.”
During a collaboration with Telus, NONIE created the design of an anti-bullying shirt, working closely alongside “#EndBullying.” Turning her side passion into her full-time focus supported an environment where she was able to do what she loved, stand up for what she believed in and work her hardest to protect at-risk youth.
With hopes to work with schools across Canada, there is a powerful message that came from Kharey’s tragedy, one she continues to promote.
“Life is in [these children’s] hands. They can make themselves to be whatever they want. I want them to know they can reach out to someone they trust, and that they don’t have to hurt the people they love.”