NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., May 7, 2020— Like other nonessential businesses, ZAAF at National Harbor, featuring high end goods made entirely in Africa, had to close its doors during COVID-19. Owner Abai Schulze has taken the opportunity of this newfound time to return to her first love, painting, and use it to give back to the greater community.
The collection, which Schulze calls “Humans in Color” examines and celebrates everyday people in Africa. 100 percent of the proceeds from each piece will be donated to Employ Prince George’s, a nonprofit organization working to improve the local economy through workforce development programs. Over the past several weeks, Employ Prince George’s has raised $331,000 to provide immediate assistance to low-wage hourly workers who have recently been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief has provided immediate cash assistance, $200 per Prince George’s County resident, to over 690 laid off residents.
“ZAAF has been an incredible addition to the business community in Prince George’s County,” said Employ Prince George’s President and CEO Walter Simmons. “Abai’s generosity through her paintings goes to show there are endless ways to help support those in need during this crisis. I know she will inspire others to find ways to give back” said Simmons.
Schulze herself has an incredible life story. Originally an orphan from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, she came to the United States as a child and later studied economics and fine arts at George Washington University. The creation of ZAAF combines her two interests of economic development, by creating jobs for artisans in Africa, and design. ZAAF merchandise includes beautiful high-end handbags, scarves, shoes and other accessories. With the addition of these paintings, Schulze feels like she has come full circle.
“I am a designer, an entrepreneur, a business person, and even an occasional speaker. But my first love that energizes all that I do is the fact that I am an artist,” said Schulze. “I love peering into the eyes and postures of the amazing diversity of people that inhabit the Continent. Each one tells a story; each one expresses a deep humanity. Life is not easy for many, so a smile, a look, an expression holds a depth that goes way beyond what many of us are accustomed to in our comfortable lives; it offers a treasure to behold and reflect upon.”
Schulze and ZAAF have been recognized in various ways ranging from appearing on runways at New York Fashion Week, to being featured in Elle, Lucky and Vogue, to receiving the UNESCO Tremplin Prize for Entrepreneurship. In 2018, ZAAF was nominated for Socially Responsible handbag design at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards in New York.
More information about the Humans in Color collection and how to purchase can be found on the ZAAF collection website, zaafcollection.com/.
About National Harbor and the Waterfront District at National Harbor
Situated on the banks of the historic Potomac River and just minutes from the nation’s capital, National Harbor is a waterfront resort destination unlike any other. National Harbor is home to eight hotels including two of Maryland’s Four Diamond rated hotels—Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center and MGM National Harbor. Also within National Harbor is Tanger Outlets’ 85 designer brands. The vibrant Waterfront District features boutique shops, restaurants and entertainment options along picturesque promenades as well as the iconic Capital Wheel, a 180-ft observation wheel and the Guide by Cell outdoor art gallery tour. A robust calendar of events round out this destination that welcomes more than 12 million visitors a year. For more information, visit www.NationalHarbor.com.
About Employ Prince George’s:
Employ Prince George’s (EPG) is a 501c3 corporation with a mission to improve the local economy by creating a demand-driven workforce system in Prince George’s County, with workforce development programs that deliver qualified workers to businesses, improves the productivity of businesses, and provides job seekers with opportunities for careers in high demand/high growth industries. For more information visit www.EmployPG.org.
Employ Prince George’s is raising $500,000 to immediately assist low-wage hourly workers who have recently been laid off by the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief will provide immediate cash assistance, $200 per Prince George’s County resident, to over 2,000 residents. This fund is designed to provide supplemental finances in-between their last paycheck and their first unemployment insurance benefit payment.
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