In fourth grade, Ashley Biden found out her favorite lip gloss brand Bonne Bell tested its products on animals. The now 35-year-old daughter of former Vice President Joe Biden responded by starting a letter campaign to the company to combat its testing.
Biden continued her activism soon after, when she launched a dolphin conservation campaign. She made posters describing how dolphins were getting caught in tuna nets, and her father connected her with then-Congresswoman Barbara Boxer, whom Biden came to know as "The Dolphin Lady." Boxer brought Biden to the Congress floor to convince Republican congressmen to sign the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act. The bill passed.
It wasn't surprising that Biden became an agent of change at an early age. Public service was in her DNA.
"I had a mother who was a public school teacher and a father who was a public servant," she said. "I grew up campaigning with Dad, going to school with Mom, seeing people from all various walks of life and various cultures and races, and I got a sense very early on that there was an inherent unfairness."
After graduating from Tulane University in 2004, Biden worked with youth aging out of foster care and in a children's mental health clinic. She is currently the executive director of the Delaware Center for Justice.
While Biden has no plans to quit her day job, another passion of hers — fashion — got her thinking how she could create change through clothes. She partnered with online retailer Gilt, and Livelihood was born.
Biden's first collection of organic-cotton hoodies debuted at New York Fashion Week in February. The hoodies are made entirely in the U.S., with 100 percent of the net proceeds going to the under-funded communities in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware and Anacostia in Washington D.C., where Biden held her first job as a social worker.
"I started to cry because this is so awesome and so real," she said. "My hope is it keeps people cozy and fashionable and giving back and hopefully getting involved in a local level."
In addition to creating a sleek and socially-conscious fashion line, Biden launched GetInvolvedInYourHood.com to educate people on the importance of local politics. She cited the lack of participation in local elections compared to voter turnout in presidential elections.
"It's interesting because the local state officials truly are the CEOs of your life," she said. "They control the budgets and the money and what gets funded, from schools to taxes to everything, and we have the power to change that. I think there are some fixes that need to happen with the system, making voting more accessible and whatnot."
Biden hopes to expand her collection beyond hoodies to potentially include blazers, another one of Biden's fashion obsessions, and grow the network of communities benefiting from Livelihood. According to the project's website, "Livelihood will soon be accepting applications from communities across the United States."