News & Runway

Kerry Washington on Designing for Allstate’s Purple Purse Project, Domestic Abuse and More

Image: Dan Jackman/

Image: Dan Jackman/

With the horrifying incident that occurred between Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his now-wife Janay Palmer, domestic violence has been in the news a lot lately. And though it took a terrible encounter to get people talking about an issue that will affect one in four women at some point in their lives, Kerry Washington was already throwing her support behind Allstate’s Purple Purse project. Purple Purse brings awareness to financial abuse, a silent form of domestic abuse. Kerry was on hand yesterday at the Chelsea Arts Tower for the unveiling of the purple purse she designed to help bring awareness to the issue. “I felt like this was such a great opportunity for me because you want to be part of the solution,” she told us, clad in a green leather Alexander McQueen strapless dress and purple pumps to match. “This bag is a way to address helping women in a very tangible and specific way.”

Financial abuse doesn’t leave any physical scars, but the effects are strongly felt by its victims. “Financial abuse is a problem in 98 percent of domestic abuse cases,” the actress said. “What we mean by financial abuse is that someone is controlling a woman’s or partner’s finances, damaging their credit, jeopardizing their employment, disempowering a woman to make her feel like she can’t leave because she can’t be financially self-supporting, economically independent.”

With this in mind, Kerry wanted the purse to be a symbolic vessel for women reclaiming control over their lives. “The purse is the place where a woman’s financial identity lives. It’s where the sense of your economic well-being resides. Your wallet is there, your phone, the keys to your car and your home — all of this lives in your bag,” she said, noting that’s the reason behind the bag’s substantial size. “To design a symbol, where the purple represents domestic violence, it’s like taking your purse strings back, taking control of your money and your life.” 

The purse, which is an oversized clutch with tweed and leather accents, was designed to fit all the things a woman needs in her life; keys, phone, iPad…you can even fit a small pair of roll-up ballet flats in there. Kerry said she added the leather strap because she was keen on the clutch idea, and women physically holding their purse. “I was a part of every stage of the design process, the shape of it was my idea, picking the textiles.”

So, what’s inside Kerry’s purple purse…or what was inside her purse before she emptied it for the grand unveiling? “Some of the things I took out of it are my wallet, my iPhone, I usually have some sort of lip color in there, I often have a bottle of water,” she said. “That’s why I designed a larger clutch because I kind of have a lot of things in my bag. Usually hand sanitizer and some sort of makeup remover wipes.”

As for her Scandal character Olivia Pope, we had to ask what she might have in her bag: “I think she’d be very supportive of the project. There was a storyline on the show where she helped (Darby Stanchfield‘s character) Abby get out of a very abusive relationship, so we know how Olivia feels about domestic violence. In her bag are very similar things; phone, wallet — I bet she has mints in her bag, I feel like she’s a mint person.”

To learn more about the Purple Purse project, visit