Who do you look towards when celebrating International Women’s Day? This post is in tribute to female leaders, influencers and game-changers that are working hard to change what it means to be ‘ethical’ and make a positive impact in the fashion industry. In this blog I will introduce you to 5 women that have been inspiring me and others for over a decade.
Inspirational Woman 1 | Dame Vivienne Westwood
The unmistakable British fashion designer, pioneer and activist
Back in the 1990s wearing anything from Vivienne Westwood was about making a statement – being strong, confident and bold. Back then we didn’t really know that much about climate change, pollution, supplier transparency and sweat shops – or at least we didn’t seem to have access to as much knowledge as we have now. The mass global consumer market wasn’t really a thing, it’s been perhaps over the last decade things have gone super crazy, the development of the internet, fast fashion and the global market place have evolved into something we couldn’t have anticipated.
All I knew was that Vivienne Westwood and her anti-establishment ways were not for the faint hearted. I kind of fell in love with her alternative attitude and rebellious designs. Fast forward 20-years and I’ve learnt a few things about fashion and how it’s made. Whilst I love Vivienne, and I think she is now using her position of influence for good – it could be considered contradictory that her fashion empire still produces new lines every year, using a lot of plastic and isn’t committed to using eco-friendly materials. I’ve read that she is not planning to expand her business any more. In fact she wants to do the opposite being interested in quality rather than quantity.
One of her most famous statement when it comes to consumerism is simply: “By less, choose well, make it last” – which is used profusely across the ethical fashion movement, sustainable-stylists (like myself) and those on a more enlightened ethical path.
I think it’s fair to say she’s always been edgy and dared to be different. Since stepping down from designing from her fashion empire Vivienne has been focused on her role of an activist, she recently stated:
“I have a lifetime of ideas about how to make the world a better place. I’m always worried. I wake up in the middle of the night. But it’s good because I sort things out. It’s been a build-up, having this public face and the opportunity to speak.” – The Telegraph (1)
I’m excited to see where things go with Vivienne, she’s a supporter of the Fashion Revolution and Climate Revolution. The Guardian stated that Vivienne was “communicating the threat of climate change had become her priority and so she is keen to promote Greenpeace’s work to protect the Arctic. Vivienne was quoted saying:
”The status quo will kill us. People don’t realise how quickly we are marching towards a possible mass extinction. Once the global temperature goes up beyond two degrees, you can’t stop it. Current predictions are that we will see a rise of more like 4C or 6C, which would mean that everything below Paris would become uninhabitable.” (2)
Inspirational Woman 2 | Stella McCartney
Fashion designer and daughter of Beatles music legend Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney
Having been a vegetarian since I was a teenager, knowing the animal friendly brands was kind of easy because there were so few. 16-years ago Stella McCartney gracefully entered the fashion world with her alternative to mainstream textiles and one of the first high profile animal friendly fashion brands was born.
“Stella McCartney is a British fashion designer best known for her eponymous label. Born in September 1971 to former Beatle Paul McCartney and musician, photographer and animal rights activist Linda McCartney, she spent her formative years travelling the world with her parents who, at the time, were both in the band Wings.
Her interest in fashion started at an early age and by 13 she had begun to make her own clothes. Three years later she undertook an internship with Christian Lacroix, after which she completed an art foundation at Ravensbourne College and then a degree in fashion design at Central Saints Martins. After graduating, she shadowed Savile Row tailor Edward Sexton to learn more about the craft.
She is renowned for her sharp, simple tailoring with a feminine edge and considerate approach to wearable design. “It’s not about what it looks like in the studio or on the runway,” she once told WWD. “It’s what it looks like on a real person that matters. That isn’t easy, but it’s what’s fun.” Following in the footsteps of her mother Linda, she is a staunch supporter of animal rights and a strict vegetarian – she refuses to use leather or fur in any of her designs. Instead, her shoes are made of vinyl or plastic and all belts and bags are made from raffia and fabric.” (5)
Although Stella McCartney is an active campaigner for animal rights, there are one or two areas for improvement in the sense that her brand still uses plastic and vinyl which we know isn’t eco-friendly. Then of course there is the ethical standards of the company that owns the brand, the PPR Luxury Group. The group own many of the well known high end brands, which do not have an ethical or sustainable rankings to speak of and freely use animal skins and furs for their ranges.
Inspirational Woman 3 | Saffia Minney
Founder of People Tree and published author
Saffia Minney the founder of People Tree, author of SLOW FASHION & A slave to Fashion. Having met Saffia in 2017 in the Po-Zu showrooms across Fashion Revolution in 2017 I can confirm that she is PASSIONATE about changing the fashion industry and is now focused on the growing the Po-Zu brand and supporting the #ShoeRevolution which is shining the spotlight on how shoes are made, their environmental impact, and of course the highly unethical practices associated with animal leathers and tanning.
“Over the course of her career, Safia Minney has been a pioneer in ethical business, establishing Fair Trade supply chain solutions, defining PR and marketing campaigns and defining the strategic directions needed to reach new markets. At the heart of everything she has done has been a creative force and passion to deliver social impact and sustainability. Safia’s work draws on years of experience from her time in publishing from the age of 17. At Creative Review she led a Marketing and PR team. Safia then started a marketing agency working with Advertising Age and specialised in arts, political and green publications and environmental organisations like the New Statesman and Friends of the Earth. At the age of 25 Safia went to Japan where she learnt Japanese and worked for The Body Shop and started Global Village and People Tree.Safia has been recognised and won lots of awards, but even an MBE doesn’t get you a seat on the Northern Line in rush hour! In 2006 Safia was recognised by the World Economic Foundation, Schwab Foundation as one of the world’s outstanding social entrepreneurs, she was awarded Social Entrepreneur of The Year in the Edge Upstart Awards. “(3)
Inspirational Woman 4 | Tamsin Lejeune
Founder and managing director of the Ethical Fashion Forum
I met Tamsin at the Pure London show back in 2016 – and this was my first real foray into understanding ethical fashion.
“Tamsin has led the development and growth of the Ethical Fashion Forum, and the launch of SOURCE, from the first meeting around a table in 2004 to an international network of thousands of industry professionals.
Tamsin has worked with hundreds of fashion entrepreneurs and businesses, from start up to established, helping them to integrate sustainability with commercial business goals, and speaks and delivers training all over the world.
Prior to founding the Ethical Fashion Forum, Tamsin launched and managed fashion label juste, developing a pioneering fair trade supply chain for designer womenswear in Bangladesh, and co-ordinated the launch of Fashioning an Ethical Industry, which has integrated sustainability into fashion college curricula across the UK.
Tamsin holds a masters in International Development with a focus upon fashion and fair trade, has professional experience in international development across three continents, is the author of “Can Fashion be Fair?” published in 2004, and is trained in fashion design and fashion business management. Tamsin was previously a fully qualified architect, graduating with distinction and winning several awards in this field, prior to focusing on the fashion sector.” (6)
It was in-fact the Ethical Fashion Forum’s work that inspired me to make the Ethical Brand Directory, my goal was never to make money from the directory but to just help sign-post my curious style conscious clients and intrigued consumers towards the brands that care.
Inspirational Woman 5 | Livia Firth
Founder and Creative Director of Eco Age Ltd
As a sustainable stylist I have found Livia Firth’s work with the #30wears and the green carpet challenge to be incredibly inspiring. She’s used her high profile marriage to Colin Firth and attending celebrity events as an opportunity to show the world how to be more sustainable and eco-conscious. This shout-out has to go to the awesome work Livia does with eco-age and in the industry and on social media raising the profile of the damage that the fashion industry is having on our planet – whilst offering us easy to implement solutions so we can all play our part in the Fashion Revolution. It was through the #30wear challenge that I began to build my own sustainable wardrobe and my 1-year fast fashion detox that changed my life! A massive thanks to Livia for all of her work, without her leading the way I may not have my business Roberta Style Lee where it is today.
“As an Oxfam Global Ambassador, Livia has travelled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh and Zambia, connecting with the people at the beginning of the supply chain. She is also a founding member of Annie Lennox’s ‘The Circle’, a powerful women’s advocacy group.
Livia is a UN Leader of Change and has also been recognised with the UN Fashion 4 Development Award.
In 2014, Livia was awarded the Rainforest Alliance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sustainability and the Honorary Award of the National German Sustainability Foundation.” (7)
Who else you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments. And Happy International Women’s Day 🙂
Founder of the Ethical Brand Directory
References and Resources