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What’s fashion got to do with it?

Model twins Brett and Scott Staniland explore how the fashion industry can promote equality this International Women’s Day
Brett and Scott Staniland

This article first appeared in our International Women’s Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 08 March 2023. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Brands have become increasingly vocal in their celebration of International Women’s Day, and fashion is no exception.

Last year, we saw limited collections with proceeds donated to charities, lots of buy-one-give-one campaigns and Saks Fifth Avenue partnered with Women’s Health for an event to support frontline healthcare workers.

The fashion industry relies on women; while purchase frequency is reportedly down on last year, it’s estimated that women shop 59% more often than men.

But the sector is known for exploiting women, too – particularly in supply chains and the garment-making industry.

According to the British Fashion Council, the UK fashion industry employs over 800,000 people, the majority of whom are women, yet women occupy less than a third of the top jobs and are paid 15% less than their male colleagues.

Climate change also disproportionately affects women. The Natural Resources Defense Council stated women’s livelihoods are more likely to be damaged by extreme weather events and climate disasters than men’s as they are at greater risk of poverty and occupy less crisis-resilient jobs.

When those jobs are making garments for us, we really need to weigh up our need for new things at the expense of the female garment maker. 

Times are changing though, and hope is on the horizon. Sustainable fashion startups come in many shapes and sizes but have one thing in common: they care about people and planet.

Women in fashion

We asked female founders with brilliant, slow, sustainable or ethical companies why International Women’s Day is important to them – this is what they said.

NGONI CHIKWENENGERE
Founder, wearekin.co

‘International Women’s Day this year comes at a time where women’s rights are being restricted, reduced and reversed more than ever before. As a female founder it makes me want to do more for womankind.

For me, that means celebrating other women and my customers, raising awareness to causes and taking action where I can.’

HASNA KOURDA
Founder, Save Your Wardrobe

‘I wish female leadership would be celebrated more often and outside of IWD, especially as we are navigating through times of crisis. Women leaders have shown incredible resilience and power and yet we only receive less than 2% of institutional funding.

‘At SYW we aim to reduce the impact of an industry that is otherwise extremely wasteful. An industry manufactured by and designed for women, but widely led by male executives. It’s time we saw more women taking leadership positions and celebrated their accomplishments throughout the entire value chain.’

JOSEPHINE PHILIPS
Founder, SoJo

‘With running a startup, you get so wrapped up in the day to day that things like IWD are a chance to really pause and ensure we have the much-needed discussions around gender equality: appreciating how far we’ve come and the women who’ve paved the way and also ensuring space is created to discuss how far there’s still to go.

‘As a founder, you’re responsible for the culture of the company and in my eyes that should mean a culture where there’s a common understanding of the inequalities of society and the experiences of others. That isn’t and shouldn’t be restricted to one day.

‘We have these conversations regardless, especially with a team of 75% women, but there’s something in the intentionality of the whole world thinking about it simultaneously that really emphasises its importance.’

FANNY MOIZANT
Founder, Vestiaire Collective

‘I co-founded Vestiaire Collective with Sophie Hersan to offer a tangible solution for the unused items in all of our wardrobes. We wanted to offer a solution to a problem, democratise fashion for a better future and reduce waste.

‘After having my two daughters, I was inspired to start my own company. Female leadership and empowerment is in our DNA; as a company we are always looking to give equal opportunity and nurture talent across the globe.

‘Our employees are 56% female across our business, and we really focus from here in our Paris office to working with innovative female leaders including Elizabeth Ricketts, co-founder of the OR Foundation.

‘This year we are very focused on gender equality overall and applying to The French Gender Equality Index, addressing pay gaps, promotion gaps and the number of women in top management. We are engaging in the Parity Pact with Le French Tech because we believe we need women at every level, especially governmental.

‘Internally we have launched five taskforces, including a Parent Taskforce and a Women’s Empowerment Taskforce, to support women in the workplace to establish programmes and develop themselves. We focus on training female employees to be more confident speaking in public and provide daycare for all parents.’

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