International Women’s Day is observed annually on 8th March, marking the value and accomplishments of women, as well as the continued struggles they face all over the world. It is both a celebration and a call to action, with a fundamental goal to empower women and girls globally.
The nature of International Women’s Day means that it encourages us to explore feminism beyond our own experiences and delve into the narratives of the voices less amplified or historically marginalised.
For this reason, on this International Women’s Day, Global Fashion Agenda urges people to focus upon intersectionality (Kimberlé Crenshaw, 1991), encompassing the scope of all women and standing against discrimination on the basis of race, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion, identity, size and socio-economic status.
A timely discussion
Following the tumultuous year that was 2020, characterised by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global reckoning with the discriminatory structures still very much at play worldwide, there is growing demand to give the utmost attention to these issues.
During this time the environmental burden on BIPOC communities was exposed, as well as the human rights violations taking place in garment factories, eliciting immediate and widespread attention. It quickly became evident that not only must things change but it logically follows to adopt an inclusive form of sustainability to unite the support of the vast scope of people already facing hardships. Intersectional feminism and environmentalism couldn’t be timelier, representing a plight which has been unfolding for years.
Critical to our work is championing the women who are guiding the fashion industry to a better place and to celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Global Fashion Agenda would like to highlight just some of the pioneering women we were privileged enough to have participate in CFS+ 2020, emphasising those who are influencing the fashion industry in various ways.
The garment industry turns over nearly $3 trillion annually, yet the garment workers, 80% of which are women, work for as little as $21 per month (Labour Behind the Label, n.d.). Moreover, women represent 71% of those in modern day slavery (Walk Free Foundation, 2020). Within this equation there exists systemic human rights abuses such as long hours for poverty pay, forced overtime, unsafe working conditions, abuse, and short-term contracts with little to no trade union rights.
Exploitation continues to line the global garment supply chain largely fuelled by the unsustainable consumption rates of the global north. The industry now must make it their priority to ensure that all garment workers are given their rights, protections and respect of which the current system fails to deliver.
Nasreen Sheikh shared her powerful story at CFS+, explaining how she was fortunate enough to take control of her future, following years of child slave labour in sweatshops.
Now a devoted advocate for women’s empowerment and ethical fashion, Sheikh has founded Local Women’s Handicrafts and Empowerment Collective.
Watch Sheikh’s Real Talk here.
Whilst not directly present in the supply chain, at the heart of resolving some of the issues flagged are powerful change-makers challenging conventional fashion practices through their advocacy and work.
Omoyemi Akerele is the Founder and Executive Director of Lagos Fashion Week and the Founder of Style House Files. Akerele’s work has been instrumental to the prolific rise of the African fashion industry. Her commitment to develop and promote the industry led to the establishment of the biannual Lagos Fashion Week, which presents designers in Nigeria and beyond.
Akerele also provides support for the industry with the help of government and investors, offers industry and incubation support for emerging talent and advocates for industry value chains to achieve their full potential.
Watch the full conversation between Akerele and Samata Pattinson here.
Samata Pattinson is the CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress. Pattinson is also a Published Author of THE TRIBE TM Empowerment Journal, The Fashion Designer’s Resource Book and Writer for The Guardian, VOGUE, Huffington Post.
Showcasing sustainable fashion at the Oscars every year, she brings sustainability to the forefront of the conversation.
Watch the full conversation between Pattinson and Omoyemi Akerele here.
The most cited scholar in fashion and sustainability, Kate Fletcher is renowned for her work on post-growth fashion and fashion localism, both defining and challenging the field.
Fletcher is the Professor of Sustainability for Design and Fashion at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL and the Co-Founder of Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion.
Her latest work, co-authored with Mathilda Tham, is the Earth Logic Fashion Action Research Plan (2019), Fletcher described it as “a radical invitation to business leaders, to governance, to designers, to the media, to citizens to put earth first and to transform the fashion sector.”
Watch Fletcher’s interview here.
Tara Rangarajan is the Head of Communications, Brand Relationships and Country Programmes at Better Work Programme, International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Rangarajan is part of supporting the ILO’s Garment Industry Call-to-Action, an initiative to catalyse action to support manufacturers amidst economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect garment workers’ income, health and employment.
Watch the conversation about the Call-To-Action here.
Activist, Campaigner and Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell, is pivotal in coordinating a mass movement of people using non-violent direct-action methods with a mission to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and reversing biodiversity loss by 2025.
She is devoted to using her creativity, energy, and occasionally her personal liberty, to fight against climate collapse and the wider environmental crisis.
Watch Farrell’s Real Talk here.
The fashion industry is reliant on powerful women who design with strong sustainability commitments in mind. It is paramount that we celebrate the visionaries who are advocating responsible design.
Priya Ahluwalia is the Creative Director and Founder of Ahluwalia and renowned for utilising and repurposing vintage and deadstock clothing, showcasing that sustainability need not compromise creativity.
Whilst Ahluwalia’s work is underlined by her sustainable and ethical practices, it is characterised by exquisite and unique design.
Watch Ahluwalia’s Designer Challenge here.
Korina Emmerich is a Designer, Artist and the Founder of EMME. Her work is reflective of her Indigenous heritage, stemming from the Pacific Northwest Coast Salish Territory Puyallup tribe.
Emmerich reiterates the significance of designers as storytellers with the ability to set a standard of value.
Watch Emmerich’s full Real Talk here.
Progress could not be possible without the talented innovators developing exciting design opportunities with the ability to shape the future of fashion.
Ruth Farrell is the Global Marketing Director of Textiles at Eastman. She plays a fundamental role in the development and introduction of pioneering products in new market spaces.
Farrell’s passion lies in sustainability and she believes that through partnership and collaboration, the world of fashion can deliver exciting design choices while improving environmental footprints.
Watch Farrell’s conversation with Simone Pedrazzini, Director, Quantis International, Italy where they discuss the accessibility of sustainable fashion here.
Focusing on the women at the helm of companies, we look towards the leaders within brands with impressive sustainability goals.
Kate Heiny is the Director of Sustainability at Zalando and spearheads Zalando’s Corporate Sustainability Strategy, bringing it to life and driving actionable goals towards becoming a net-positive platform in terms of climate impact.
At the core of Heiny’s work is collaboration.
Watch the conversation between Heiny and Amina Razvi, Executive Director, Sustainable Apparel Coalition on standardising sustainability here.
As the Sustainable Sourcing Specialist at Kering, Katrina ole-MoiYoi specialises in sustainable raw material sourcing, biodiversity and agriculture.
With over 10 years experience and a PhD under her belt her strategy towards sustainability initiatives within both private companies and development institutions is unmatched.
Watch the conversation between ole-MoiYoi and Chantsallkham Jamsranjav, South Gobi Cashmere Project Manager, Wildlife Conservation Society, on Regenerative Materials for Fashion here.
As the CEO of H&M Group, Helena Helmersson is in a position of great responsibility. Her work is defined by her strong passion for sustainability and industry transformation.
Speaking to the future, Helmersson commented, “If I then think about potential partnerships with parties and companies that come with the same values, and the movement we could create, especially with the young generation, that gives me a lot of hope.”
Watch the full 1:1 Conversation between Helmersson and Johan Röckstrom, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research here.
Whilst the work from individual brands is critical, it is important that we begin to see legislative changes at the policy level to really propel the sustainable fashion movement forward.
Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey
Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey is a UK House of Lord Crossbench Member. Her work is motivated by her drive to push legislation that eliminates modern day slavery, co-chairing All Party Parliamentary Groups on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, and Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights.
With one in every 130 women and girls around the world held in modern slavery (Walk Free Foundation, 2020), this work is imperative.
Watch the conversation with Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, James Bartle, Founder and CEO, Outland Denim and Kevin Bales, Research Director, Rights Lab, University of Nottingham, here.
Stine Kirstein Junge
Stine Kirstein Junge is the Head of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Accelerator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Nordic Office. This is a business model innovation programme that was tested with 32 Danish Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and is now being rolled out globally. Seeing a push for the implementation of the SDGs within fashion businesses is a promising step.
Watch this in action with the conversation about how Ganni collaborated with UNDP for an impact-free collection with Junge and Nicolaj Reffstrup, Founder, GANNI here.
With such influential women trailblazing this movement we look forward to watching, participating in and facilitating future advances as we work towards making sustainability fashion’s first priority.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, 1991. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review 43(6), 1241-1299.
Labour Behind the Label. Who We Are.
Walk Free, 2020. Stacked Odds Report.