By Chere Di Boscio
Way back in 1910, the leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, Clara Zetkin, put forth the idea for an International Women’s Day. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on one day every year to push for their demands.
A conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries agreed to her suggestion, and IWD was celebrated for the first time in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, on March 19. In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since.
Of course, the original aim of IWD – to achieve full gender equality globally for all women – has still not been realised. A gender pay gap persists across the world, and women still aren’t fully represented in many industries, including the world of mainstream fashion.
The good news, though, is that women are actually dominating the realm of sustainable fashion – there are more female designers and ethical shop owners in this space than males. But it’s not only the area of design and retailing that we’re ruling: women have also been key to discovering new technologies and innovations to help push ethical fashion into the forefront.
Although this International Women’s Day has come and gone, we think it’s always a good time to laud the accomplishments of women – and now, we’d like to celebrate 6 influential women in ethical fashion.
1. Zoe Partridge
Twenty six year old founder of Wear the Walk, Zoe Partridge, is actively changing the way women shop. Wear the Walk is an online subscription service that allows everyone to rent sustainable luxury fashion from emerging designers. A recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation report found that 50% of high street fashion is disposed of within a year and half of these items end up in landfill, but Wear the Walk encourages women to consume their fashion in a different way to help to reduce their impact on the environment (and their wallets!). They’re also all about championing women who are making changes to business, fashion, food and science that are actively helping our world.
2. Carry Somers & Orsola de Castro: Fashion Revolution
After the Rana Plaza disaster, many people in ethical fashion circles became distraught and wondered how we could prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. Ultimately, the majority of those concerned ended up doing nothing, or making small changes. But Carry Somers was different: she felt the Rana Plaza event was a call to arms, and created the idea for Fashion Revolution Day a short time after the disaster. The concept came to her in the bath, and she was so excited by it, she jumped out of the tub and emailed the one woman she thought could advance the idea better than anyone else she knew: Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Estethica at London Fashion Week and co-founder of From Somewhere.
Today, the duo are the brains behind Fashion Revolution, the movement that has made millions of consumers ask: #WhoMadeMyClothes, and which has raised awareness of the importance of an ethical supply chain more than any other.
3. Stacy Flynn: the CEO of Evrnu
In 1760, a chemist called Antonie Lavoisier stated that: “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, and everything is transformed”. Stacy Flynn, the CEO of Evrnu has taken these words to heart. Evrnu’s aim is to transform, thanks to Fiber Technology, already existing textile waste into pristine new fibre to be used for clothing again and again. Textile waste is rapidly growing, as our natural resources are quickly disappearing, by 2030, the world will only have 60% of the water needed to support the human race and when you know that is takes 700 gallons of water to make just one cotton t-shirt, you know something has to change.
When consumers purchase a product made with Evrnu, they’ll know they’re doing their part to help protect the earth and decrease the 14 million tons of textile waste that’s created in the U.S alone every year.
4. Alexis McGivern: International Union for Conservation of Nature
Five years ago, Alexis McGivern gave up plastic. After disposing of her favourite snack wrapper, it hit her. That piece of plastic was going to outlive her. From that day, she immersed herself in developing global initiatives around reducing plastic waste. She says, “when you are young, you think you need to wait until you are in a position of power to make a global impact…Well I was done waiting.” She pledged to live plastic free and made better choices in her day to day life. Since making the decision to go plastic free she spends her time educating people about changing their own daily choices – which includes avoiding clothing made from artificial fibres like acrylic, polyester and even recycled plastic. She is now in a position of power at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, where she leads a plastic reduction program for schools in Geneva.
5. Carmen Hijosa, founder of Piñatex
In 2006, a partnership gathering the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, the luxury house of jewellery Cartier, INSEAD business school and the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company set out to support female entrepreneurs from all over the world. Six businesswomen were to be selected from each continent to promote their companies, gain media visibility, and to have opportunities to access funds and business coaching.
On one of the winners of this selection was Carmen Hijosa, whose idea to create a new, natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibers caught the judges’ attention. And that’s how Carmen launched her company, Ananas Anam, producers of Piñatex, currently the world’s most favourite ecological leather substitute.
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