Despite being an industry aimed largely at women, fashion is still led largely by men.
According to a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, some 75% of apparel shop workers are women, but just 12.5% of Fortune 1,000 apparel and apparel retail businesses are led by women. On top of that, another study found that although women designed 40% of womenswear fashion brands, they only make up about 14% of leadership positions among the largest fashion brands. Another report found that women lead less than 13% of Fortune 1000 Retail and Apparel companies.
Women are the biggest consumers of clothes and accessories, and women are most of the workforce who produce them (80% of garment workers are female). Whilst in the Global North we keep marching for women’s rights and equality, we are happy to wear clothes sewn by enslaved and abused women in the Global South. So rather than talking about ‘sustainable fashion’, we should be also talking about ‘feminist fashion’.
In celebration of Women's History Month 2023, we’ve put together a round up of the female founders that are making a difference in the Industry, not just in 2023, but every year.
- Thao Vu, founder of Kilomet 109, is a designer, artist, eco-entrepreneur and a leader among the pioneering group of young designers who have made Hanoi an emerging creative hub of the fashion world. The entire production chain is self-contained within the craft communities themselves — using only locally sourced materials and homegrown eco-friendly dyes. This hyper-localized approach prioritizes ecological sustainability and providing material support to the artisans.
- Fashion designer Amy Powney, founder of Mother of Pearl, is a rising star in the London fashion scene. Raised in rural England by activist parents, Amy has always felt uneasy about the devastating environmental impact of her industry. Amy started her activist journey by creating a sustainable collection from field to finished garment and is continuing to make a difference every day. Last week, her documentary ‘Fashion Reimagined’ is hitting the cinemas, with the aim of making everyone a little bit more conscious of how unsustainable our fashion habits are.
- Marwa Atik and her sister Tasneem Atik Sabri, were only 18 when they realised there were no places where they could buy fashionable scarves. That’s when they co-founded VELA, a brand that creates a wide range of fashion products for Muslim women. In addition to their commitment to fashion inclusivity, they also use bamboo and other sustainable products to create eco-friendly pieces.
- Another female founder who has used her role in fashion to advocate for a cause, Alicia Sandve founded her jewelry brand HEYMAEVE to help sexual assault survivors like herself. Sandve donates $1 to a woman-focused nonprofit organisation every time someone purchases the site. She’s currently giving back to three different projects: Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos & Vietnam’s “Preventing Sexual harrassment In The Workplace”, Slums of Calcutta’s “Educate a Girl” and Rwanda’s “Build A Woman’s Future”. The team at HEYMAEVE, just like us at Cherchez La Femme, also supports Destiny Rescue, an organisation that helps rescue children who have suffered from human trafficking.
- Jewellery designer, Alice Gwyneth’s ethos & ethics are a driving force behind the brand. It’s important for Alice to nurture a brand that is revolutionary in the way pieces are designed and created, embodying all aspects of sustainability and ethicality. All pieces are handmade to order eco-materials and all pieces are packaged in recycled packaging. To ensure sustainability, she also offers a re-polishing, cleaning and 1 year Gold plating service so that your piece will stand the duration of time.
- Native American fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail, founder of B.Yellowtail brand, is helping create a culture shift for Native American artists and entrepreneurs. For generations, this population has only seen the fashion industry exploit and profit from them, without any repercussions. With her designs, Bethany is set out to share authentic indigenous designs with the world.
- American designer Angel Chang has partnered with a local non-profit, the Tang’an Dong Ethnic Eco-Museum, for her collections. The collection is crafted locally, where she has managed to build a workshop, dye facility and library for the community’s use and the artisans’ working on her fashion pieces.
Since fashion has long been run by men yet made for women, it's exciting to see many brands and female founders shaking up the industry and helping shape a more inclusive future. Like many other companies today, the ones we mentioned above, use environmental, social, and governance issues to define their mission and positively impact the world.
We’d love to hear any more feminist fashion friendly brands’ recommendations from you. So, don’t be shy and leave your thoughts in the comments!
Cherchez La Femme team X
Info sourced on forbes.com, vogue.me, and theindustry.fashion
All images sourced on canva.com