Earlier this month, I was honoured to speak at the Giving Women’s 8th annual conference which took the theme of “The Fashion Industry: Women’s Friend or Foe?”. The event brought together some of the biggest names in sustainable fashion to discuss how—as designers, investors and consumers—we can collectively make the global fashion industry more sustainable.
Held fittingly on October 11th, International Day of the Girl, the event’s absolute highlight for me was hearing the stories of women whose fashion businesses empower other girls and women around the world.
Take Veronica D’Souza, the founder of Carcel, whose luxurious baby alpaca knits and silk bags are made by female prisoners in Peru and Thailand. Having discovered the grim reality of poverty-related crime that lands countless women in the penitentiary system, D’Souza decided to create her social-fashion-business.
Since then, Carcel’s seasonless limited collections have been featured in Vogue and scores of other publications. Carcel offers women behind bars a well-paid job, which makes them able to send their children to school and save up for a new start in life after their release. And each garment carries the name of the woman who made it.
For Narmada Ramakrishna, the founder of pink maharani, the overriding concern was preserving the rich cultural heritage of her native India as well as making a positive impact in the lives of the country’s disadvantaged girls.
The moment a pink maharani shawl adorns your shoulders, you change the life of a teenage girl from the urban slums of Bangalore, India. With each purchase, a vulnerable girl going through her menstrual cycle is provided with knowledge, support, and free products—enabling her to continue with normal schooling without having to drop out, which is currently the case with 1 out 5 girls.
Periods are still a taboo topic in India—the latest controversy around menstruating women’s access to Hindu temples being case in point. Pink maharani is committed to removing the negative stigma and ensuring that no girl misses out on education because of a natural phenomenon.
Created by Camille Jaillant, Olistic is a French luxury label produced by women in Portugal, who are continuing an age-old hand-embroidery tradition. Made from natural organic fibres, including GOTS-certified silk, Olistic’s first capsule collection makes it possible to literally wear sustainability on one’s sleeve, just like I did at the Giving Women conference!
With transparency in fashion being the ‘elephant in the room’, industry veteran Martine Jarlgaard decided to take matters into her own hands by founding her London-based eponymous label. By experimenting with new technologies such as Blockchain, she has created the Alpaca Mirror Jumper which could be tracked all the way back to the British Alpaca farm in Somerset via Provenance.org.
As an industry so closely linked to women—from those who toil making our clothes to those who flaunt them—I am convinced that fashion can only be sustainable if women involved in it are empowered. And that each of us can all help fashion become women’s friend—not foe.