How fashion-minded femtrepreneurs are changing the world.
In honor of International Women’s Day, many of us are reading about the great accomplishments of women inventors, scientists and humanitarians. Stories of how we faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles in many occupations, only to forge new paths.
One such field is Fashion. For many, it has a reputation for frivolity and social irresponsibility. But women are changing that. We’re reshaping it into ways our male predecessors never imagined.
Innovation appears when the overlooked become visible.
As females, we see niches that our male counterparts miss. We empathize with those who don’t fit the constraints of previous generations. This can be seen in the recent body-positive movement. In it, diversity is celebrated – all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities.
One such designer is Lucy Jones. Inspired by her cousin’s wish for more independence while dressing, Ms. Jones created a way to re-engineer garments for those who have impaired motion. She calls it Advantage Blocks and it allows for ease of movement and function without compromising style. Here’s a video on how it works.
Mothers of Invention.
We can all attest that one size never fits all. Neither does one shape. That’s why, for most of us, shopping can be a real buzzkill. We try everything on. And on. And on. And still often walk away empty handed.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could bypass this process just a little? If women could share shopping and style tips online with thousands of others? Well, check your inbox, because you’ve got fashionpenpals.
Founders Kat Eves and Nina Asay describe their brainchild as: “Wicked style at every shape, every size, every color, every gender, and every income. If you have great personal style, confidence, and a good story to tell about it, we want to show it off.”
A group of fashionable femmes sharing style tips and photos? Sign me up!
Then of course, there’s the sharing economy. Fashion’s very own Netflix where you can rent clothing for everyday wear or formal outings. Imagine expanding or reducing your wardrobe at will. Trying new looks without blowing your budget.
Rachel Botsman, co-author of “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,” gave a 2010 TED Talk about this new frontier of consumerism. And online rental shop, Gwynnie Bee has become so successful, they’ve started designing their own collections to help fill in the gaps.
The Big Picture.
Aside from personal empowerment, women also care about social responsibility. We want assurance that what we buy is ethically produced and sustainable. In fact, a recent study showed that Millennial women were most likely to:
- Buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit, given the opportunity (90%, versus the 83% adult average);
- Tell their friends and family about a company’s CSR efforts (86%, versus the 72% adult average); and
- Be more loyal to a company that supports a social or environmental issue (91%, versus the 87% adult average).
But it doesn’t stop there. According to an article on Psychology Today, Gen Y offspring (born between 1978 and 1994) are much less accepting of traditional marketing methods, proving more skeptical and hard to reach than previous generations. They also tend to be more confident and socially aware, valuing equality and social responsibility over thoughtless consumerism.
As the Internet exposes everything that’s wrong with the world, both men and women want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. We all seek sustainable businesses and eco-wise, fair-trade goods. And women owned businesses are providing that.
One such designer is Heather Arellano of R.O.S.E. Clothing.
The acronym R.O.S.E. stands for “Respect others, self, environment.”
R.O.S.E’S mission is to inspire, educate and create positive change through the stories behind its apparel. Imagery that playfully promotes learning – like pencil leggings – donates to schools. Imagery that promotes indigenous culture – like a stylized, colorful rabbit design – supports The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts. And a future collection promises to promote the Navajo Water Project.
Ms. Arellano doesn’t just give a little: 50% of her proceeds go to the non-profits that inspire her lines. Cool designs with heart. Now isn’t that a smart way to shop?
Another step in the right direction is Brooklyn based eco-luxe brand Brother Vellies.
Founder and CEO Aurora James employs many earth-wise methods for her footwear and childrenswear (e.g. vegetable dyes, repurposed/upcycled leather) while creating jobs in Africa. You can read more about Brother Vellies here.
Finally, it’s time we address the (ahem) grey elephant in the room: women over 50.
Cool your boots; I’m part of this demographic. I’ve relished our recent rise from invisible to celebrated. And I’m thrilled that market research now confirms what we knew all along:
We have the buying power and desire to be included in high fashion retail.
Our increasing visibility is partially due to some excellent blogs and news exposure out there. The most glamorous being London Fashion Week last month, where they hosted the first 50+ show in history. It put the spotlight on the obvious: that high fashion looks amazing on women over fifty. And we’re not shy about wearing it, either.
In Vancouver, BC, Bodacious Lifestyles gets it. Their clothing, in sizes 10 to 24, looks great on any age. Because really, there’s no “appropriate age” for flattering style, is there?
Regardless of age or background, what’s remarkable about women isn’t just our creativity and vision. It’s our ability to utilize these gifts despite our roadblocks. More than ever, we’re finding ways to combine our knowledge and resources with other women. We’re not afraid to leave behind old methods and invent new ones.
You don’t have to be a female entrepreneur yourself to have something worth sharing – or worth changing. Volunteer your skills or time to someone who needs it. Or just spread the word and support other creative women. Two blogs doing so are Fashion Fights Back and Better Dressed Blog. And the remarkable website, Redefining Disabled is beyond inspirational.
So, on this International Women’s Day, let’s examine our visions, needs and goals. And join others in reaching theirs – because together, we can change things. For all of us.
Regina Tuzzolino is a writer, avid traveler and 10 year fashion design veteran. She currently lives in Canada where she vacillates between American and British spelling. Apologies in advance.