source: thechrisellefactor | photograher: niel sharum
“Why have there been no great women artists?” is an extract from Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay – critiquing the systematic challenges experienced by women in the world of art – and recently used as a feminist point of reference in Maria Chiuri spring 2018 ready-to-wear collection for Dior.
Indeed, fashion is commonly regarded as a female-dominated industry – with more women consumers than men – yet Maria’s t-shirt slogan including last year’s “we should all be feminists,” continue to hold relevance in today’s times, particularly within the industry.
As the artistic director of Dior, Chiuri is the first-ever-female to be appointed in the role throughout the company’s entire 71-year history and represents the few women at the helm of fashion’s largest firms. While the majority remain under the leadership of male creative directors. In 2016, a Business Of Fashion’s issue titled: ‘7 issues facing fashion now,’ reported that women “hold a disproportionately low percentage of senior positions” and occupy “less than 25 percent of leadership positions” in the workforce.
And of course, several complex issues, including societal and gender-related, all have a direct impact on such figures. But one often-heard consequence of the underrepresentation of women in higher positions is the restrictive access many women [perhaps at the beginning of their careers or starting businesses] have to female role models that can mentor and instill confidence in their abilities to accomplish anything. As such, Anaria is sharing some valuable insights learned from three successful women in fashion, that will hopefully act as a source of inspiration and mentorship.
Thirteen years on, and Tory is relying on these experiences to encourage women to aim higher in their aspirations and embrace the word “ambition.”
Tory Burch On Embracing Ambition
In 2004, Tory Burch launched her namesake fashion company (now worth $600 million according to Forbes) and was interviewed by The New York Times on how ambitious she perceived herself. Her awareness of society’s stigma surrounding “ambitious woman” meant that the question left her feeling “uncomfortable” and “angry.” Her friend later pointed out that, despite liking the article, Tory had shielded “away from the word ambition.”
It was at this point that Tory gained insight into how she had “bought into the stereotype that women shouldn’t admit to being ambitious” because it is perceived as distasteful, negative and even “unattractive,” whereas it is considered celebratory in men.
Thirteen years on, and Tory is relying on these experiences to encourage women to aim higher in their aspirations and embrace the word “ambition.” In her recent Linkedin post, Tory advices everyone to “play a part in ensuring ambition is no longer a harmful stereotype,” by; talking about your ambitions, being mindful of your own attitudes, remembering that ambition is incredibly personal, supporting other women, engaging men in the conversation and joining the #EmbraceAmbition campaign to “own your power.”
Omoyemi Akerele On Embracing A Vision Bigger Than Yourself
Omoyemi Akerele is regarded in high-esteem as establishing a key role in introducing African designers to fashion’s international markets. Through her extensive work as artistic director of Style House Files – a development agency supporting African designers – and the force behind Lagos Fashion & Design Week, Akerele passionately nurtures and champions homegrown talent. Enabling designers to reposition their brands for success on a global scale, build sustainable business systems, gain invaluable exposure and facilitating networking opportunities with partners such as the British Fashion Council.
Indeed, it would not be a stretch to suggest that placing Lagos and Nigeria on fashion’s global map is no mean feat. Subject to a highly fragmented infrastructure, inaccessibility to funding, political instability and the country’s general lack of understanding on the vast economic benefits aligned with apparel, Akerele has, in fact, had to fight a tough uphill battle.
“Things have to be done and if I have to break through a wall, to get things done, I will break the door down and step on it. Because that is the vision. Once you have this stuff in your head, it is what you feed on, it is what motivates you, it is what drives you every single day.”
As an ex-lawyer with little experience in the industry, Akerele was initially unaware of the challenges that awaited her when she first decided to forge a career in fashion, thirteen years ago. In a speech, made in August of this year at the Fashion Focus Talks, Akerele shares the struggles she initially encountered during her journey. “ When you get in [fashion] and think, let’s discover designers, you realise that there is nothing happening in the [Nigerian fashion] industry.” “When I say nothing [I mean] designers cannot produce, price points are wrong, there is no access to funding, banks don’t understand fashion…..” “You discover that there is so much to do.”
Yet, in spite of her inexperience and the multiple obstacles she faced, Akerele stayed true to her vision and took on the challenge head-on. “I see my role as a catalyst” She expressed during the same speech, in Enugu. “Things have to be done and if I have to break through a wall, to get things done, I will break the door down and step on it. Because that is the vision. Once you have this stuff in your head, it is what you feed on, it is what motivates you, it is what drives you every single day.” She concedes; “the one thing I can tell you is that the vision has always been bigger than myself.”
“Strength is embracing a positive outlook on life, being a loving person, having the courage to occasionally take life risks and contributing to the world….”
Crucially, her tenacity, willingness, vision, and focus have had a vital play in shaping the many opportunities now available to African designers. Brands like Jewel By Lisa have been stocked in department stores like Selfridge and carried on luxury sites like Moda Operandi. Although Omoyemi acknowledges that there is still a lot of work to be done, it is clear to see that the picture is improving for Africa’s fashion creators.
Angelica Cheung On Embracing Strength as a Woman
Vogue China’s Editor In Chief, Angelica Cheung attributes the continued success of the magazine to its philosophy of empowering women with inner strength. Inspired by her daughter, Angelica explored the various elements that encapsulate an unrivalled inner strength within a woman [in order to pass on to her daughter].
And concluded that, embracing a positive outlook on life – “because we have so many troubles in the world” – being a loving person, having the courage to occasionally take life risks and contributing to the world were all fundamental ingredients of enjoying a fulfilling life. In a 2005 interview with John Simpson CBE, Angelica explains that these factors became the essence of Vogue China, going forward.
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