Most fashion designers enter the industry with grand aspirations of making it to New York Fashion Week or having their clothes worn by millions. But there are also many who design clothes with the hope of bringing about real change in the world. From empowering women to educating the masses on a refugee crisis, these fashion moguls are doing big things beyond releasing a new line of resort wear.
These six female designers are paving the way for a better tomorrow.
1. Tory Burch
Five years after she launched her brand in her kitchen, Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation. The goal of the organization is to empower other female entrepreneurs by providing them access to affordable loans, networking opportunities, and entrepreneurial education.
Burch started the foundation because when she was going through the process of starting her own brand, she learned about the obstacles that woman are faced with when converting an idea into an actual business. Earlier this year for International Women’s Day, Burch launched the #EmbraceAmbition campaign that encourages women to never hide their goals and to always support the ambitions of other females.
2. Eileen Fisher
“I believe that self-exploration holds the key to unlock great possibilities, both for individual growth and connection with others. In my own life, I’ve found that the more I engage in this work, the more strength I have to voice what matters most to me and to create a positive impact. I want more women and girls to have access to new ways of learning about themselves — what lights them up and what enlivens all of us.” — Eileen Fisher
Not only does Fisher have a vision for one-of-a-kind designs, she's also passionate about creating “an industry where human right and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run.” Fisher’s Social Consciousness team runs the grant programs for businesses owned by women, as well as various community partnerships and philanthropic events in-store.
Throughout the years, education, community development, and women’s empowerment have been at the focus of her philanthropic efforts. She has long supported Girls Write Now, an organization that helps teens girls find their voices and becomes leaders in their communities through mentorship in digital media and writing.
3. Lauren Conrad
Almost four years ago, the designer and one of her long-time friends Hannah Skvarla created The Little Market. The online shop sells fair-trade, artisan-created products from around the world. The inspiration seed for the shop came during trips to Bali and El Salvador when the ladies were upset by the shortage of financial stability and independence the woman who lived there had. It grew when the pair visited Tanzania and Uganda and saw how rural artisan groups worked together to handcraft quality products.
Skvarla told Forbes, "We had the incredible opportunity to visit organizations in Tanzania and Uganda that were working with female artisans and entrepreneurs who were struggling to make ends meet. It was in the midst of these travels that we were inspired to create The Little Market.”
The site sells everything from plush pillows to chic purses; it also serves as a platform to tell the stories of the makers.
4. Angela Luna
When the Syrian refugee crisis caught the attention of aspiring designer Angela Luna she decided to not just sit on the sidelines. Luna used her senior thesis project in college to create ADIFF, which is a collection of functional, transformation, and life-changing outerwear for the refugees that inspired her.
In an interview with Business Insider, Luna stated, "This whole collection was also about finding a way to prove that fashion could be more than just clothes. I feel like, in every industry, there's opportunities [to make a difference], it's [just] up to you to figure out how you can kind of make that opportunity yourself."
During her research process, she collected over 200 images, spoke to numerous volunteers, read a bunch of news stories and interviews, and watched numerous documentaries so that each of her designs would be an answer to the real issues that the refugees faced. Instead of trying to design clothing that’s transformed into survival tools, she worked backward. The result was a line that's functional first and fashionable as a bonus.
5. Mara Hoffman
At Mara Hoffman’s fall 2017 runway show in New York, the designer invited the co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington onstage to speak before she showed her collection. Her message: It's not about the clothes that the models wore, rather the women that were wearing them.
This isn’t the first time Hoffman has spoken out about women's rights. With a specific emphasis on women, she employs artisans in India, championing sustainable employment practices. She's also placed a focus on a conscientiously produced collection since starting her brand nearly 16 years ago.
6. Aurora James
Founder of Brother Vellies, Aurora James started her brand to introduce people to traditional African footwear, but most importantly to develop sustainable jobs in Africa. All of the brand’s footwear is handmade in Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa. The company employs both men and women of all backgrounds and ages.
Banner/thumbnail image credits: Wikimedia Commons, User:Alms1119; Flickr user Art Comments; Wikimedia Commons, Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com