Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and people around the world are coming together to celebrate social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
IWD has been observed since the early 1900s and whilst there is still a long way to go, attitudes towards and the rights of women have changed a huge amount.
We’ve chosen to celebrate IWD 2018 by recognising some of the women we find inspiring.
Katharine Hamnett is best known for her ethical approach to business and her large block lettering slogan t-shirts. Arguably the most recognisable of these tees is the ‘Choose Life’ slogan from 1983. This design was adopted by the pop group Wham and worn by George Michael in the bands Wake Me Up Before You Go Go video. More recently her ‘Choose Love’ T-shirts provide support for refugees across Europe and the Middle East.
Hamnett has lobbied for major change in the way the fashion industry operates, focusing on sweatshops and the use of pesticides in the cotton growing industry. In 1984 Hamnett won the first ever Designer of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards, and in 1996, was voted Britain's favourite designer by readers of Cosmopolitan.
Noëlla Coursaris Musunka
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Noëlla was sent to live in Europe at the age of five after her father died, because her mother lacked the education and resources to keep her. Noella was spotted in London and began an international modelling career which has given her a platform to launch her foundation, Malaika, through which she is determined to improve the lives of Africa’s youth.
In a recent interview Noëlla explained where the idea for Malaika came from:
“In Africa, when parents have money, they send sons to school first and girls stay at home. But if you educate girls you get less pregnancy, less HIV infection, the longer they stay in education, the more it impacts their future earnings so they can support themselves and their families. And we need more women in power, in politics, in business. We need to elevate them and retain them locally – build the infrastructure of the Congo from within. The girls we educate want to be leaders – they have big dreams.”
Mimi Vandermolen was one the first women to study industrial design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, graduating in 1969. She went onto become a Design Specialist at Ford and is well known for her focus on female drivers. She is said to have made her male design colleagues wear false nails while testing the handles and controls!
In 1987, Vandermolen was promoted to the position of Design Executive for small cars, overseeing interior and exterior design developments in North America—a first for a woman in the automotive industry.
Iris Apfel is an American businesswoman, interior designer (she was contracted to work on the interior of the White House), and fashion icon most recognisable for her thick black circular glasses and flamboyant dress sense. Iris can be described as an inspiration for the free-spirited; brimming with style, positivity and wisdom she uses fashion to express herself but most importantly have fun.
“Life is grey and dull; you might as well have a little fun when you dress”
At the age of 96, with over 800K Instagram followers, and having once described herself as “the world’s oldest teenager”, Iris is a fashion force that shows no signs of stopping.