International Women’s Day marks an important time to reflect upon the women championing a transformed fashion industry and also to recognise that fashion is an industry plagued by power imbalances and systemic inequality.
The garment industry provides employment to an estimated 75 million people from the global south and almost 75% of these workers are women. We must stand in solidarity with these women not just today but every day. Among other underrepresented groups, women are disproportionately affected by gender-based discrimination and violence in the workplace. Not only this, but women are often the hardest hit by the implications of climate change and the environmental impacts of the fashion industry. Climate change exacerbates the existing results of deep-rooted gender inequality.
It is crucial to focus on intersectionality within feminism, acknowledging the vast scope of women’s experiences on the basis of identity, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, religion, size and socio-economic status. These are all inextricably linked.
Significant shifts need to take place if we are to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality by 2030.
In light of this, we are honouring just some of the many trailblazing women who shared their invaluable insights during the 2022 Global Fashion Summit’s in Copenhagen and Singapore.
Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Denmark, Patron, Global Fashion Agenda
The Crown Princess has been the patron of Global Fashion Agenda since 2009 and has attended all Summits. Her patronage demonstrates continued support for promoting a sustainable and responsible fashion and textile industry. The Crown Princess’s engagement in sustainability, biodiversity and nature conservation is also manifested among other ways in The Crown Princess’s work for WWF Denmark, where Her Royal Highness took over as the foundation’s president in 2020.
The Crown Princess is also a passionate advocate for health, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. She is committed to creating awareness and respect and to ensuring compliance with women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to family planning and the reduction of maternal and child mortality.
At Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2022, The Crown Princess shared a Welcome Address and said: “Let us not forget that historically, fashion has immense cultural significance – no other medium has quite as much power and potential to make sustainability, in all its forms, desirable. This, however, can only be achieved by strong alliances, which can give impetus to a new era of sustainability.”
Researchers and educators informing the next generation of citizens are vital to the industry.
Frederica Brooksworth, Executive Director, Council of International African Fashion Education, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Frederica Brooksworth is a British-Ghanaian academic, researcher, strategist, editor and author. She is the Executive Director of Fashion Education Group, whose subsidiaries are the Council for International African Fashion Education (CIAFE) and Professional Development. Brooksworth is committed to creating impactful solutions to future-proof the global fashion industry and its people through education, research, and strategy. Currently, she is undertaking a Doctorate in Education with a focus on innovating the African Fashion Education system in order to close the knowledge and skills gap to create employability opportunities and contribute to economic growth.
During the panel ‘Histories and Futures For Fashion Education’, Brooksworth said, “There needs to be a shift from just having conversations and discussions to more action…We need to do more with regard to being deliberate and actually focusing on implementation. We need to hire more people of colour, more people from diverse backgrounds in senior positions”.
Nina Stevenson, Head of Education, Centre for Sustainable Fashion at University of the Arts London, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Nina Stevenson is an educator and learning designer who is working to develop complex sustainability ideas into creative and measurable projects. Stevenson leads the education work at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the University of the Arts London and developed new frameworks for Climate, Social & Racial Justice for use across all courses.
Reaching beyond UAL, Stevenson has developed a portfolio of free online courses on fashion and sustainability, attracting more than 90,000 learners. These courses underpin Fashion Values in collaboration with Kering, IBM & Vogue Business with the aim to educate, inform, inspire, involve and connect on a global scale to develop sustainability literacy, stimulate innovation and generate new fashion products, services and systems.
During the panel ‘Histories and Futures For Fashion Education’, Stevenson said, “Decolonisation cannot be decoupled from decarbonisation. We have to be looking at these things together.”
At the heart of industry progress are the inspiring change agents who are challenging conventional fashion practices through their advocacy and work.
Xiye Bastida, Climate Justice Activist, Co-founder of Re-Earth Initiative, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Xiye Bastida is an organizer, author, speaker, and student who is driven to make the climate movement more inclusive and diverse. As a young climate activist, Bastida has chosen to put what is considered regular teen interests and activities aside and instead devote her time to learning about climate policy.
Bastida is one of the lead organizers of the Fridays For Future youth climate strike movement. On September 20, 2019, they mobilized 300,000 people in NYC and more than 7 million around the world to strike for climate justice. In April of 2020, Bastida co-founded Re-Earth Initiative – an international youth-led organization that focuses on highlighting the intersectionality of the climate crisis.
Speaking on the panel ‘Science-based Targets for Nature’, Bastida said, “We won’t stop holding companies accountable. We want you to listen to the people on the street. Join us and listen to your children”.
Aditi Mayer, Sustainable Fashion Blogger, Photojournalist and Labour Rights Activist, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Aditi Mayer is a sustainable fashion blogger, photojournalist, labor rights activist, and frequent speaker on topics of social and environmental justice. Her work looks at fashion and culture through a lens of intersectionality and decolonization.
Mayer had her start in the sustainable fashion movement after learning about the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse in 2014. Since then, she has become a voice in the larger sustainability movement, approaching her work from multiple domains. Alongside these endeavors, she serves on the council of Intersectional Environmentalist and State of Fashion. In 2022, Mayer spent one year documenting the social and environmental impacts of India’s fashion supply chain as a National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow.
During the panel ‘Supercharged Storytelling’ Mayer said, “We need to expand from framing civil society as pure consumers, but citizens, how can you engage with one another in the community, focusing on organizing.”
Lily Cole, Author & Podcaster on climate solutions; Advisor for UNECE, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Lily Cole is an environmental activist, author and filmmaker, and model. Her young career in fashion led her to investigate supply chains and business practices. Cole is a Patron of the Environmental Justice Foundation and ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund and founded several of her own social businesses, including incubator Impossible.com.
Her book and accompanying podcast, Who Cares Wins, explore the myriad of environmental solutions from tech-utopia to indigenous wisdom. She has directed multiple short films on topics including the refugee crisis, living off-grid, and an exploration into Amazonian wild rubber. She was honored at the German Sustainability Awards 2021 for her ongoing dedication to climate and human rights activism.
Cole moderated the Panel Discussion ‘Traceability and Transparency for Systemic Change’ and said,“ We are not going to get to the targets that we need to meet and that are being set – whether it’s Net Zero Targets or different Biodiversity Targets- unless we actually understand what’s happening. That knowledge is absolutely critical to empower any sort of change to happen, and it’s quite extraordinary that the lack of transparency still exists today in the fashion industry”.
Focusing on the women at the helm of organisations, we look towards the leaders with sustainability and social justice at the core of their work.
Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer of Kering, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Marie-Claire Daveu began her career as a technical advisor to the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin before becoming Principal Private Secretary to Serge Lepeltier, Minister of Ecology and Sustainability. From 2007 to 2012, she served as Chief of Staff to French politician, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, working with various secretaries of state and then at the Ministries of Ecology, Sustainability, Transport, and Housing.
In 2012, she was appointed Kering’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs. She sets out the strategy and ambitious objectives as well as implements a set of best practices within the Group and the Houses.
Sharing insights during the panel ‘True Luxury: A Product Designed to Last Forever’, Daveu said, “We have to accelerate what we are doing and we have to push that scale.”
Seana Hannah, Vice President NXT Sustainable Innovation at Nike, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Seana Hannah is the Vice President of NXT Sustainable Innovation at Nike. She is responsible for setting the long-term vision for Sustainability across all product innovations. Hannah leads a team of innovators, scientists, and analysts who bring their expertise to the exploration and creation of new product concepts that are better for athletes and the planet. Hannah’s Nike career has spanned multiple roles from retail to product innovation, which has given her a holistic understanding of consumers, products, and manufacturing, fuels her inspiration, and enables her to uncover new and better ways to invent footwear.
Commenting on Product Circularity, Hannah said, “We have to plant the seeds now; we have to invest in the technologies now; we have to change behaviors now so that we can ensure that that future actually happens. We want that future to come as fast as possible.”
Nazma Akter, Founder & Executive Director of Awaj Foundation, Speaker at GFS 2022 Singapore Edition
Nazma Akter is the founder and Executive Director of the Awaj Foundation. She has been fighting to improve workers’ rights, especially women workers, in the garment sector in Bangladesh for over 32 years. Akter is also the President of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, one of the largest union federations in Bangladesh, and co-chair of the Asia Pacific Women’s Committee of IndustriALL Global Union.
Her main mandate is to increase women’s participation in decision-making positions at home and workplace to promote women’s empowerment. Also, help them improve their negotiation skills and build a better relationship between workers and managers as well as a harmonious environment in the garment industry of Bangladesh.
Discussing the issue of Better Wage Systems, Akter said, “We want decent jobs, fair wages, fair prices and we want to profit. The power should be equally distributed between suppliers, brands, and workers…The low price and low wage concept needs to be changed”.
Sumi Dhanarajan, Managing Director, Southeast Asia at Forum for the Future, Speaker at GFS 2022 Singapore Edition
Sumi Dhanarajan is an international development practitioner with a commitment to social justice and she has worked on the human rights impacts of the apparel and textile sector for over 20 years. Dhanarajan’s interest is in applying systems change practices within the social justice movement, particularly in relation to securing business respect for human rights. Currently, she is the Associate Director for Forum for the Future APAC, a non-profit international organisation with a mission to catalyse a deep and urgent transition to a just and regenerative future. Her current projects include leading the development of the Responsible Energy Initiative in Southeast Asia.
Dhanarajan moderated the Panel ‘Our Energy Transformation Moment’, and during the panel shared, “The language and the narrative is so powerful in shaping the actions that follow and there’s something about being able to capture where agency and power is in the narrative that will actually unlock ways to be able to innovate.”
Anne-Laure Descours, Chief Sourcing Officer at PUMA, Speaker at GFS 2022 Singapore Edition
Anne-Laure Descours is PUMA’s Chief Sourcing Officer, based in Hong Kong and has been with the company since 2012. Overseeing PUMA’s worldwide sourcing activities, she is also in charge of implementing the group’s FOREVER BETTER sustainability strategy in the supply chain, which includes detailed targets on carbon emissions, chemicals and social standards. The French national has almost 30 years of experience in the industry, having worked for international sourcing organisations, such as Li & Fung and Otto International.
During the roundtable session ‘Sourcing Alliances for Recycled Fibers’, Descours said, “We need to be thinking out of the box, we need people coming from very different capabilities, different industries, to help us, because the way we do a product today will not be the way we do a product tomorrow.”
Hana Kajimura, Head Of Sustainability at Allbirds, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Hana Kajimura leads sustainability at Allbirds, pushing the brand to integrate environmental and social sustainability into all aspects of the business, including product, supply chain, and operations. She also shapes Allbirds’s innovation narrative and storytelling, translating sustainability initiatives into engaging consumer-facing stories. Prior to joining Allbirds, Kajimura worked in management consulting at Bain & Company, advising Fortune 500 clients across industries, including technology, healthcare, private equity, and energy. Kajimura has also worked with Google X and Environmental Defense Fund on clean energy projects.
Discussing the topic ‘What even is a Sustainable Brand?’, Kajimura said, “As an industry, we’ve moved from the point where we recognise there was a problem. We’ve recognised what we need to do in the next 10, 20, and 30 years. We have stood up and made those commitments. And now it’s about proving points and action.”
Ngozi Okaro, Executive Director at Custom Collaborative, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Ngozi Okaro is an Award-Winning ESG and Social Impact Expert. Over the course of a career in social-sector leadership, she has led economic development, education, social justice, and community-based organizations to identify and meet their missions. In 2015, she founded Custom Collaborative, to support immigrant & no/low-income women launching sustainable fashion businesses and careers. She founded Custom Collaborative also to advocate for a fashion industry that honors the planet and people.
Among other distinctions, Okaro is a 2022 Goldman Sachs Black Woman Impact Leader, 2021 Conscious Fashion Campaign & United Nations Office for Partnerships SDG Honoree.
During the panel ‘Histories and Futures For Fashion Education’, Okaro said, “ We need to listen to what young people are telling us and engage them in the conversation about what fashion education should be.”
Carolyn Poon, Former Director of Sustainability at Singapore Fashion Council, Speaker at GFS 2022 Singapore Edition
Carolyn Poon is passionate about sustainability and the transformative value of technology to help businesses and people become better versions of themselves. Poon was the Director of Sustainability at the Singapore Fashion Council (SFC) for two years. Aside from headlining SFC’s initiatives like Be The Change and Fashion Sustainability Programme, which aims to generate a competitive edge for the regional fashion industry by positioning Singapore as the regional hub for innovative and sustainable solutions, Poon is also responsible for opening discussions and discourses with both consumers and the community for a better understanding of this movement.
During the panel ‘Community & Circularity’, Poon said, “If we think about 2030 to 2050 where the targets are… the generations of workers are not you and I, but are going to be the 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds. They themselves need to understand the value of circularity at that age right now, so when they work, they will be able to contribute towards that vision.”
2022 was a landmark year for fashion policy and it is critical that we continue to see legislative changes at the policy level to really incentivise industry action.
Lindita Xhaferi Salihu, Fashion Charter Lead of UN Climate Change, Speaker at GFS 2022 Copenhagen Edition
Lindita Xhaferi Salihu leads work on sectors’ engagement in climate action as part of UN Climate Change’s wider Global Climate Action work. She led the development of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, amongst others and works closely with a variety of stakeholders to mobilize key actors and catalyze ambitious action toward decarbonization. Salihu believes that it is possible to build the kind of sustainable economic system that the world needs – and we owe it to our children to become catalysts and drive a sustainable culture at home and everywhere.
Discussing ‘Strengthening Accountability for 1.5 Degrees’, Salihu said, “Certainly we all know that Net Zero is not going to happen in isolation. We need everybody to play a role… This will have to be a collective effort.”
Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, Speaker at GFS 2022 Singapore Edition
Christiana Figueres is an internationally recognised leader in climate action. In her position as Executive Secretary (2010 – 2016) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ms. Figueres brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations and activists, women’s groups, scientists and spiritual communities, financial institutions and NGOs to jointly deliver the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Since then, Ms. Figueres has continued to foster rapid action on climate change. Today she is the co-founder of Global Optimism, co-host of the podcast Outrage & Optimism and co-author of “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis”. She is a member of the B Team and the Chair of The Earthshot Prize Foundation.
When discussing Alliances for a New Era, Figueres called on the industry leaders to, “Take on that challenge and figure out in a fun, productive, creative, ingenuity way how you are going to contribute to making the fashion industry the responsible industry that it can and should be.”
Explore the inspiring insights that these remarkable women shared at the Summit in the on-demand library for the Copenhagen edition here and Singapore edition here.
Join us for yet more action from another group of esteemed women at this year’s Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2023.