March is one of my favorite months of the year for many reasons; I love college basketball, St. Patrick’s Day, and the first day of spring is in March. Mainly I love March because it’s Women’s History Month: a time where we can pause to observe and celebrate the vital role of women in American history and appreciate the struggle women went through and continue to experience to get equal rights.
Unfortunately, the Coronavius pandemic has largely overshadowed Women’s History Month this year. It is a dark and uncertain time for all. I know for many simply reading the news produces much anxiety. Let’s all take a moment to step away from the bad news and celebrate some kick-ass women with a “Women who Inspire” series. For the last few days of March I will be publishing articles about some truly inspirational women.
My first two posts in this series take a look at 20 women who inspire those to go green and adopt an eco friendly lifestyle, or inspire those to shop for good by making ethical purchases. The majority of exploited workers in the labor industry are women, so where you buy your clothes and goods is truly a feminist issue. These women all work in different platforms- acting, modeling, blogging, fashion…but they all use their words and celebrity for a shared mission.
1. Emma Watson
Emma Watson inspires those to support ethical and sustainable fashion in every outfit you wear. The Good on You app named Emma Watson as their Number 1 Supporter. She has been an adamant supporter and advocate of ethical fashion for years. She has participated in the Green Carpet Challenge, collaborated with ethical brands like People Tree, and created an Instagram account @the_press_tour detailing every piece she wears. She claims that every piece she wears on the red carpet should be sustainable. She has garnered attention for wearing striking sustainable pieces, like a gown she wore to the Met Gala, which was made with recycled plastic bottles. Watson dons everything from vegan shoes to fair trade jewelry, to socks made of bamboo, and manages to always look chic doing so.
2. Elizabeth L. Cline
Author Elizabeth L. Cline inspires those to take a second look at their closet and consider the negative impacts of fast fashion. Cline’s first book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion is considered a must-read in the world of sustainable fashion. In her first book she exposes how the rise of fast fashion has impacted our labor laws, environment, society, and economy. Her second book The Conscious Closet: A Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good is the perfect follow up and teaches us what we can do with our own closets to help transform the fashion industry for good.
3. Marissa Heyl (Symbology)
Marissa Heyl inspires those to make fair trade sexy and to shop for the greater good. The founder of fair trade company Symbology Marissa Heyl started her journey by visiting artisans in India to see first hand how fair trade empowers women. She fell in love with the art of block printing when saw an artisan making a tablecloth, and wondered what it would look like on a dress. This inspired the idea for Symbology, which combines traditional artisan techniques with current fashion designs. Symbology makes one-of-a-kind pieces with silhouettes that flatter all body types, so both the creators and customers can feel confident and empowered.
4. Liya Kebede
Liya Kebede inspires those to preserve traditional art forms and offer work opportunities to artisans in impoverished countries. Ethiopian model, actress, advocate, and fashion designer Liya Kebede is as kind as she is beautiful. She created the clothing brand Lemlem in 2008 to support local artisans in her home country. During a return trip to Ethiopia Kebede met with a group of traditional weavers who explained that there was no longer a market for their craft. This inspired Kebede to create Lemlem, means “to bloom” in Amharic, and features hand-woven and embroidered clothing for women and children. Her line is sold in several stores, including J.Crew and Barney’s. Kebede is also a vocal advocate of women’s and children’s health and as WHO Goodwill ambassador in 2005. Liya Kebede is a beautiful leading voice in ethical fashion.
5. Susanna Taylor
Susanna Taylor inspires those to find a balance between fashion and the natural world, and know that the two can co-exist. I first learned about ethical fashion from my childhood friend, Susanna Taylor. As kids we loved playing dress up with vintage clothing and Susanna always had a talent for combining her love of fashion and her love of nature. Susanna went on to study Ecofashion and fashion design at Parsons. She has worked as a stylist,tailor, and seamstress. Susanna later created the company Earthen Warrior and spent many years selling beautiful handmade sleep masks (of which I own a couple). Now Susanna has taken her love for natural dyes a step further with her new brand Flower Dye, a fashion brand and natural dye studio. Flower Dye works with a biodynamic farm in Vermont to grow its dyes to use on biodegradable fibers. You can learn more about Susanna and her ecofashion journey on her blog Earthen Warrior.
6. and 7. Rosario Dawson & Abrima Erwiah
Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah inspire those to wear sustainable clothing made with traditional African crafts in cutting edge designs. Pals Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah created the brand Studio One Eighty-Nine, which uses handmade indigo and batik textiles made by artisans in Ghana. The line considers its workers as well as its production line. They also use recycled materials and up cycled denim. The duo created the brand in 2013, and in 2019 they brought their line to the runway at New York Fashion Week. Erwiah says the brand is “About understanding the supply chain and the people involved.”
8. Em Sexton
Em Sexton inspires those to do good, shop with meaning, help others, and empower women. Fellow Raleigh resident Em Sexton is a speaker, consultant, and successful business owner of The Flourish Market. Sexton first launched her business in 2015 in a uniform delivery truck. Now she sells fair trade and Made in USA collections of clothing and accessories in a brick and mortar location in downtown Raleigh. The store partners with 50+ brands that provide fair wages and working environments to workers all over the world. Within the walls of the Flourish Market also Sexton created The Locality, a co-working and community space for women business owners and entrepreneurs. Em Sexton has proved that she is a go-good force to be reckoned with!
9. Ashlee Piper
Ashlee Piper encourages those to give a sh*t about the environment. Author of Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet author Ashlee Piper wrote a practical handbook which is accessible to all readers and encourages people to make choices in their everyday lives that will better our planet. Her writing is relevant, witty, and well-researched. She gives easy tips for changes you can make to your wardrobe, diet, skincare regimen, and daily life to lessen your environmental footprint. She breaks down the ins and outs of recycling and composting, and lists various resources you can use to support your earth friendly habits.
10. AmyAnn Cadwell
AmyAnn Cadwell inspires those to consider the social and environmental impact of their lifestyle choices. Cadwell is the founder of The Good Trade, a website with millions of readers that has become a leader in the industry. After watching the documentary The True Cost, Cadwell was deeply disturbed by the truth behind the apparel industry and decided to focus her life on labor laws. Cadwell now dedicates her time to providing meaningful content and resources on The Good Trade and inspiring people to shop ethically.
There you have it. These are the first ten women who inspire those to go green and shop sustainably. Look for a second post tomorrow detailing ten more badass ladies in sustainability!