Today is International Women’s Day, and to mark the occasion, Footwear News is highlighting 12 designers and brands that are committed to supporting women’s causes.
So what exactly can we do on International Women’s Day? United Nations Secretary General António Guterres says it’s a day to “pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
There are plenty of brands, many of which are female-led, that support women in various capacities. Read on for more.
The designer created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009, five years after launching her brand, to empower female entrepreneurs. Burch says that through the process of starting her brand, she learned the obstacles women face in transforming an idea into a business. The foundation offers women access to capital, entrepreneurial training and networking opportunities. For this year’s International Women’s Day, Burch has launched the #EmbraceAmbition campaign, which is fronted by many stars and encourages women to never hide their ambitions and support other women’s ambitions.
This Uganda-based brand produces shoes, handbags and accessories that are handmade by women. Sseko employs Ugandan women to give them the opportunity to enjoy a safe work environment and fair wages, which go directly toward their college tuition. Every woman who has worked at Sseko is either pursuing a college degree or has graduated. So far, Sseko has been able to help 87 women go to college.
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Aside from Toms’ well-known one-for-one shoe program, the brand also tackles other important global causes. Purchase of a Toms bag helps support the brand’s partners around the world in providing safe birthing conditions for mothers and their babies. Toms is able to deliver necessary materials and skills training needed for safe birthing conditions and so far has been able to support safe birth services for 70,000 mothers.
Brother Vellies founder Aurora James started her brand not only to introduce people to traditional African footwear, but also to create sustainable jobs in Africa. The brand’s footwear is handmade in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco. Brother Vellies employs both women and men of all ages and backgrounds. James herself also participated in the Women’s March on Washington in January.
At Mara Hoffman’s fall ’17 runway show in New York last month, the designer invited the four co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington to speak before she showed her collection. Hoffman’s message? It’s not about the clothes the women were wearing, but about the women wearing the clothes. This is far from the first time Hoffman has spoken out about women’s rights. Since starting her brand 16 years ago, Hoffman has placed a focus on a responsibly produced collection, and she employs artisans in India to create sustainable employment, with a particular emphasis on women.
Zero + Maria Cornejo
This Chilean designer produces her collection in New York, aside from shoes and handbags, which are produced at independently owned factories in Italy. The women who wear her clothes are always front of mind for Cornejo, who has found fans in high-profile women including Michelle Obama and artist Cindy Sherman. As a company that was founded and now run by women, it is constantly looking to collaborate with female artisans around the world.
Diane Von Furstenberg
The New York designer has been committed to empowering women through fashion, mentorship and philanthropy. Von Furstenberg serves on the board of Vital Voices, an organization that supports female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. She also runs the DVF Awards, which honor women who are dedicated to transforming the lives of other women. Each year, she names five honorees at an awards ceremony at the United Nations in New York City as part of The Women in the World Conference.
Stella McCartney is known for environmentally conscious, high-end designs. The designer does not use any animal products in her collections. But in addition to shining a light on environmental sustainability, McCartney supports charities that focus on domestic abuse, breast cancer research and more.
Alice + Olivia
Alice + Olivia, founded by Stacey Bendet, employs more than 400 women. In honor of International Women’s Day, it is launching #AOBossBabe, a campaign that will highlight the stories of inspiring women worldwide.
The Kate Spade and Company Foundation helps women in New York find a trade or skill set that will allow them to support themselves and their families. Kate Spade also has an offshoot label called On Purpose, which employs women around the world in order to empower them personally and financially. The brand believes that it’s better to integrate suppliers and factories around the world into their supply chain, rather than simply make charitable donations to communities in need. Kate Spade has integrated a supplier in Rwanda into its business, where 150 people, most of whom are women, work five days a week with a competitive salary, benefits, vacation, health care and paid maternity leave.
Model Liya Kebede founded Lemlem in 2007. The brand employs artisans in Ethiopia who make traditional hand-woven items, allowing them to continue making their celebrated products while simultaneously empowering them with steady jobs. Lemlem has now expanded to include production in Kenya, too. Kebede’s foundation, the Liya Kebede Foundation, works to provide quality maternity care in underserved communities and reduce maternal and newborn deaths. A portion of sales from Lemlem goes directly to the foundation.
Designer Roksanda Illincic founded her brand in 2005, and since then, she’s continued to emphasize “woman-centered design aesthetic.” She supports the work of fellow female designers and artists and has collaborated with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and Studio Voltaire.