Monday marks International Women’s Day—an annual celebration of women’s rights that has taken place every year on March 8 since 1975. And this year, fashion players are stepping up to take part in the festivities.
Fashion Makes Change
Philanthropic group Fashion Makes Change (FMC) announced a joint partnership with more than 40 global retail brands on Thursday, with the aim of supporting the education and empowerment of women living in the underserved communities often home to fashion supply chains. FMC aims to drive ethical and sustainable practices across the sector, using the framework laid out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Brands and retailers including Eileen Fisher, Chloe, Gabriela Hearst, The Coach Foundation, Stuart Weitzman, Kate Spade New York, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, Nordstrom, Rosie Assoulin, Larroudé, Hill House Home, The Conservatory, Markarian, Neiman Marcus, Madewell, Theory, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy’s, AARMY and Sarah Flint will support FMC’s fundraising, which launched this week.
The effort will benefit the Empower@Work Collaborative, a joint effort of United Nations’ ILO-IFC Better Work, BSR’s HERproject, CARE International, and Gap Inc’s P.A.C.E (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement) programs. The collaborative runs training programs designed to address the complex needs of female factory workers, from health to financial planning, gender equality and problem solving.
FMC’s introductory consumer-facing push, dubbed Your Change Can Change Everything, ramped up Thursday. As its name would suggest, the platform encourages shoppers patronizing FMC’s partner retailers to round their purchases up to the nearest dollar, with the intention of donating the change to Empower@Work. Consumers can also choose to donate directly—and select brands have pledged to match donations. Web shoppers can also get in on the action, as a newly formed partnership with Shopify allows brands that run their businesses through the platform to seamlessly integrate a donation tool into their checkout process.
On Monday, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the company’s U.S. business launched a year-long partnership with Buy From A Black Woman (BFABW), a non-profit organization founded in 2016 by Nikki Porcher. The group connects its membership—consisting of more than 500 Black women-owned businesses—with a community to support their growth. It also leverages educational programs, exposure through a curated online directory, and financial resources in the service of promoting the success of these ventures.
H&M plans to back a variety the group’s activities throughout 2021. To start, the company will introduce BFABW to its loyalty club members during its annual Member Days activations, which offer steals and deals to H&M devotees. A portion of the sales from those promotions will be donated to BFABW. And over the summer, the brand will sponsor a Black Women Inspire Tour, using its e-commerce and social channels to highlight Black women-owned businesses from coast to coast.
The fall season will see sponsorship of BFABW’s 10-week accelerator program, which features targeted online instruction for Black women looking to grow their businesses—along with opportunities for funding.
“H&M USA is a true example of what it looks when a company uses its resources to pour into a community,” Porcher said. She added that the initiatives will serve to “to bring light to all the Black Women Business Owners who feel unseen,” and “make the room larger for more Black Women to move in.”
Carlos Duarte, H&M’s Americas regional president, added, “We’ve experienced the benefits first-hand of empowering women, especially Black Women.” More than 70 percent of the company’s leadership—including its global CEO—are women, he said, “and through this partnership, we are humbled to be part of these founders’ journeys.”
Amid the International Women’s Day celebrations, capsule collections and collaborations abound. Last week, Barcelona-based womenswear brand Mango launched a line with Mexican artist Ana Leovy, whose work centers on strong, confident female figures and features rich, colorful motifs inspired by fashion, culture, the artist’s dreams and her everyday life.
“Both in my work and in my life, this duality of strength and sensibility that women possess is something that constantly inspires me,” Leovy said. The range, made up of two organic cotton T-shirts and a canvas tote, retailing for $29.99-$59.99, features Leovy’s gouache illustrations. “Mango is a brand I have admired for some time and being able to collaborate with it to pay tribute to and support the fight for gender equality is an honor,” she said.
Profits from the sale of the collection will benefit the Vicente Ferrer Foundation (VFF), which promotes gender-equality projects in southern India, focusing on narrowing the pay gap between men and women, funding education, and fighting violence against women. Mango has partnered with the group since 2005.
Two of the American fashion firm’s brands—Gap and Banana Republic—have opted to honor International Women’s Day with new, female-centric products and donations to charitable organizations.
On Monday, Gap released a line of three limited-edition women’s, toddlers and girls T-shirts with the slogans “First But Not Last,” “Love More,” and “United Together,” which retail for $16.95-$29.95. The company will donate $25,000 to non-profit Girls Inc., which serves girls from ages 6-18 across 1,500 sites in the U.S. and Canada, providing them with educational programming and mentorship to support their mental and emotional growth and development.
Sister brand Banana Republic has chosen to donate to the International Center for Research on Women, a global research institute with a mission to advance gender equity and social inclusion. From Monday through the end of the month, $20 from each sale of the brand’s Notorious necklace—a bib-like piece reminiscent of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s oft-worn collars—will be donated to the group, with a cap of $250,000. What’s more, for every social media comment that tags a woman mentioned in Banana Republic’s International Women’s Day post, the brand will donate an additional $100 to ICRW, up to $25,000.
Levi’s, Puma and Joah Love
Lecvi’s is “committed to supporting emerging designers, fostering creative opportunity and providing a platform to showcase up and coming talent,” Jen Sey, brand president at the San Francisco-based denim giant, said last week of a new partnership with first generation Guyanese-American designer Marrisa Wilson NY.
The two-piece limited-edition capsule, available through the Levi’s app, features a customized trucker jacket and a ribcage bootcut jean. Ranging from $198-$268, the pieces from the designer’s soulful style are embroidered with Wilson’s favorite R&B song titles and lyrics, using bright, bold yellow thread—a staple color in her core line.
“We wanted to partner with Marrisa for Women’s History Month as her work celebrates self-expression and aims to create a diverse and connected global community of women,” Sey added.
German sport and streetwear brand Puma is elevating the visibility of its female brand ambassadors, highlighting a number of familiar faces in an effort to inspire.
Pop music star Dua Lipa will lead the brand’s consumer-facing content push over the course of the year, facilitating video interviews and more with other women close to the brand. The campaign, dubbed She Moves Us, kicked off last week, with a video featuring the singer’s song “Electricity” and Puma-clad change-makers from across the globe. The She Moves Us effort will support the brand’s existing partnership with Women Win, a global women’s fund promoting sports as a way to advance gender equality.
“Sharing stories of success is all part of changing the narrative, especially in fields like sports and entertainment that have tended to amplify the accomplishments of men,” Dua Lipa said in a statement. “Women are already nailing it across the board and celebrating their achievements is exciting and empowering.”
The initiative will also feature models Winnie Harlow and Cara Delevingne, as well as WNBA player Skylar Diggins-Smith, golfer Lexi Thompson, footballer Nikita Parris and high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh. In the American market, costume designer June Ambrose, actress Lauren London, artist and designer Nicole McLaughlin, fitness guru and LGBTQ activist Bethany C. Meyers and others add to the activations.
Participation in International Women’s Day isn’t limited to corporations. Joah Love was founded in 2008 by Korean-American designer Ahyoung Stobar, whose own history with domestic abuse prompted her to create a brand that supported survivors. The casual wear brand, which outfits women and kids in matching tie-dye sets, biker shorts, T-shirts and other staples, donates a percentage of sales, along with clothing and masks, to Los Angeles’ Violence Intervention Program. Joah Love is raising awareness for its efforts—and celebrating International Women’s Day—through a 20-percent off promotion from March 8-10, Stobar said, using the code “WOMENROCK.”
It was important that the brand “pay homage” to Stobar’s background and heritage, she said, so she took its name, “Joah,” from the Korean expression of affirmation or approval. Monrovia, Calif.-based Joah Love has become known in mom circles for its patent-pending Infinity masks, made with a “practical, yet unique feature where the mask can be worn like a necklace,” Stobar said. The adjustable tension strap prevents children from dropping or losing their masks, and has become a hit throughout the pandemic.
To honor the occasion, the U.K.-based retailer announced that it has hit its 2025 target of reaching 100,000 female supply-chain workers through various programs designed to promote workplace empowerment and improve life skills four years ahead of schedule. Andrei Vasi- liev, Bestseller’s social impact manager, credited its five-year strategic partnership with BSR’s HERproject, along with the “tireless hard work” from the company’s local responsible sourcing managers, for accelerating efforts on the ground despite disruptions wrought by the pandemic.
“Not only have we achieved a significant milestone—we also did it four years early,” Vasi- liev said in a statement, before adding that a new target will be forthcoming. “Until then we will of course continue our work with HERproject to empower even more women in our supply chain. We also focus on scaling up the impact from factory level to industry level to create learning opportunities for women throughout the fashion industry.”
Because Covid-19 made in-person training more difficult, Bestseller co-developed HERessential, an app-based program designed to boost the tech skills of low-income women, while enabling suppliers to provide worker training sessions on topics such as how to provide a supportive and inclusive work environment. A HERessentials pilot program will soon roll out in Pakistan, in collaboration with Bestseller’s long-term supplier Artistic Milliners, as part of an agreement with Work and Opportunities for Women, an initiative funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
“The women working on our factory floors are the most hardworking, they deserve a safe work environment, as well as opportunities to progress,” said Faiza Jamil, general manager for corporate and social responsibility at Artistic Milliners. “It is heartening that they support our passion to help women excel in their careers. With the right implementation, HERessentials has the potential to change the lives of many marginalized women in Pakistan.”
Additional reporting by Jasmin Malik Chua.