Although universally regarded as a trend setter, the fashion industry has in fact long performed the role of giant reflector to what is going on in the wider world. Like a well accessorized mirror, it has the ability to absorb and interpret societal shifts, political climate, technological developments and even the weather, reflecting back at us the current status quo. Fashion has never been as straightforward as just dresses and shoes.
To say that 2020 has had an impact on fashion would be somewhat of an understatement. The global pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement and myriad climate issues have seen the world alter irrevocably – and thus the fashion landscape has too. Now, more so than ever, we are looking to the industry to embody and communicate a mood of inclusivity, responsibility, equality, positivity and empowerment. And, thanks to a host of pioneering change-makers it is doing just that.
Victoria Prew, co-founder of Hurr Collective
A former charter surveyor, in 2017 Victoria Prew co-founded glossy clothing rental website, Hurr Collective, with a mission to make luxury fashion more sustainable. Promoting a circular shopping model, members of the site can rent designer pieces rather than buying something new, thus extending each garment’s life-cycle. This summer Prew launched Hurr x Selfridges: an in-store rental service featuring over 100 pieces from the department store’s archive.
Hannah Stoudemire, co-founder and CEO of Fashion For All Foundation
After staging a protest at New York Fashion Week Mens in response to the fashion industry’s silence over police brutality towards the Black community, Stoudemire co-founded Fashion For All Foundation; an organisation that promotes diversity and equal opportunity within the industry. Since the foundation’s launch in 2016, Stoudemire has worked with global brands to implement positive change, such as Tommy Hilfiger’s People’s Place Program which, launched this year, supports the advancement and representation of more people of colour in fashion.
Jemma Finch, co-founder of Stories Behind Things
Jemma Finch co-founded sustainable fashion platform Stories Behind Things after finding herself feeling disconnected with clothes and looking for a way to re-engage via a more mindful approach. Championing a slow, considered fashion consumption, Finch organises swap shops and talks to help educate, and make ethical shopping more approachable. And for those looking for outfit inspiration with an ethical spin, her Instagram feed is a must.
Bay Garnett, stylist and thrifter
Pioneer of the thrifting movement, Garnett is known for bringing charity-shop and secondhand finds to the world of high-fashion. As a leading stylist, she has dressed the world’s top models (including Kate Moss) in thrifted garments, and staged catwalk shows during fashion week using entirely pre-loved pieces. This month Garnett has collaborated with Oxfam on a pop-up shop in Selfridges.
Indya Moore, model, actor and social activist
Having started modeling at just 15 for brands including Gucci and Dior, Indya Moore, who is transgender and non-binary, has been working to dismantle prejudice in the industry for the last 10 years. The first transgender person to cover U.S. Elle, they regularly speak out about the need for greater exposure of marginalized communities within fashion and television (Moore also stars in cult series Pose) and have founded production company Beetlefruit Media, a platform dedicated to telling marginalized stories.
Emma Slade Edmondson, brand consultant and influencer
Dedicated to a sustainable fashion approach, influencer and consultant Emma Slade Edmondson has made her name working with big name brands to communicate and celebrate thoughtful fashion consumption. A leading voice in the secondhand fashion movement, she founded Charity Fashion Live, a movement that recreates fashion week looks using pieces found in charity shops. Her own Instagram feed is full of chic, ethical clothing tips and advice.
Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, founders of Rixo
Having introduced the industry to the idea of the mid-spend dress in 2015 when Rixo launched, this year, founders Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey have embarked on a new zero-waste initiative. The brand’s recycled collection repurposes fabric off-cuts into desirable dresses, blouses and bags, demonstrating that one woman’s trash is indeed another’s treasure.
Jillian Mercado, model and activist
Signed by IMG model agency in 2015, Jillian Mercado, who has muscular dystrophy, has spent her career advocating for the greater representation of those with disabilities within the fashion industry. Mercado has appeared in numerous fashion campaigns and editorials, and was one of three women who fronted Beyonce’s Formation apparel campaign in 2016. After making her NYFW debut in February this year, Mercado took to Instagram to say: “This moment was brought to you by … Every single person who has a disability around the world that has felt unseen and unheard”.
Rosanna Falconer and Rachel Arthur, co-founders of FashMash
Leading fashion consultants, Rosanna Falconer and Rachel Arthur founded FashMash with the aim of bringing industry members together to drive it forward in a positive direction. As well as hosting talks discussing current issues from anti-racism to sustainability, the duo have launched a mentoring programme to support future fashion game-changers.
Paula Sutton, ageless style influencer
After moving to the countryside, former magazine bookings editor Paula Sutton started her style blog, Hill House Diaries. Fast forward several years and 51-year-old Sutton’s bold vintage-inspired wardrobe has seen her garner over 350 thousand Instagram followers and prove that style doesn’t have age limits.
[b]Ellie Goldstein, model[b]
British model Ellie Goldstein caught the world’s attention this year after starring in a Gucci beauty campaign. The 18-year-old, who has Down’s syndrome, has been signed to Zebedee model agency for three years, and has used her platform to speak up about the need for greater representation. “Let the world see that anyone can model and act with a disability”, she recently said.
Dior Bediako, founder The Junior Network
Anyone who has worked in fashion knows it can be a tough, sometimes impossible, industry to get into. Which is why Dior Bediako founded The Junior Network, a member’s club supporting and educating young fashion professionals. The former Burberry PR hosts talks and mentoring schemes with industry leaders in a bid to transform the fashion industry into a truly supportive and accessible place.
Nicole Ocran, fashion blogger
One scroll through Nicole Ocran’s Insta feed and it’s clear to see why the blogger has a 27 thousand-strong following. Her stylish, feel-good content based around mid-sized style (Orcan is a size 16) debunks the often peddled myth that you have to be a size 8 to look great. As well as fashion, Ocran, who is half Filipino, half Ghanaian, used her platform and newly launched podcast, Mixed Up, to discuss race and inclusion within the industry.
Frankie Steed, founder of Franks London
Having spent years working for high street fashion brands, Frankie Steed felt compelled to create a brand that disrupted the current production model and offered a more sustainable way of consuming fashion. Founded in 2019, Franks London uses upcycled fabrics to locally make covetable dresses with timeless silhouettes. Each style is made-to-order in small runs to radically reduce waste.
Fiona Fairhurst, VP innovation at Heist Studio
One upon a time, shapewear used to mean uncomfortable undergarments that squeezed you like sausage and had the sole aim of making you look thinner. Then along came Fiona Fairhurst. Reinventing the entire concept of what shapewear should be, as the vice president of innovation at underwear brand Heist, Fairhurst has created undergarments that work with, rather than against the body, supporting, smoothing and offering maximum movability. The Outer Body suit has become a best-seller, while the just-launched Invisible Collection – which offers second skin-like comfort – is set to be a hit.
Clare Farrell, designer and activist
Designer, campaigner and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell is one of the most powerful voices in climate change and the sustainable fashion movement. She uses her platforms to highlight the impact that the fashion industry is having on the planet and encourage a more mindful mode of consumption. Farrell is also founder of sustainable cyclewear band No Such Thing and a lecturer of sustainable fashion at the London College of Fashion.
Stephanie Yeboah, author, blogger and body acceptance activist
If you don’t follow Stephaine Yeboah on Instagram, now’s the time. The influencer-cum-activist has garnered a 177 thousand strong following thanks to her keen eye for a great outfit and dedication to spreading the message of body acceptance. The author of ‘Fattily Ever After: A Fat Black Girl’s Guide To Living Life Unapologetically’, Yeboah has helped shift the narrative of what constitutes stylish away from thin and white, to a broader, more inclusive idea.
Sara Ziff, founder of The Model Alliance
Fashion model and activist, Sara Ziff founded The Model Alliance in 2012 to advocate for safe and fair working conditions for models in the industry. In the eight years since launch, Ziff has fought tirelessly to secure the protection of models, including campaigning for greater regulations for underage models. Following several allegations of misconduct within multiple areas of industry, in 2018, The Model Alliance launched the Respect programme, a global initiative asking fashion brands and agencies to sign a legally binding agreement to protect models against sexual harassment.
Amy Powney, Creative Director of Mother of Pearl
When Amy Powney took over as Creative Director at Mother of Pearl in 2015, she set about overhauling the brand to make it an example of how luxury and sustainability can co-exist. From sustainably-sourced fabrics to a slower, less wasteful production process, every element is considered to ensure it’s as planet friendly as possible. This year she launched a capsule with John Lewis & Partners, featuring seasonless pieces made from biodegradable Tencel and organic cotton.
Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies
Launching luxury accessories label Brother Vellies in 2013, Aurora James has long practiced positive actions, from using recycled and by-product materials in her collections to creating sustainable jobs for those in her supply chain. This year she launched the 15 Percent Pledge, which asks fashion retailers to devote 15 percent of shelfspace to Black-owned businesses, with the aim of giving Black creators greater exposure within the industry.
Aaron Phillip, model and inclusivity activist
When Aaron Phillip was signed to Elite Models in 2018, she became the first black, transgender, disabled woman to ever be signed to a major model agency. In the subsequent years, Phillip has featured on the catwalk during New York Fashion Week and starred in numerous campaigns and glossy magazines. She continually advocates for greater representation of marginalised identities within the industry and has been hailed as an inspiring force for representation.
Polina Veksler and Alex Waldman, founders of Universal Standard
Traditionally, the fashion industry has lacked stylish, affordable options for the plus-sized market – something Polina Veksler and Alex Waldman decided to change. The friends launched Universal Standard with the aim of providing modern, quality clothing for dress sizes 00-40, and it has swiftly revolutionised the fashion retail market, proving that inclusive sizing sells, and encouraging other brands to follow suit. The brand’s Instagram is a lesson in celebrating bodies in all their forms.
Nyome Nicholas-Williams, model and influencer
When model Nyome Nicholas-Williams – aka @CurvyNyome – posted a picture of herself topless on her Instagram feed in August, the social media platform swiftly deleted the image and issued Nicholas-Williams with a warning. The removal of the image, in which Nicholas-William is covering her breasts with her arm, provoked wide-spread outrage, as followers highlighted the double standard of skinny white influencers being regularly permitted to post similar pictures. After Nicholas-Williams launched a campaign calling for Instagram to ‘stop censoring flat Black women’, the platform has committed to reviewing its nudity policy.
Dalbir Bains, founder of Aligne
With over 20 years in the fashion industry, former buyer, Dalbir Bains was motivated to found Aligne out of a belief that the only way to keep the industry going, is to implement imminent change. Launched this month, Alige is committed to offering covetable, affordable fashion that has been made sustainably, using a transparent and fair supply chain, planet friendly fabrics and last-forever designs.
Sacha Newell and Tina Lake, founders of My Wardrobe HQ
Taking inspiration from a car sharing initiative, Sacha Newell and Tina Lake launched My Wardrobe HQ with the mission to get consumers and brands sharing luxury pieces, thus reducing excessive consumption. Launched last year, the platform is part of the boom in the rental fashion market and, thanks to stocking over 3000 desirable pieces, is a favourite among fashion editors and celebrities including Arizona Muse, Poppy Delevigne and Martha Ward.
Halima Aden, model
At 19, Halima Adenbecame the first contestant in the history of the Miss USA beauty pageant to wear a hijab and burkini. The following year, she became the first hijab-wearing model to sign with a major agency and to walk New York Fashion Week. She has also been the first hijab-wearing model to be featured in Sports Illustrated. Committed to breaking down barriers within fashion, she is a leading voice in diversity and representation. During this year’s Covid crisis, Aden teamed up with fashion brand Anywear to design a range of mask sets compatible with hijab and turbans – a need that had been widely overlooked.
Bethany Williams, designer
Committed to effecting social change through her fashion label, each season Bethany Williams collaborates with a charity to raise awareness about various societal issues from homelessness to hidden hunger. Staged over the weekend, her S/S ‘21 collection was in collaboration with the Magpie Project, a London-based charity that cares for immigrant women and children. Made from recycled and upcycled materials, and featuring drawings done by the charity’s mothers and kids, 20 percent of the collection’s proceeds will be donated to Magpie.
Francesca Burns, Stylist
Super-stylist Francesca Burns is known for working with the world’s top brands on glossy campaigns and editorial. However, this month she caused a social media sensation after calling out Celine for a sample-size pair of trousers that were too small to fit a size 8 model. Posting to Instagram she said “This is so unacceptable… we have a responsibility to celebrate and empower and to make people feel great… We also have a responsibility to make sure beauty standards are not limited to a size that is completely unrealistic for the majority”. Since the post, which garnered over 160,000 likes, Burns has continued to speak out against the lack of body inclusivity in fashion.
Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury
Realising that the luxury market needed to drastically improve its sustainability credentials, Diana Verde Nieto founded Positive Luxury. Championing and encouraging a positive attitude towards people and the planet, the organisation has established the Butterfly Mark, which is given to brands who are committed to making a positive impact on the world. Since launch Nieto has become a leading spokesperson on sustainable fashion and how to reform both brands and consumer behavior.
Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers, founders of Fashion Revolution
Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, de Castro and Somers founded Fashion Revolution in a bid to highlight and abolish human exploitation within the fashion industry. It has since become the world’s largest fashion activism movement, calling for greater transparency and accountability from brands, and a move away from fast fashion towards a slower, sustainable fashion model. Both Somers and de Castro are instrumental in the reform of the fashion industry, working to push through government policies to ensure it is a safer, more responsible place.