Follow us


International Women's Day 2023: What inspires fashion leaders?

Tom Shearsmith
08 March 2023

Despite being an industry aimed largely at women, fashion is still led largely by men. According to a recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, some 75% of apparel shopworkers are women, but just 12.5% of Fortune 1,000 apparel and apparel retail businesses are led by women.

In celebration of International Women's Day 2023, spoke to small business fashion leaders to hear about how they make their mark in the industry, how they support women-led businesses, and what improvements can still be made for women.

Contributing to today's conversation, Collette Flood, Founder of jewellery brand Orelia, Alexandra Reid and Samantha Jones, Founders of contemporary womenswear brand Apartment Clothing, and Rosamund Muir, Founder of footwear business Rosamund Muir London.

Pictured above (left to right): Collette Flood, Samantha Jones, Alexandra Reid, Rosamund Muir.

How do you celebrate IWD?

Collette: For the last 4 years, including this year, we’ve marked International Women’s Day by supporting our charity partner Smart Works. For every piece of jewellery bought on the Orelia site for the week of International Womens Day, we'll donate a piece to the Smart Works wardrobe. We’ve donated an average of 1,500 jewellery items each year to Smart Works from this activity.

Smart Works helps unemployed women gain the confidence to succeed in job interviews through expert coaching and a wardrobe refresh. We’re so honoured to continue to partner with Smart Works to support their incredible efforts and the women who they help. An outfit can bring so much self-confidence, allowing someone to feel like the best version of themselves, which is crucial for women who are in such a pivotal stage of seeking employment.

Alexandra & Samantha: This year we’ll be hosting a morning tea with our team and our friends who are small business owners! We're running this as a mini networking event and a place for everyone to find support and encouragement. It can feel isolating when running your own business, particularly as a woman, so it's important for us to bring everybody together and celebrate the milestones of the year.

Rosamund: We celebrate IWD by highlighting the ethos behind the brand in supporting each other’s individuality and letting each other be themselves. We don’t all conform to certain types, it's courageous to be yourself and this needs to be celebrated. We also highlight and celebrate other inspiring female founded businesses each year in a newsletter which we send out on IWD.

How do you see that women's voices are uplifted in your business throughout the year?

Collette: We are a small company of around 25 employees and the vast majority are women, so as a business we naturally have a very female led voice and environment. Most of our leadership team, including our heads of buying, commercial, HR and finance are all women.

I don’t believe the idea of uplifting of voices should be thought of as something that is just reserved for moments throughout the year; equality across the board should be intrinsic to any business and its culture. It should be an everyday innate part of how a company is run and how they treat their people, not just a box ticked throughout the year.

Alexandra & Samantha: We both have worked across the fashion industry, and understand how hard it is to find your voice in a profession which is full of big personalities. Apartment Clothing was set up with collaboration in mind - I think when you establish a partnership this does open up much more discussion on everything from design to marketing decisions. We have a small all women team and encourage our employees to bring their ideas to the table. Listening to other voices and ideas keeps our label fresh and our company relevant.

We prioritise supporting women lead businesses and vote with our dollar by choosing to work with women lead companies!

Rosamund: Our business is founded on the desire to support women in their love for heels and offering different heel heights and types for all different requirements for women of all different ages. Many women are put off by heels as they have had bad experiences with uncomfortable shoes or receive negativity if they choose to wear heels for daily events which others might deem out of place. I have at times received criticism for wearing heels at some events and especially more so when I became a mother.

The Rosamund Muir brand supports a freedom of choice. All the more fabulous if they exercise their individuality and freedom of choice in a pair of sustainable heels! Allowing a woman to exercise her own choices in whichever way she feels feminine - heels, clothing, make up, hairstyles…. it should be encouraged and celebrated.

How can more women be encouraged to purse entrepreneurship or senior leadership roles in their career?

Collette: By continuing to support each other - especially the younger generation who are rising in the ranks, whether that’s through advice and mentoring or helping with connections. There are also some amazing women led charities and female focused platforms, who have made this a priority.

Businesses themselves can also encourage and support female entrepreneurs and leaders more. The power of our Orelia & Co. community came from bringing together some of the best independent jewellery brands in good company, to help them grow both their awareness and business. I do believe we’re in a much better place than when I started in the working world or when we launched Orelia in 2008. Female entrepreneurship and leadership aren’t as far removed as they were perceived a few years ago. However, there is so much more that can and should be done!

Alexandra & Samantha: We’ve both had great experiences with mentorship. Within our company, we offer flexible working hours to work around childcare and school pick ups. Hopefully this is something that can become more prevalent throughout the industry. There is still so much more work to do however and we acknowledge we come from a place of privilege compared to women of colour, trans women and non-binary people.

Rosamund: I think a lot of women are discouraged by a lack of confidence and self belief, and/or a lack of self esteem. There are so many challenges which face women that male counterparts do not. Time and also having young children can have an enormous impact too as evidence shows that it is still very much the mother’s role which takes on the greater mental load. It's key to have supportive family and friends who believe in you and to bounce and discuss your business ideas with and encourage you.

Also, a lack of financial backing can hinder women from pursuing entrepreneurships. I believe that there should be more grants available for women in business who are wanting to set up their companies. Within the workplace, women are still experiencing discrimination, making it harder for them to seek out senior leadership roles. Companies need to encourage female role models more by nurturing and proactively talking about women’s achievements and successes. This will help women with raising confidence and belief in themselves.

Free NewsletterVISIT