6 Women Leading Changes in Fashion

Aja Barber Women Leading Changes in Fashion

If there is any truth to the idea of our habits becoming our character, then there is more importance to getting dressed in the morning than most of us acknowledge. As a habit, and thus a building block of our character, what we put on our body, is just as important as what we put into it. So, as we shop for our next outfit, whether it’s a simple Zoom-friendly look, or something perfectly put together for work, or a long-overdue evening out, it is important we all keep in mind the impact our fashion has on us remains much the same. It is a chance to remind ourselves of our values and literally display them on our sleeves. And for the 6 empowering women listed below, fashion offers a chance to lead changes for a more ethical, sustainable, diverse, and inclusive future.

Their values may differ, yet not contradict one another, and therein lies the beauty. From established to emerging, designers are shifting their focus to offer value-backed fashion that doesn’t force us to change our aesthetics. Here in this list is just a sampling of the range of women dedicated to making changes in fashion.


6 Women Leading Changes in Fashion


Aja Barber

Aja Barber describes herself as “a stylist and consultant whose work deals with the intersection of sustainability and the fashion landscape.”  It’s a very humble way of describing the inspiration she brings. Her Instagram educates and exposes us to a new range of fashion activists (those leading efforts to transform the industry for the better). She offers great insights on what to look for in sustainable fashion. She’s also among an inspiring list of women working to decolonize sustainable fashion. Look for her book, Consumed: On colonialism, climate change, consumerism, and the need for collective change.

aja barber women leading changes in fashion
Aja Barber

Aurora James

In 2013 Aurora James founded Brother Vellies with the intent of continuing traditional African design practices and techniques “while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs.” 

brothers veillies founder aurora james women leading changes in fashion
Brother Vellies by Aurora James

I haven’t come across one of their creations that didn’t immediately intrigue me. Her work doesn’t end there. After the murder of George Floyd, she looked for ways for the fashion industry to make a positive impact. The result was the 15% Pledge, which asks major retailers to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. Additionally, you can find advice on making your own impact here; the 15% Pledge recognizes that we could all make an impact with just 15% of our spending power. However, the impact is not just from our money. It’s from taking the time to think through our buying choices. Acknowledging the importance of who made the items we purchase. The value of their contributions. And the truth of their story.

Kari Traa

Former Olympic skier Kari Traa founded the fastest growing sportswear brand in Europe in 2006. With the tagline, “sportswear for girls by girls,” her cozy, Norweigian inspired designs support active women. Yet, they’d also be ideal for a day on the couch. Last year, Kari Traa committed to Green Point Norway’s Plastic Pledge to reduce the consumption of plastic and create a more circular economy. The brand changed all packaging from plastic to cardboard. They committed to more efficient shipping. And changed many of its materials to reduce the plastics found in garments like sports bras and socks. Additionally, Kari Traa has taken the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, which “connects leading outdoor brands with inclusion advocates to advance representation for people of color across the industry.”

kari traa atheletic wear
Kari Traa

fleur nightstand koket - wood marquetry

Adriana Marina

Adriana Marina created Animaná, a Certified B Corp aimed at preserving traditions of local arts and crafts from Patagonia and the Andes by creating handcrafted alpaca, llama, and merino luxury clothing. As an Ashoka Fellow, she aims to change mindsets in the fashion industry by promoting ethical and sustainable supply chains and making slow-pace collections instead of chasing trends. Animaná also helps to train communities in transforming their artisanal designs to enter high-fashion markets.

adriana marina animana ashoka fellow
Adriana Marina

Eileen Fisher

Long a household name, Eileen Fisher launched her Renew program over 10 years ago. Through this program, Eileen Fisher is among a handful of brands spearheading the change from a linear to a circular economy business model.  Fisher admits that the first step in sustainability is creating lasting pieces. She considers getting a piece back in usable condition a mark of their success. Eileen Fisher is also a certified B Corp. She found that B Corp status transformed many aspects of the business model providing value to both the customer and employees.

Eileen Fisher (Photo by Matt Dunham)
Eileen Fisher (Photo by Matt Dunham)

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney is another household name prominent in the sustainability movement. McCartney aims to increase sustainability through the materials and practices used. As well as treating everyone along the supply chain with respect and dignity. Through social sustainability, the brand aims to identify and “manage business impacts, both positive and negative, on people”. McCartney has used her time during lockdown to write out the brand’s future and accountability measures for their values. Despite the challenges of the last year, she remains committed to the brand’s demonstrated ability to release new technology and create recycled or sustainable fabrics.

Stella McCartney women leading changes in fashion
Stella McCartney

The Habit of Dressing for Change 

For those of us privileged to be working from home during the pandemic, the choice of what to wear may have shifted to whether or not to change out of our pajamas at all. Yet, dressing is still one of the first thoughts we let pass each day. Even before COVID-19, getting dressed was highly-ranked on many pop-psychology lists for increasing productivity among remote workers. With less focus on looking professional all the time, I suggest focusing more on using our wardrobe as a way to remind ourselves of our values and dress for the world we want to create. Try starting by shopping the brands of these inspiring women leading changes in fashion. And seeking other brands that focus on leading change!


About the Author:

Emma Voigt combines her expertise in Conflict Resolution with her creative passions by exploring the power of fashion in various contexts. She currently works as a consultant supporting communications and change management efforts. She holds a degree in Social Science with a specialization in Conflict Resolution from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Voigt has led fashion-based efforts with women from around the world and is always learning about how the challenge of dressing provides us all an opportunity for expression.

Feature Image: Aja Barber


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