The past year has been hard on everyone but in many places all around the world it is women who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. As we all stayed home, it has been women in many cases that have taken on the juggling act of looking after and home schooling children, managing the household chores with everyone at home and in many cases sacrificing or having to reduce their own work. Several reports have warned that equal pay and gender equality in the work place has been pushed back - years of positive work undone - with a recent report from the EU commission warning that these trends to could lead to inequalities "for decades to come".
The vast majority of fashion industry workers are women, and they have been affected by all of the above, with all the disruption and impact of cancelled orders impacting on them harder than many and making it more important than ever that we support them. We've said it many times before but ethical fashion is without doubt a feminist issue. We have an obligation to stand up for the women who make our clothes.
With that in mind, this International Women's Day we are celebrating our amazing female founded brands who work with and support women through offering fair pay, safe working conditions and empowerment through sustainable employment. We are so proud to work with these brilliant women and we are sure you will find them inspiring as we do.
ASIME are a female-led fashion brand founded by Georgie Wordley and Jen Harkness (above) with community and enterprise at its core. Working in collaboration with Aunty’s Fashion Home in the Volta region community of Dzita-Agbledom, Ghana. ASIMA produce colourful, contemporary women and menswear made from responsibly sourced Ghanaian textiles.
20% of our annual profits are donated to Dream Big Ghana a community led NGO that supports lives in the local community focusing on eco-sanitation, sports development, health and education.
The supply chain can then be traced to where all of the production takes place, at Aunty’s Fashion Home -a family run business consisting of Mother and Daughter, and seamstresses from the local community; Remember, Enastina and Joanna. Aunty’s business remains as her own, working as a co-operative with Asime, where she employs and manages her staff in agreement to a fair trade agreement drawn up with Asime. This ensures machinists and members of staff are paid a daily wage that exceeds 5 times the minimum wage set in Ghana and 4 times the living wage.
Aunty Gladys Eddah is the woman who founded Aunty’s fashion home in Dzita - Gladys Eddah. Known as 'Aunty' by the community in which her fashion home resides, a common term of respect in Ghana, Aunty's relationship with co-founder Georgie was born two years ago in the local Dzita community.
Within her fashion home, Aunty now employs three local women and her daughter Rita to work alongside her. She also offers apprenticeships for young women to learn from her skills, helping them to become experienced seamstresses and to one day potentially start up their own fashion homes. Although the sound of sewing machines is constant and the team are always busy working away, Aunty's fashion home’s doors are always open to the community, where many come to meet with her as music plays on the radio and laughter carries across the courtyard. An instantly calming and naturally warm persona, Aunty’s beauty permeates every part of her, both inside and out, matched with a style that is as classy as it is colourful.
LITTLE BY LITTLE
Little by Little it all began with, in their own words “a pair of optimistic, altruistic students”, Georgina Fuggle and Annabel Panes. The pair’s friendship inspired them to risk everything and do something completely different, that would make a difference to other women’s lives too.
Georgina swapped Fashion & Textiles for chef’s whites and food styling and photography - writing books with Prue Leith and opening pop-ups, even before there were pop-ups. Annabel went from exploring the idea of art therapy to therapeutically making her own jewellery.
Food and friendship brought the girls together as well as a deep-rooted desire to make the world a better place for unseen, unheard women, at home and abroad. It felt completely natural to connect the crafting of gorgeous meals, consciously-made jewellery and charity fundraising. So, we decided to make something good and beautiful happen from it all.
Little by Little, everything came together… A series of collections themed around fragrant spices and juicy slices; deliciously adaptable, everyday-wear jewellery inspired by beautiful organic geometry.
The duo built a charitable partnership with Luminary Bakeries, to ensure that every piece sold provides a day of confidence — and career-boosting training to empower women.
And in the future? A jewellery-making foundation — to actually be the charity that re-skills and supports. A venue that’s part kitchen, part gallery, part workshop, filled with delicacies and delight. As well as the continued vision to connect and mentor others, through this unique intersection of food and jewellery.
Because in Georgina and Annabel’s words “together, we can all make a difference — Little by Little.”
Founded by London based Hayfa Hamdan, Kannava partner with female refugees to create beautiful ethical fashion based on traditional embroidery techniques. Kannava primarily work with women living in refugee camps in Jordan, giving them an opportunity to earn a fair wage, become economically independent, and offer them a chance to break the cycle of poverty that life in the camps brings. Refugees, and in particular female refugees, are afforded little chance of a prosperous future in the communities they live in but, by helping them into the workforce, we hope to promote inclusivity and financial independence.
Kannava creates a unique employment model that allows the artisans to complete most of their work within their home, in their own time, without adding the extra costs and complications of travel and childcare - particularly important during the pandemic. They work with a local community centre that supports the women and provides them with the materials used to create the pieces to avoid them incurring costs before they are paid.
In Hayfa's words:
"I started Kannava because I want to try and change the conversation around refugees and shine a light on some of the forgotten camps that have existed for decades. I saw how refugees can be excluded from society, forcing them to rely on severely overstretched charities. I want Kannava to be a celebration of refugees, of their rich cultures and incredible talents that deserve recognition. I come from a family of refugees and strongly believe that we should look beyond the label of ‘refugee’ and help preserve part of their history and identity.
I hope the incredible craftsmanship in each of our pieces is a testament to the talents of the women we work with. I have spent time with them, I admire them as artists, and consider them friends. I am in awe of their hardiness, of their ability to raise children in the camps, and even those that have lived in the camps for most of their lives, their incredible warmth, hospitality, their dreams, hopes, desires and most importantly belief, that they can, with the right opportunities, change their lives and that of their family for the better.
We believe fashion can be a powerful force for social change.
Every purchase from Kannava helps change the stories of these women, their family and children’s education.
Our stitches change stories."
A A K S was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of introducing the world to her favourite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs within Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, A A K S creates bags in styles that maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts characterised by bright exuberant colours.
The essence of A A K S design philosophy is a complex combination of thoughts, design element which come from a critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values in their production ; while having a strong sense of identity and quality. Each collection silhouette is unique and tells a different story through detail, colour and shape. Akosua is connected to every stage of the design and production process to oversee and ensure that the end result is imbued with the spirit and soul worthy of the A A K S stamp.