When I first started writing this piece, I almost instantly regretted it. What if I leave someone really important out? What if any of the girls included ended up changing their minds just after I hit publish and go back to their normal lives? What if fashion's recent political awakening (see everyone at NYFW wearing white bandanas as part of the #TiedTogether movement) is really just a cruel "trend" and not here for the long haul? Designers who have agendas outside of the normal fashion confines have always existed (Katherine Hamnett, Hussein Chalayan and Vivienne Westwood, for example), but the idea has been adopted by so many more creatives of late.
Basically, there are myriad reasons to not start talking about stylish girls who are doing good things for the world (you can imagine the potentially negative responses: "So-and-so is apparently vegan but they have been spotted buying leather shoes," or "That girl claims to be plus-size but the rumour is she's on a perma-diet," etc.), but it's important and inspiring to highlight these groundbreakers. And it's a brilliant, big, shiny sign that despite much of the Western world's current problems, disruption can lead to portions of positive change.
So to put my fears aside, I'm asking YOU who else should be in this piece? How can we add to it to bring you a comprehensive roll-call of the cool new girls who not only look great and influence our wardrobes, but are also shaking up the way we work, communicate and think about our own, and the wider, environment? First, let's start with these nine women who are beyond brilliant. Keep reading to see the fashion activists who are making a difference, one genius Insta-post at a time.
London born and bred, this Victoria's Secret Angel has long been an outspoken force in the fashion industry. From highlighting the multiplicious struggles models of colour wade through on a daily basis to urging young girls to not send sexual images of themselves to boys, there is no topic she can't eloquently—and boldly—handle. Only recently has Leomie launched her own fashion brand with a message—LAPP is all about producing clothes that speak about women's issues.
Head here to read Leomie's fashion column for Who What Wear.
Don't be fooled by her Disney Channel day job or that adorable face. This 15-year-old actress is an activist extraordinaire, often harnessing the power of social media to speak out on topics such as feminism and gender equality. So articulate, in fact, that she recently took the mic and blew everyone away when addressing the UN Women U.S. National Committee conference in California. Watch this space, we say.
The Belgian model has long been adored by runway designers the world over, but in the past month, her profile has skyrocketed in a different capacity thanks to her honest and fearless campaign work around intersexuality. The 29-year-old partnered up with Interact, and via an interview in Vogue, she has started to bust taboos and shine a light on the scarily commonplace FGM methods that have been endured by so many intersex people.
British model Charli is a body-positive activist. She has been since her old agency dropped her back in 2015 for being "too curvaceous" and she responded with an excellent letter that went viral. She's the co-founder of the All Women Project—a foundation "aiming to better the life of girls and women worldwide by displaying a true, beautiful, positive and un-retouched image of women in photo and video campaigns throughout the year." Too right.
Charli's co-founder for the All Women Project is French entrepreneur, blogger and model Clémentine Desseaux. These two are currently being profiled by every magazine and digital outlet under the sun, so expect to see much more of them in 2017. Head over to Clémentine's site for excellent fashion, lifestyle, beauty and food inspo.
Devon-born British-Japanese designer Hana came to the mass-market last year when Uniqlo collaborated with her on a range of hijabs and incredibly chic "modestwear." She was known in fashion circles already thanks to her eponymous blog and speaks positively around the liberation that can go hand in hand with the personal choice to wear a hijab.
Model, actress, writer, performance artist… There are very few things that America's most sought-after girl can't do, and that list includes being the first transgender woman to be signed to a major modelling agency. Hari's activism was somewhat accidental, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming the poster girl for an outspoken generation.
We've said it once and we'll say it again: Adwoa Aboah is the coolest girl in London. Not only does she blaze a bright fashion trail with her own outfits and the work she's booked for, but Adwoa's personal project, Gurls Talk, is busting myths about mental health on a daily basis via great online content, social initiatives and intimate events. Everything about it feels safe and inclusive, and we're definitely into the T-shirt merchandise.
Nykhor is a model, philanthropist and activist from Sudan who wrote an open Instagram letter last year about how models of colour are so often overlooked, in many ways: "Just because you only book a few of us doesn't mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I'm tired of complaining about not getting book [sic] as a black model and I'm definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!!"
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