There are many well-known changemakers in the fashion industry—think of the trails blazed by the likes of Ashley Graham, Hari Nef or Livia Firth. But as our business moves through a long-time-coming period of fast-moving adaptations and improvements, it's no wonder there are inspirational figures rising from each and every corner of the globe. It's happening at such great speed and via so many different platforms that it's hard for even the most involved fashion lover to keep track. Which is why I wanted to celebrate a few of the lesser-known (but equally important) names I've been really focusing on since the start of 2018.
From the new Bristol-based model cementing a space for Muslim representation through to the woman shifting the way we think about, and shop for, sustainable fashion, these are the wonder women to watch out for this year. And what you'll find is that when you follow them on Instagram you'll soon fall into a glorious space where their friends, followers and connections lead you to positive, powerful discoveries. March at Who What Wear UK has been all about change—whether literal and of the new-wardrobe variety for spring, or just taking a moment to reset our habits and thoughts. This piece will (I hope) provide you with a dose of all the good stuff.
When Ikram Abdi Omar stepped onto the Molly Goddard runway, we were all enthralled. Who was this beauty in the black hijab invited to the designer's notoriously inclusive and fun catwalk show? Well, she's a 21-year-old Bristolian of Somali descent, and whilst this was her first big LFW break, she's slowly but surely becoming a face and voice of a generation of Muslim women—a generation who rightly should be part of the mass fashion scene. “Having models from different races, religions, and backgrounds gives hope to younger girls,” she told Vogue.me. “For instance, a young black Muslim girl can be proud to see someone that looks just like her, in the sense of skin tone and clothing, can make it to London Fashion Week.”
Abdi Omar is signed to Bookings Models on their up-and-coming "development" board, but we predict major things to come if her peer Halima Aden (the first hijab-wearing model to ever grace the New York Fashion Week runways, and now a campaign girl for the likes of Nike) is anything to go by.
Follow Ikram on Instagram @iikrxm_.
With brands and magazines finally coming around to the idea of not photoshopping their models as well as including a more diverse cast, it's refreshing to see a young photographer taking this idea and running with it—as well as highlighting that this move should be a standard procedure, not just some fad. In response to a brand digitally editing an image to place on stretch-marks, photographer Chloe Sheppard hit back on Instagram posting a black and white film shot of her in her underwear, stating "I suppose this is somewhat a response to *a certain company's* recent tasteless move editing stretch marks on a model, which was clearly a marketing tactic to make their brand seem "representative" and "not conforming to normal conventional beauty standards" but actually it's just bullshit. Stretch marks are something that aren't a fucking trend and can be pasted on and off, or enhanced so your brand looks revolutionary, they are something that make me, and most likely millions of people insecure and to me reinforce the idea of how unattractive I am to everybody else in society and that my body isn't normal and is something to be ashamed of."
Chloe originally focused on shooting other women: "I hated the way I looked and didn’t want to be reminded of it," she told The Debrief, but her continued self-portraiture project has led to an honest body of work as well as some positive moves to feeling more at ease with herself. Her candid, romantic style of photography is unsurprisingly being picked up on by brands aplenty: Chloe's client list spans the gamut from i-D to Miss Selfridge and back again.
I met Maggie Marilyn a month or so ago when her brand was celebrating alongside one of its super-stockists, Selfridges (her brand has been crazy-successful, notching up over 75 doors worldwide in just a few seasons). So whilst it's more than easy to get distracted by the cult-adored designer's pretty pretty wares, I was also blown away by her business set-up. For one, she is a poster girl for the changing geography of fashion: Once upon a time you could barely exist in the industry if you weren't in London, Paris, Milan or New York, but Maggie is blazing a trail from her home in New Zealand. Moreover, she's a keen advocate of sustainability and ethical fashion—not only when it comes to responsibly sourcing things such as recycled zips (from Milan, and even featuring recycled fabric that's attached to the zips themselves) and organic cotton (all the shirting fabric comes from a trusted manufacturer in Turkey where they have invented system that monitors their use of water, heating, lighting and power as well as the working conditions of employees). She even focuses on the ways her pattern cutters can reduce waste whilst still implementing her signature ruffles throughout the collections.
Maggie's interest in creating a conscious company filters from the top down, with as many stones left unturned as possible. Her production team is based in New Zealand and by all accounts, I heard that everyone in the HQ sees and supports each other on a daily basis. Inspiring designs loved by the Instagram set and with a big stamp of eco-approval keep Maggie's affordable designer creations at the very top of our list.
Be sure to follow @maggiemarilyn on Instagram and check out Maggie's latest collection online and in-store at Selfridges.
Model agents and agencies have been on the bad end of many a fashion furor recently, but there are a growing number of companies that really do fight to make a difference in an industry bogged down by bureaucracy and traditions. One such business—and a source our entire team turns to time and again for fresh model faces, cool girls for takeovers and to generally be inspired by—is Linden Staub. Established in 2016 by Tara Le Roux and Esther Kinnear-Derungs, the ethos of this model agency is like any other: With over 10 years experience in the industry as bookers, they had seen firsthand the unfair treatment of models (particularly young girls) and they set out to disrupt the system. Now this manifests in many ways, from looking to more diverse, hand-picked casting to this week announcing that it will be the first agency to stand as an anti-fur one—none of their models are to model fur in any job.
Their girls are often polymaths with stories to tell, which means you've got more than just a round-up of pretty faces here. Linden Staub keep their roster small and select, allowing each and every signing to be fully tended to and carefully guided through what can be a very complicated, political industry. The meteoric rise of models such as Maxim Magnus provides proof of the this renewed approach can and does work.
Marie Dewet, the founder of French brand Maison Cléo, may not know it yet, but she's the coolest representative of "slow fashion" we've found yet. Whilst much of the slow fashion movement centres around super-intricate, couture-like work that will set you back a small fortu e, this Insta-grown startup label instead offers a selection of beautiful simple cotton shirts and dresses that have to be pre-ordered whilst you wait for Marie and her mother to hand-sew them at home (too cute). What's even more impressive is that Marie is managing to do this alongside her regular job as Vestiaire Collective's VIP Services Manager. Her ability to multitask puts us to shame…
In a fast-paced fashion environment, it's been interesting to see the demand grow for these pieces despite the fact that you can't just grab them instantly—the anticipation of arrival, as well as the great finish on the final result, appears to be a model that's working. Internet superstars such as Leandra Medine of Man Repeller were onto the concept early, and others are fast joining the new order.
I first discovered fashion-loving academic and writer Sinéad Burke when she was on a Business of Fashion's podcast episode called Designing for Disability. This had been recorded during the publisher's VOICES 2017 event and instantly captured my attention. Disabled people have long been overlooked by the fashion industry, and the engaging, super-sharp and downright funny Sinéad is definitely the woman to lead the charge for change in this arena. Already with a TED Talk under belt, an op-ed for The Financial Times about her experience talking at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos alongside the likes of Will.I.Am and Christine Lagarde, plus a popular blog that she kicked off at age 16 (Minnie Melange—the name you'll also find her Instagramming under—which she began when she felt excluded from the fashion conversation due to the limited choices when you have achondroplasia) Sinéad has become the figurehead for a hugely underserved global population of people who want to buy great clothes and accessories but just can't.
Burberry has established a great working relationship with Sinéad, creating bespoke pieces for her to wear to these high-profile fashion events (and beyond, of course!), such as the metallic shirt dress you can see above, or a version of its classic trench coat that actually fits, unlike most of the pieces Sinéad is confronted with at any given store. We hope that the conversation can continue outside of the designer realm and start to infiltrate the wider fashion sphere.
Follow Sinéad's travels on @minniemelange.
Agatha Lintott is a model, buyer, activist, traveler and now founder and creative director of the coolest new e-commerce store for sustainable fashion, Antibad. Lintott's fashion past is quite the impressive tapestry, starting with Vogue shoots and moving into high-flying buying jobs at major fashion houses such as Burberry, so it's no wonder that a very cool cast has assembled to celebrate the recent launch of her store. Starting out the concept via her kitchen table in Devon, Agatha has pulled together a roll-call of awesome conscious brands as well as cool people to feature in campaign shoots.
The website's offering ranges from seriously cool lilac suede minimalist heels to vintage one-offs, but what I really appreciate (aside from the fact that these pieces totally debunk the myth that sustainable fashion is awful) is that each item is clearly explained as to its eco credentials—e.g., what fair trade fabric it might be made out of or that something has been created with the minimum harm to the environment.
Head over to AntibadStore.com to see more.