Choosing to pursue a career in fashion often comes with a lot of preconceived ideas. Devil Wears Prada aside, historically, people who work in this industry have been stereotyped as shallow or materialistic. In fact, I personally will never forget when a former friend patronisingly disregarded my knowledge on a subject by saying, "It's not the kind of thing you'd read in Cosmo, sweetie."
Much to the contrary, in recent years, I have found myself in awe of the eloquence and intelligence of people who work in this industry, many of whom use their extensive platforms to bring about change, particularly when it comes to issues that go way beyond fashion.
Initially, Instagram was predominantly used as a platform for outfit inspiration and to attain a glimpse into the lives of influencers and celebrities. But it has evolved to become a place to share news, information, and even bring awareness to important causes and issues. You can seek out resources on anti-racism and sustainability as well as mental health awareness and more.
With this in mind, I've decided to compile a list of women in fashion who influence us far beyond trends or clothing. From Adwoa Aboah highlighting mental health awareness to designer Aurora James and her fight for economic equality with the creation of the Fifteen Percent Pledge for Black-owned businesses, here are just a few fashion-industry figures who are using their platforms for positive change.
When the Black Lives Matter movement ignited conversations about what companies could do to help create equality recently, Aurora James—creative director of Brother Vellies—offered a tangible solution.
The designer created the Fifteen Percent Pledge, an initiative that aims to encourage businesses to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. While Sephora has already committed to the pledge, James is encouraging businesses across the clothing, home and food sectors to do the same.
Follow James: @aurorajames
Having graced the covers of major fashion magazines and appeared in campaigns for Dior, Chanel and more, Adwoa Aboah is a supermodel in her own right. Though, with over 900K followers, Aboah is not taking her platform for granted. The model and activist created Gurls Talk, a digital space that encourages anyone and everyone to share their experience in a safe and judgement-free way. Aboah also has a podcast in which she discusses topics including mental health, self-love, identity and more.
Follow Aboah: @adwoaaboah
Rachael Wang has long been passionate about sustainability and supporting brands that are working to reduce their environmental impact. The New York–based stylist collaborated with Fair Trade USA as the creative director of the We Wear Fair Trade lookbook. Currently in its second year, the lookbook highlights brands that are Fair Trade certified.
Follow Wang: @rachaelwangstudio
Halima Aden has conquered many milestones in her career, being one of the first hijab-wearing models to walk major runways and appear on the cover of major magazines. The model is also a UNICEF ambassador and often uses her platform to bring awareness to social justice issues. Recently, she also collaborated with fashion startup Anywhere to create face masks for hijab-wearing frontline workers.
Follow Aden: @halima
As the founder and creative director of Eco-Age, Livia Firth helps to spread the message of sustainability. Advocating for brands to increase their transparency (and highlighting those who fall short when it comes to ethical practices), Livia uses her platform to raise awareness.
Follow Firth: @liviafirth
As the co-founder of the recently launched Black in Fashion Council, Lindsay Peoples Wagner is using her platform as the editor in chief of Teen Vogue to advocate for diversity and bring about positive change in the fashion industry. The Black in Fashion Council aims to hold companies within the fashion industry accountable and create real change within the industry.
Follow Peoples Wagner: @lpeopleswagner
Model and activist Leomie Anderson has often spoken out about the hardships she has faced as a Black model in the fashion industry, explaining to Grazia recently, "As a Black model you can’t just be and exist, you always have to be aware of the fact that things are going to be harder for you."
She founded LAPP (Leomie Anderson the Project the Purpose), which first started as a blog to share stories and perspectives but has since turned into a fashion brand with a magazine element that covers topics from feminism to mental health.
Follow Anderson: @leomieanderson
Ashley Graham has long been a body-positivity activist who advocates for beauty beyond size. Though, in recent years, the model also launched a podcast, Pretty Big Deal, in which she interviews fellow models, activists, celebrities and more, having meaningful conversations that span topics including work, life, diversity and inclusion.
Follow Graham: @ashleygraham