I probably won't be the first person to say this to you today, but happy International Women's Day! Inevitably, our feeds will be filled with a mixture of personal appreciation posts, branded hashtags and girl power quotes over the next 24 hours, and while we welcome all the IWD love, we also wanted to cut through the noise and talk about something that is close to our hearts here at Who What Wear: small, woman-owned brands. These are the lesser-known names that we love shouting about, whether it's down to their innovative products, exciting approaches to sustainability or refreshing attitudes towards size diversity.
The last two years haven't been easy for independent brands, so you know that we'll take any chance to champion the fashion and beauty brands that set our hearts racing. So yes, it may be International Women's Day today, but, really, we're in the business of celebrating womanhood (in all its guises) every single day of the year. So our lovely beauty contributor, Shannon Lawlor, and I have put our heads together to come up with a by-no-means-exhaustive list of small, woman-owned fashion and beauty brands that we want to share with you. From Freya Simonne's stunning upcyled jackets to Nikkie de Jager's groundbreaking beauty drops, scroll down to see and shop our shortlist.
Hannah Cawley founded Cawley Studio in 2017 with the aim of creating wardrobe staples that transcended the seasons. With a homespun, heritage aesthetic, the collections are made using natural fibres, such as cotton, linen and wool, sourced from traditional mills.
From elegant sets to pretty pants, all of Fruity Booty's designs are created from deadstock and sustainably sourced fabrics. We particularly love the Love Bug Set's ruffled appeal from the brand's latest drop.
After working in the fashion industry as a designer for almost 10 years, Freya Simonne decided to create her own brand to encourage a more conscious approach to consumption. All her designs are upcycled from pre-loved fabrics and range from quilted puffers to patchwork dresses. She also offers bespoke commissions.
I've long been a fan of the impeccable vintage edits of Selena's Shop (she was one of our first Second-Hand Shopper brands) that encompass everything from statement '70s printed dresses to classic '90s wardrobe basics.
Making its debut at Paris Fashion Week for S/S 18, Stockholm-based Rave Review won over the fashion crowd with its use of sustainable materials and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, which sees designers Josephine Bergqvist and Livia Schück upcycle pre-existing garments that they find at vintage markets.
Dolly Rocket London
"My dream is to provide a colourful and bold world for people to express their confidence and joy through clothes that fit and accessories that excite," says Dolly Rocket founder Sara Brown. From checkerboard tablecloths to feel-good frocks, this is the ultimate endorphin-boosting brand.
The Marcon Court Project
Laura Casas first trained in Spain before completing a three-year apprenticeship with Savile Row before setting up The Marcon Court Project in 2016. Expect impressive upcycled vintage blazers, cute accessories and handmade blouses.
Mad Brown Knitwear
I first covered Mad Brown Knitwear back in 2020, and the brand has continued to go from strength to strength. All of the brand's designs are made using pre-loved pieces that have been lovingly mended and reworked using coloured wool, which is woven between the cable knits. From tonal pinks to rainbow hues, each one possesses its own distinct character.
Ethically made in London for and by remarkable women, Birdsong London is a fashion brand and social enterprise that works with local communities to create its wares. I'd love to wear the brand's striped minidress with tan sandals and gold jewellery this spring.
Founded in London in 2018 by Damasia Ball and Philippine de Follin, Daphine is all about creating timeless jewellery pieces that will span generations. Every piece is handmade in limited runs out of 18-karat gold laid over recycled brass that is Responsible Jewellery Council certified.
Inspired by vintage patterns, O Pioneers is a British clothing label founded in Camden by Clara Francis, actor and jewellery designer, and Tania Hindmarch, PR and home seamstress. Their MO? Flattering, nostalgic dress designs made in limited runs and handcrafted in end-of-stock fabrics.
Jakke is an ethical fashion label launched in 2015 by East London designer Nina Hopkins. Awarded Best Faux Fur Brand and Best Wool Free Brand by PETA, Jakke specialises in faux-fur coats and jackets in feel-good prints and vibrant colourways.
With a goal of offering “a different kind of nude,” Ade Hassan launched Nubian Skin to create a more inclusive lingerie brand. The collection features four skin tones in 16 sizes from B to G cups and is beloved by A-listers such as Jourdan Dunn, Lizzo and Winnie Harlow.
Ericka Rodriguez founded Axiology when her own search for cruelty-free and vegan makeup proved fruitless. She created the brand to fulfill those needs and also champion a plastic-free approach to beauty. The stick products are multi-use and come packaged in recycled paper rather than plastic. The paper is sourced from a woman-run and woman-owned business in Bali that collects used paper from the island and recycles it. The products themselves are wonderful. Think no-fuss makeup that delivers dewy, balmy results in just a few seconds.
Soapsmith is responsible for some of the chicest bodycare products in beauty. Samantha Jameson founded the brand as part of her mission to help restore some of London’s lost craftsmanship. From the fresh lavender of Lavender Hill to the herbaceous grassiness of Hackney, each of the products features an iconic London-inspired scent (each one as delicious as the next), and they look really good on the bathroom shelf.
Uoma Beauty (pronounced uh-mah) is perhaps one of the most inclusive and successful beauty brands to have launched in the past decade. Founder, CEO and Creative Director Sharon Chuter spent years in the beauty industry working as an executive for some major players before launching Uoma in a bid to rewrite the rules of inclusivity. The brand’s Say What?! Foundation (available in an impressive 51 shades) and contour sticks have become major industry favourites.
Created by influencer Nikkie de Jager (otherwise known as NikkieTutorials), Nimya is a beauty brand that aims to bash down the concept of labels and instead encourage you to embrace your true self. The small edit of products on offer by the brand delivers impressive ingredients for a comparatively affordable price. The moisturiser/primer is without a doubt the star of the show, containing glycerin for optimum hydration as well as honey and lactic acid to boost glow.
Trinny Woodall’s namesake beauty brand has been impressing experts since its launch in 2017. The products are easy to use, seriously inclusive and perfect for every skin type. With over 20 years of experience working in the fashion and beauty industry, it’s really no surprise that Trinny’s products are so great.
Founded by Jo Malone CBE after the sale of Jo Malone London to Estée Lauder, Jo Loves is a fragrance brand entirely dedicated to Malone’s passion and love for scent. Each product, whether it be a candle, perfume or body cream, invokes a rush of joyful emotions that you won’t find elsewhere.
Pat McGrath Labs
Dame Pat McGrath is pretty much the most influential makeup artist in the world, and her makeup line, Pat McGrath Labs, has been valued at $1 billion—so yes, this stuff is good. She has created some of the most iconic makeup looks in beauty (that Adele comeback Vogue cover, anyone?) using her own makeup products, so you’re guaranteed great value for money.
Shani Darden has worked on the faces of some of Hollywood's biggest names, including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Emily Ratajkowski and Laura Harrier, to name just a few, so it makes sense that her own skincare line is really impressive. In fact, considering it is a recent launch in the UK market, its success has been astonishing, with particular thanks to its Retinol Reform Serum. It's pricier than others on the market, but beauty editors tout it as one of the best retinol products in existence.
Kohl Kreatives really is a beauty brand trying to make a difference. Founded by Trishna Daswaney, its brushes are designed to be inclusive for everyone, including those with motor disabilities. The brushes have square handles (so they won't roll off the table), are labelled in Braille and, on top of all of that, really are exceptional quality.