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The Women Driving Change In The Sustainable Space

words by Mayssa Ben Fredj

March 12, 2021

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Sustainability is on everyone’s tongue, but who is leading the change? For women’s month Save your Wardrobe wanted to spotlight some women that have impacted and are continuing to impact the sustainable space. While this is a first spotlight, many more women are making a difference, and we look forward to featuring them in later blog posts. 

1. Orsola de Castro

We of course had to start our list with the iconic Orsola de Castro. She is an activist, lecturer, former designer and co-founder of not-for-profit movement Fashion Revolution.

Though Orsola already had a sustainable background in fashion with her upcycled brand From somewhere, Fashion Revolution started with the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in which 1133 people died. After witnessing this tragedy, de Castro and her co-founder Carry Somers wanted change in terms of sustainability and human rights. 

Through Fashion Revolution, which they launched in 2013, they have been raising awareness about global industry issues, mobilising communities to take collective action and creating collaborations with artists and activists to reframe powerful narratives. They have also created tools for people to use their voice and make a difference around them by giving them a platform where they can have more visibility towards brands. From 2014 on, the hashtag #whomademyclothes became a global trend. 

Orsola is also the author of “Loved Clothes Last”, a book that helps people care  for their clothes, reconnect with them – and respect the planet. 

orsola decastro fashion revolution

2. Ayesha Barenblat

Ayesha was born in Pakistan and witnessed the terrible effects of fast-fashion on women of color. She saw that the women were trapped in a system where they worked long and hard yet stayed stuck in poverty. Then, the Rana Plaza disaster happened, and Ayesha knew she had to do more. 

She thus founded Remake, a company that offers resources for progress and education in the sustainability sector. The company works with ambassadors around the world through storytelling and keeps them accountable with traceability, maker wellbeing and environmental impacts. 

The platform create a viral #PayUp Fashion petition which garnered over 272000 signatures, leading to 21 brands agreeing to pay for back-ordered clothes totaling $22 billion globally, which led to many garment workers receiving fair pay. Post-Covid, Remake launched its #PayUp fashion movement, whose goal was to lay out concrete actionable labor right goals for a Covid-19 recovery. You can still sign for a more ethical and sustainable fashion future!

Ayesha Barenblat changing sustainable space

3. Isatou Ceesay

Another way to raise awareness of sustainability? By pushing the issue within your own community! Isatou Ceesay, also called “The Queen of Recycling”, did exactly this in the Gambia, the smallest country in Africa. 

Her community had been facing an ever-growing waste problem. Plastic was accumulating on the streets, in backyards and was even ending up in animals’ stomachs. Isatou thought of what she could do to mitigate this problem and realised she could use her crochet skills to turn the plastic waste into something valuable, bags.

She enlisted some women from her village to work with her to make a first batch of bags. Once these were made, Isatou went to the market in the big city and managed to sell all of the bags. This enabled the women in her community to fight waste while earning their own money, which led to them having their own bank accounts and even being able to pay for their daughters to go to secondary school. She managed to clean her village and went on to share her knowledge with adjoining villages, cleaning the world one bag at a time.

Isatou  seecay changing sustainable space

4. Ellen MacArthur

Concerning circular economy, let’s talk about Ellen MacArthur’s journey! To this day MacArthur remains at the top of the British list of the most successful sailors and offshore racers ever.

Ellen started sailing at the age of 4. During her numerous trips across the world’s oceans, she was sensitized to environmental issues. In 2010 MacArthur decided to launch the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and devote herself to new challenges. 

The foundation promotes efforts aimed at reinventing traditional modes of economic production and consumption. In collaboration with the educational community, the business community and the public authorities, the navigator is now working in favor of a rapid transition towards a circular economy which respects human beings and the planet. 

The foundation has published reports receiving high praise at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Ellen served as vice chair of the Internal Council for the Global Program dealing with circular economy. 

5. Brittany Sierra

Have you heard about the Sustainable Fashion Forum? It is a popular online platform whose mission is to inspire its community to reimagine the future of fashion by fostering conversations about the intersections of fashion and sustainability and how it affects our world and what we can do individually and collectively to improve it.

Brittany Sierra is the inspirational woman behind this project that began in 2017. Born in Portland, after years of working in the marketing field helping fashion and retail brands grow their businesses, she discovered that her true passion is educating others and promoting and highlighting purpose-driven fashion brands.

She then wanted to connect and gather the people who were making a conscious effort to make change happen and learn from them. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, the annual sustainable fashion forum conference is available online this year, so don’t hesitate to participate!

We hope you felt as inspired as we did reading the stories of these women. For more inspiring stories, feel free to check out our Global South series, where the founders of sustainable and ethical brands tell us their story. 

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