In today’s socially conscious age, consumers are heavily influenced by what a brand represents. Gender equality, sustainability, inclusivity and community are some of the many messages brands are sending out to their customers to demonstrate like-minded values.
But this approach also poses a risk – if brands are to flaunt their supposed values, they also need to represent them in all aspects of their business, from the way they treat their store associates, to their head office operations, to their supply chains, partners and networks.
That’s why in our current retail marketplace, actions really do speak louder than words. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve pulled together a list of the brands that are promoting gender equality, empowering women, encouraging female entrepreneurship and inspiring confidence.
Tory Burch’s Embrace 2020 Ambition Summit
Fashion designer and businesswoman, Tory Burch, attends numerous conferences for women every year, and she’s a fan of them, but she’s afraid that they’re only talking to themselves, she told CNBC.
“We won’t make progress in an echo chamber. In order to create real and meaningful change, we need to get men engaged,” she said.
In 2004, Burch launched an apparel line from her home – now she has more than 250 boutiques across the world, her clothing and accessories are available at over 3,000 department and specialty stores, and her sales for 2019 were estimated at $1.5 billion.
To empower like-minded female entrepreneurs, Burch set up the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 which provides access to capital, entrepreneurial education, mentoring and networking opportunities. Over the last decade, the foundation has helped thousands of women scale their businesses and secured a game-changing partnership with Bank of America that provided women entrepreneurs with $100m in loans.
To inspire and empower women to follow their dreams, this year Burch held the 2020 Embrace Ambition Summit in New York, where women entrepreneurs shared their stories and CEOs revealed how they are breaking barriers against gender bias.
M.M. LaFleur renting its clothes to women running for office free of charge
In February this year, the New York Post criticized U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for appearing on talk show The View in a $580 Rickie Freeman dress – Ocasio-Cortez shot back “I rent, borrow, and thrift my clothes. (It’s also environmentally sustainable!).”
Earlier that week, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted how clothing retailer M.M. LaFleur provides clothing for female candidates running for office without charge.
Ocasio-Cortez said: “As a candidate, a large part of asking people to vote for you is helping them visualize you on the jobs. As a member, that professionalism helps you challenge subconscious bias.”
This timely and targeted new initiative places the retail brand front-of-mind for its customers as well as standing for something greater than itself.
M.M. LaFleur’s CEO and founder, Sarah LaFleur, said: “We never purport that clothes help move the needle on female representation, but we want to do our part to make things a tiny bit easier.”
Diane von Furstenburg and Amazon’s #InCharge campaign
Fashion designer and businesswoman, Diane von Furstenburg, has launched a new initiative with Amazon that champions women called: #InCharge.
Von Furstenberg will appear on Amazon’s homepage on International Women’s Day to showcase diverse and inspiring women-owned small businesses and share her #InCharge mission.
“The #InCharge movement is a platform, a place to rally, to use our individual connections to help all women be the women they want to be,” Furstenberg says.
“And so I thought it would be fun to work with Amazon which is such a huge platform to expose people to the inspiring stories of women in charge that have started businesses and seen significant success, [in part] thanks to Amazon.”
Amazon will also launch the #InCharge page that showcases stories of inspiring female business owners and allows consumers to buy their products.
The Body Shop’s Sustainable Sourcing Program
Anita Roddick, the founder of international skincare, beauty and cosmetics company, The Body Shop, first launched its Trade Not Aid partnership in 1987, and the brand has been committed to sustainable sourcing ever since.
Nowadays known as the Sustainable Sourcing Program, The Body Shop’s partners give back with social projects, scholarship programs and fair, equal treatment that supports the women they employ.
For instance, The Body Shop’s popular shea butter product is sourced through the Tungteiya Women’s Association which uses a process that’s been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. Not only do The Body Shop pay a fair price for the shea butter, the partnership also funds various local projects and initiatives.
Sephora’s Classes for Confidence series
“Looking and feeling your best helps you live more confidently,” it says on beauty retail brand Sephora’s Classes for Confidence page.
The series of hands-on beauty classes provide guidance to women facing major life transitions, such as building bravery in women with cancer, encouraging confidence for women reentering the workforce and inspiring boldness for people in the transgender community.
Held in Sephora stores, the 90 minute classes have helped over 77,000 people in over 2,000 classes, with 80% of attendees reporting an increase in confidence.
The Workshop at Macy’s
High-end department store retailer, Macy’s, launched its The Workshop at Macy’s development program back in 2011 to provide tools, education and ongoing support for minority and female owned businesses.
As the company’s first development program, the Workshop at Macy’s is all about encouraging the next generation of diverse-owned merchandise suppliers to build profitable businesses.
So far, 125 businesses have graduated, and several have gone on to sell their goods at Macy’s stores. And as of 2018, Macy’s work with diverse businesses contributed $1.8 billion to the US economy and sustained almost 10,800 jobs.
Net-A-Porter’s International Women’s Day capsule collection
For this year’s International Women’s Day, British online fashion retailer, Net-A-Porter, teamed up with 20 female designers to create a capsule collection of exclusive T-shirts and sweatshirts.
The twenty exclusive t-shirts and sweatshirts are designed by twenty iconic female designers, including Charlotte Tilbury, Rosie Assoulin and Gabriela Hearst.
The best part – all proceeds go to Women for Women International, a charity that helps female survivors of war rebuild their lives and create lasting change in their communities.
This year’s campaign is part of a larger partnership the brand has with Women for Women International. In 2018 and 2019, Net-A-Porter enabled over 300 women to complete the charity’s year-long training program.
These great initiatives are refreshingly authentic and practical in their approach – each aimed at helping women to reach success. Happy International Women’s Day 2020!