What IWD means to me?
Imagine a gender-free world of equality. No pre existing ideals of how different genders work and behave. No stereotyping and discrimination. Understanding that there may be physical differences in genders but the psychological differences of how we exist in a working environment should not be regarded as inferior. IWD to me highlights the need to celebrate women’s achievements in their work and personal lives as we really do not doit enough. Whilst I may think we should not need to have such a day to highlight this (more like an everyday occurrence!) but this day helps us to be recognised.
What empowered me as a woman to enable me to become a power force in the fashion industry
I have been brought up by my parents to always respect your fellow people, whether they be in the workplace or in your home life so I have always accepted people as they are irrespective of gender, wealth, appearance. When I joined the fashion industry after studying a BA (Hons) in Fashion, I believe my strength in my early roles was having this respect to listen first and learn from this and I gained so much knowledge from my peers that really helped me to catapult my career into directorial and also Managing Director roles. I have always been a keen supported of empowering others so I when I used to say ‘I am only as good as my team’, I worked hard to teach my team everything that I had learned in order for me to succeed as a leader. I have always had an ‘outside of the box’ attitude and have always strived to achieve something different to the norm so when I have worked within rigidly structured companies, it has been my ability to negotiate and present new ideas with supportive evidence, this is what created new channels of working to complement the existing and set those brands apart from their competition.
I have had my struggles, being a female Managing Director, as sometimes you need to voice your opinions louder and harder in order to be heard, but that has never really stopped me from trying!
And then create Concrete London?
My decision to create a timeless, everlasting brand of wardrobe staples was my desire to slow down the absolute waste the fashion industry is creating every year. 94 billion tonnes of waste goes into landfill from our industry and I was quite appalled when I saw how much fast fashion was being paraded in shopping centres, online and on billboard. I have bought investment pieces over the past 20 years that I spent time saving for, and I have been proud to say that these pieces have lasted me all this time. They are timeless and are beautiful quality. So I decided I wanted to create a collection that people will have in their lives for a long time, whether it be in their wardrobes or they passed onto their friends/family. We researched the best quality merino yarn, ethically sheared so it is harmless to the sheep, found one of the best sustainable factories in Italy where the wool is spun and dyed (they create solar energy for their whole village and use 65% less water to dye their yarn), then we found a perfect factory for us in the UK which creates knitwear with zero waste using the Japanese Shima Seiki technology of whole garment, so no cut and sew seams and no waste.
As we continued our path to create ethically produced product, we also decided to partner with Ecologi in their plan to plant 1.7 billion tress by 2030 which will reduce carbon emissions (which is the equivalent of removing annual emissions of 68 million cars) so we fund for trees to be planted for every purchase of Concrete London. I have created core colours that compliment any wardrobe of any age, gender, size and wardrobe so you can mix and match with your existing wardrobe.
What was my biggest hurdle as a woman?
I remember attending Board meetings where I was the only woman in the room and was sometimes asked intimidating questions ; being paid less as a senior professional compared to my male predecessor (even though I had the same experience as him), being asked in interviews how will I sort out my childcare for my children or when do I plan to have more children. All these situations have made me stronger as an individual as my success in my career is testament that I have strived to succeed in every challenge faced even though I was a woman, sometimes in a very male dominated environment.
How do you empower women through your products and designs?
My designs are there to educate all genders; the ethical part of my collection is very important. I am asking for us to pause, and slow down the process of buying into fast fashion (or wanting the latest trend when you can create your own style) and consider timeless, affordable investment pieces. I have created a collection that are core staples but have subtle architectural details to make it unique. Every one of my customers is also doing their part in protecting the planet for our children by planting a tree for each purchase they make with me. I have also created pieces that do not highlight areas that we may not be confident with; tops of arms, stomach huggers, but also accentuates the flattering parts of our body by having long ribbed cuffs, long ribbed hems and detailed necklines.
APE says: Sustainable wardrobe staples that will last a life time.