Every year since 1911, the world has taken pause to celebrate International Women’s Day. From securing the right to open an independent bank account to the right to vote, International Women’s Day is a moment for both men and women to stop and celebrate everything that we have collectively accomplished in the drive for equality. It’s also a moment to acknowledge the battles still to be fought.
This year’s International Women’s Day campaign calls for “a balance for better” – a more gender-balanced world, in all areas, is a better world.
When it comes to the world of business ownership and leadership, a quick Google search makes for glum reading – fewer than one in five small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK are led by women and although women in the UK outnumber men by 1 million, there are twice as many male entrepreneurs as there are female. Read on and the truth quickly becomes clear: balance isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a business issue, with gender balance right at the heart of economic health.
“Working with and supporting independent brands both in Europe and internationally is an important part of our buying ethos,” says Gill McCulloch, buying director at Anthropologie Europe. “We’re proud to partner with the talented women who form an integral part of this creative, entrepreneurial community.”
This International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month, we’ll be talking to the women impacting these statistics by setting up their own brands and paving the way for those following in their footsteps.
Have you heard of Maya Magal? If you haven’t, you will soon. She’s the granddaughter of a renowned jeweller in Cairo, founder and creative director of her self-titled jewellery brand, Maya Magal, and is busy making waves with her own definition of wearable (and accessible) luxury. Starting on a humble workbench in Hatton Garden in 2013, Maya’s distinctive geometric designs can now be found in her three stand-alone stores and here at Anthropologie.
You’re mentoring a network of young women who are trying to break into the world of fashion and design – how did that come about?
Dior, the lady who set up the Junior Network, got in touch with me about hosting a mentoring panel. As I’m still learning and growing my own business, it hadn’t really occurred to me before that I could help other women starting out in the industry. However, I’m so glad she approached me as I’m now really excited to get more involved with these women and share what I’ve learnt along the way. They are mostly in their first jobs in the industry and some are thinking of starting their own businesses eventually so it’s a great time for me to get involved.
What’s the most useful piece of business guidance or advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Be honest’, or, ‘cash is king’.
How do you envision women wearing your designs?
From the moment they wake up to the last thing they take off at night.
My pieces are made to be layered and stacked for a comfortable, everyday wear. I love when my jewellery is worn with casual outfits to bring them together and finish a look. It’s amazing the difference the right piece of jewellery can make to a simple outfit.
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
I think women should be celebrated more. Despite the amazing efforts towards gender equality, I believe there is still a large gap in many areas. For example, bringing up children – no matter how amazing your partner is – often physically and emotionally weighs heavily on the woman. We are making steps in the right direction to break down gender stereotyping, but we aren’t quite there yet. This means it’s even more important to celebrate women and their achievements at home and in the working world.
What are the biggest obstacles that you believe women still face today and do you have any thoughts on how we can all do our part to combat this?
The physical nature of raising a family – pregnancy, the birth, the recovery, the breastfeeding – and the need to come back to work the same person. The guilt mothers can feel when they work. The stigma attached to breastfeeding. I suppose one way we can all combat this is by accepting that there are differences between men and women, especially physically with motherhood, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be treated equally.
In the workplace I think it’s the way people subconsciously feel if a man is there they will be taken more seriously or they are speaking to someone more senior. I’ve had this time and time again as a business owner when I bring my husband, father or brother to meetings; I’ve noticed I’m treated in a different way and don’t always find people take me as seriously. We all need to work on our subconscious stereotypes to avoid making women, or minorities of any kind, feel this way.
You have a little girl – if you were only allowed to give her one piece of advice to guide her through life, what would it be?
It’s ok to feel scared, but to try and not let it guide you and your decisions.
You’ve successfully set up a business whilst raising a family – what words of encouragement would you give to any women aiming to set up their own business?
Not to wait until the perfect time. I don’t believe there is a perfect time. You can learn on the way and you don’t need to know everything before you set out. People can be kinder than we think and people can help guide us on our way. It’s also very important to have a small network of close family and friends that you can lean on during tough times for advice and friendship (and babysitting!).
And what’s your response to people who think that women can’t have both?
I’m still yet to learn the answer to this, however I think every woman needs to figure out what works for her. Whatever they choose, to make it work for their family and their business is the correct way and no one should really tell them otherwise.
Let us introduce you to Emily Isabella. Working from her home just north of NYC, the artist captures the charm of everyday life – including the beauty to be found in the female form – in each of her paintings. You can find Emily’s art in our 2019 spring collection, adorning everything from duvets, to chairs, to beach umbrellas.
Tell us about the women that inspire you…
I’m inspired by women who are independent, fearless, and live their life prioritising kindness. I’ve always been drawn to women who disregard age and continue to be vibrant and curious throughout their life. My mom has always been such a beautiful example of these things. My female friendships are one of my most cherished parts of my life, I’m never more inspired than when we are together.
A lot of your work is focused around the female form and depictions of women of different backgrounds. What is it about womanhood that inspires your art?
I’m a woman – I draw what I know.
Have you focused any of your art work on specific women?
I’m more interested in depicting my idea of a woman rather than someone specific. I often depict them alone, it’s my intention to highlight their inner strength and I hope my drawings are reflective of this.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women of your age today?
Social media can be a dangerous tool for comparison. I think it’s so important to rise above feelings of inadequacy and stay grounded in your unique truth.
What does gender equality mean to you?
To me, gender equality means breaking down the barriers of gender roles and celebrating the equal beauty of our differences. I also think it’s important not to stereotype gender and remember that characteristics vary from person to person, we need to stop boxing people in based on their gender.
How will you be marking International Women’s Day?
With my paintbrush.
Meet Alice Stone, founder and creative director at fashion brand Lily and Lionel. Beginning in 2009, Alice has driven Lily and Lionel from strength to strength, starting by splashing a host of iconic and emotive prints across scarves before moving into the world of ready-to-wear.
What do the words femininity and womanhood mean to you?
Femininity and womanhood both represent the advantage of being born in a time where gender takes a backseat and is no longer the defining criteria. I consider myself lucky that the world is open to women in exactly the same way as men.
International Women’s Day was first marked in 1911 – why do you think it still relevant?
Times have changed so much since 1911, this was a huge moment in history which helped women to get to where they are today. There is still room for improvement but we are on the right road.
The name Lily and Lionel pays homage to your grandparents – tell us about the women in your family, past and present, who inspire you?
I come from a long line of strong, creative, powerful women which has shaped me. My mother is a constant source of inspiration to me, she lights up every room she walks into and is the most vivacious person I know.
As a woman running your own business, what’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
Learning to trust my instinct wholeheartedly and stay on the path that’s right for us as a brand.
What’s the most useful piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
It has to be my father’s expression; ‘you can’t dance at every wedding’, meaning focus and direct your attention to what you’re great at.
How do you envision women wearing your designs?
Every woman has a unique sense of style and a certain way of expressing themselves sartorially. I love seeing women wear Lily and Lionel in their own way.
Is there an up-and-coming talent in the industry that inspires or excites you?
An artist who inspires me for his use of tone and texture is Thomas Campbell. His paintings are captivating and full of spirit, I often reference them when designing a colour palette for Lily and Lionel’s collection.