International Women’s Day: Inspirational Women Working with Anthro

For over 100 years, International Women’s Day has marked the incredible leaps that women around the world have made—from our progress in the workplace, to gaining the right to vote—and is a day for recognising the battles still being fought in the bid for equality. In the spirit of solidarity, we spoke to the wonderful women that we work with, from illustrators to designers, to learn the challenges they faced when setting up businesses and what International Women’s Day means to them.

Speaking to Henrietta and Orlagh of London-based label Rixo, whose fearlessly floral designs have become something of a hot ticket here at Anthro, Parisian illustrator Florence Balduccci, the star of our latest Artist Collaborations collection and Sophie, the beauty buff behind au natural brand Sister & Co., we learned the challenges, the inspirations and heroines of the ladies behind the labels.

Henrietta & Orlagh at Rixo

Fierce but femme, that’s the mantra for luxury women’s label Rixo.

What’s it like working with a female friend?

Incredible! It’s hard to describe our relationship because we’re more like sisters than friends… Most people can’t believe we live and work together but we play off each other’s strengths and are on the same page about pretty much everything!

What challenges have you faced setting up your own business?

The hardest challenge when setting up your own business is having to juggle every area/department and becoming a master of all trades. When you start out you can’t employ a huge team so you have to be creative with your thinking and be passionate enough to tackle all the less creative elements of having your own business… accounts, VAT, insurance, the list goes on!

What inspires your work?

We’re inspired by so many different things there’s quite a range… We’ve always been vintage hoarders and would spend weekends at flea markets and vintage fairs. We love going through pictures of young models and icons, from Bianca Jagger to Grace Jones and more recent models like Kate Moss. The inspiration behind our hand-painted designs can come from books containing botanical studies of plants and wildlife, paintings of our favourite artists, an old ‘70s movie or even the lining of a vintage bag.

What does femininity mean to you?

For us it means confidence – you can be feminine but still have a feisty character. We want to create ‘feminine’ clothes for women that make them feel confident and like they can take on the world. Females are so resilient we want our one-off pieces to power the modern woman and help her have the courage to be herself.

Who’s your ultimate ‘heroine’?

Kate Moss. We are huge fans of the editorials and shoots from her early days. She has that natural effortless style that I think is so hard to come by nowadays.

How would you describe the ‘Rixo woman’?

She’s independent, savvy and feminine with a strong sense of self.

What advice do you have for any young woman looking to set up her own label?

Just go for it! You really just have to completely believe in yourself and your vision and that passion will be translated. When we started we had no idea what we were doing but we just knew in our gut we were going to work our absolute hardest and take risks to make it work!

Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

Orlagh: Coming from an all-female family (I have a twin, as well as two older sisters) I’ve always been surrounded by independent and loving women. To celebrate International Women’s Day with our (almost!) all female RIXO team, it not only allows Henrietta and I to take a minute and breathe—for once!—and recognise what we’ve achieved, but also our team and the women across the world that we’ve crossed paths with.

Henrietta: I have four older brothers so for me it’s really important to celebrate and support the incredible women in my life, as well as those that I look-up to. As Orlagh said, to take a step back and celebrate our achievements and those around us/across the globe is a special thing to do collectively.

Florence Balducci

French illustrator Florence Balducci, believes above all, femininity means being free.

Who’s your ultimate ‘heroine’?

My ultimate heroine is my great grandmother, Marie Von Delvig. A feminist, a fashion addict (a new dress each week) with seven different hair colours and the ability to speak 5 languages, she was 2 metres high and owned a bar. A picture of Marie with her daughter Jane inspired my first drawing when I was a little girl of 5.

What does femininity mean to you?

According to me, femininity means being free. But free as the French actress Jeanne Moreau was a free personality!

What inspires your work?

The art & craft movement really inspires me. Mixed art and art appliqués as William Morris did! Les ateliers Viennois inspires me too.

How were your years working in the advertising world? Was it difficult as a woman?

I was working as if I was a man. Better to be respected!

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell myself to always keep with you the child you once were.

Your work often references literature. What book do you think every young woman should read?

I love Jean Jacques Rousseau during the Siecle des Lumieres, he is my favourite in 1750 with his text on ‘Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts’.

Do you have any advice for budding artists?

Be yourself, try to keep your creative line straight to the link. Try to find who you really are and always have this sentence in mind: WHY NOT?

Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

It’s a really important day, but we should have a week!

Sophie at Sister & Co.

There’s power in beauty—and Sister and Co. are leading the charge.

What inspired you to start Sister & Co.?

Up until a few years ago, I never really believed in natural skincare—I was sure it wouldn’t be as effective. It was after I discovered that raw coconut oil cleared up my frequent skin breakouts better than anything else that I became convinced by the power of natural, and was disappointed by the lack of truly natural skin and beauty brands out there. So often a brand would market a product as natural only for me to take a closer look and see that it really wasn’t and included all manner of chemicals and preservatives, hidden behind a long, opaque ingredients list. This just didn’t feel right, especially with the large price tag that so many natural and organic products came with.

I knew I had found something that I was passionate about, and I felt utterly motivated to change this and make a difference. Working as a lawyer at the time, I decided to take a leap, take some time out and start Sister & Co.: launching our own raw coconut oil and then working with a team of cosmetic chemists to develop the wider Sister & Co. Skin Food range—beautiful but potent products that prove that going natural need not be a compromise on luxury or efficiency. I haven’t looked back.

As a woman in business starting out alone, what’s the trickiest thing you’ve had to overcome?

I haven’t ever felt like my gender was an obstacle to starting a business alone. I was brought up with three sisters by amazing parents who never made us feel anything other than that we could achieve whatever we wanted, if we worked hard enough. What’s been the trickiest thing for me is having had my son, Jake, last May and having to keep one side of my brain in the business while adjusting to motherhood. That has been a huge challenge, physically and emotionally. It was my choice to start a business, and my choice to have a child, and it’s getting easier now, but it wasn’t at the start. I am lucky to have an amazing and supportive husband who took extended paternity leave under the new shared parental leave laws which helped a lot. But still, having to keep your head in emails and work when all you want to be doing is sitting on the sofa with your baby or SLEEPING was not easy.

Who’s your ultimate ‘heroine’?

My mother. She is the strongest, kindest, most positive and selfless person I know, with an amount of energy that is mind-blowing. She manages a farm and is up at 4am every morning. She had five children and gave up her career to look after us, for which I have huge admiration: it is a logistical, intellectual, physical and mental feat—to me, tougher than going out to work. And you can’t ever switch off.  After becoming a mother myself, I appreciate everything she has done for us and the person she is in a new way. If I can be half as good a mother as her, I’ll be happy.

What does femininity mean to you?

Strength, self-worth and independence. Being happy in your own skin, being who you want to be, chasing the dreams you want to chase.

Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

I am incredibly lucky, I have a wonderful husband, a healthy son, family and friends, and am lucky enough to own a business. I have independence and choices. Many women, through no fault of their own, are not in this position. Because of their gender they cannot control their own destiny – be they suffering from domestic abuse, struggling as a single mother bringing up young children, discriminated against at work for having a child or even being of child-bearing age, or simply not allowed to go out to work.

All this needs to change. Every woman deserves to feel self-worth, strength and independence, every woman deserves to have choices. That’s why International Women’s Day is important – it’s a chance to remind the world that we should not stop until that’s achieved.

But—it should also be day where we celebrate how far things have come. So many more women are now able to pursue their dreams, choose to go out to work or choose to stay at home with their children (the important word there is “choose”). There are many more women in positions of power, in government, heading up corporates, starting out alone. We just need to make sure that these options are for everyone, and we’re still a long way off.

What women’s issues do you feel strongly about challenging and changing?

Lazy gender stereotypes towards women in the workplace who choose to become mothers are embarrassingly outdated and entirely unacceptable. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently published research which found that 36% of private sector employers think it is reasonable to ask women about their plans to have kids in the future during recruitment. 46% believe it is reasonable to ask a woman if she has young kids, whilst around a third believe that women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are ‘generally less interested in career progression.’* If employers think women will become lazy once they have a baby, they can think again—having a baby is probably the biggest force out there towards improving your organisational skills. I think it’s almost certain that women that need to get out of the door by 5.30pm will be among a company’s most productive employees.

Maternity support also needs to dramatically change for self-employed women and female entrepreneurs, of which there will be more and more. I think one huge way women can feel more supported during this time is if men are actively encouraged to take up the offer of the new shared parental leave, which will help relieve the heavy childcare burden women carry for the first year. Most self-employed women or women with a young business are just not able to take a whole year out if they want to keep their business going.

As a new mum, what advice will you be passing on to your son?

The same advice that I was given by my parents, that you can achieve anything you want if you work hard enough. And also, tomorrow is a new day. it’s never too late to make a change.

Finish this sentence: The future for women is…

…a woman’s choice.

*see the @pregnant_then_screwed Instagram account, a brilliant account campaigning to end pregnancy/maternity discrimination.

Throughout the month of March, 10% of all sales on the Sister & Co. online store will be donated to Solace Women’s Aid, a charity providing support to women and children suffering domestic abuse in London.