The role of women has changed significantly over the past 100 years.
The historic expectation of a woman was confined to the home, being responsible for looking after the children and making life easier for the hard-working man. This was not just a social expectation; laws were created to ensure that this was and remained the norm.
A significant shift occurred for women during World War 1 and World War 2. Given so many men were expected to leave their jobs and head to the battle fields, women were required to step in and work outside the home to keep industry turning.
After the war, the expectation was that women’s work be confined to the home. But the ‘Jeannie was out of the bottle’. Women had a taste for working, earning an income and experiencing the liberation of being financially independent. Archaic thinking of a ‘women can’t do a man’s job’ was shattered when women were doing a man’s job.
We have many, many women to thank for fighting for women’s right for equality.
Australian women Mary Lee and Mary Colton established the Women’s Suffrage League and fought for a decade and succeeded in winning the right for South Australian women to vote in 1894 and they were the first in the world to be eligible to stand for Parliament. However, Indigenous women did not get the right to vote in Queensland State Elections until 1965.
In the United Kingdom, the Suffragettes fought for and won women the vote in 1918.
In the United States, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to change the laws that inhibit women from working outside the home. Marlene Dietrich challenged the status quo around fashion and what was acceptable for women to wear. Betty Friedan, The American writer and activist wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, which is often credited for sparking the second wave of feminism that began in the ’60s and ’70s and accelerated by Australian Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch in 1970. Gloria Steinem, aptly referred to as the “Mother of Feminism,” led the women’s liberation movements throughout the ’60s and ’70s—and continues to do so today.
Fast forward to today, the acceptance of women in the workforce is pretty much the norm in the Western World (equal pay eludes us), however the role of the man is still stuck back in the dark ages. As women, we are now in a catch twenty-two, not only are we working but we are still socially expected to hold the role of managing the home.
The way we work has also changed dramatically over the past 15 years. With the introduction of new technology such as mobile devices and the working day has expanded from 9 to 5 to always being online and contactable. Our productivity expectations have exploded, you are never logged off.
When we combine these two forces together it means that today’s modern women have a life that is very demanding, far more demanding than it has been in the past.
Therefore, in today’s world a women’s most valuable asset is her time, every little minute counts. This is where my design philosophy has been born from. My passion for designing comes from a deep desire to help women, help women claw back their most valuable asset. I believe Phoebe Philo said it best when she said, “I create clothes for women who has shit to do.”
To put this in perspective, it takes a woman on average 16 minute (or one percent) of their day to decide what to wear to work in the morning. It takes this long because clothes and the way you dress is a form of communication, a very clear way to express who you are or want to be. People will have an impression of you by the way you dress especially in the work environment.
In my own experience I have seen women turned down from promotions just because they didn’t present well, or in line with what was believed as acceptable for a particular role.
For many women this 16 minutes is not enjoyable, it is stressful, and they would much rather be doing something else with that time, such as reading a book to their child or getting a little extra sleep.
My goal as a designer is to make this process easier and less time consuming but remain effective.
In comparison, men dress very simply with very limited thought or time outlaid. They achieve this by keeping it simple with a tailored suit that they wear for each day with alternating shirt and ties.
Drawing on this same philosophy I am passionate about designing classics that have passed the test of time and modernising them for today’s women. There is a good reason why most fashion trends are inspired from history – they work.
For me as a designer fashion is not about art, as a creative I appreciate beautiful artistic fashion design but for me as a designer success comes from combining function and beauty to make a woman feel confident in what she wears. Confidence comes from knowing your garments are making the right impression as well as being comfortable throughout the day. Achieving this is what defines success as a designer for me.
To do this successfully it is crucial that I have a very deep understanding of my customer’s needs. For me all my designs are what we call customer led. Customer feedback helps me understand what they like, what makes them feel beautiful and how the garments need to be designed to give them the function they require throughout the day.
I fundamentally believe that all designers today have a responsibility that needs to form a part of their philosophy, and that is to create fashion in a way that doesn’t impact our planet or the people who reside on it. There are many ways as a designer you can do this, for me my values are very rooted in using only natural fibres that are 100% renewable or biodegradable, and this extends to our packaging. As well, ensuring all our garments are being made in an ethical manner.
In conclusion, as I grow as a designer each day, my understanding of who I am becomes clearer and more simplistic.