Last Monday I went to PURE – the UK’s leading fashion trade show. I first went back in July 2015, when I had just launched the-Bias-Cut.com blog, and wrote about the demoralising experience I went through. Primarily I was subjected to dismissal by designers, mostly horrified by the thought of their pieces being openly worn by women over 40. It’s fair to say I was pretty annoyed, but it also gave me further fuel for wanting to end ageism in the Fashion Industry.
3 years later I’m pleased to say things have changed. Increasingly designers are opening their minds and embracing diversity, now eager to be seen as inclusive. Whilst it was hard to find designers wanting to be a part of the-Bias-Cut back in 2015, now we are frequently approached by brands keen to join us (note - I havn’t forgotten those what were initially so indifferent).
But I will never forget the struggle it took to get here (and we still have a long way to go). As many of you know, I first came up with the idea for the-Bias-Cut back in 2012 whilst at university. At the time ageism within the Fashion Industry was rarely discussed; it existed but it wasn’t topical. So whenever I discussed the issue I was met with raised eyebrows or simply rejection.
This continued for several years, and even into 2016 the story was much the same. More than once I was asked “is that even an issue?”, or it was commented upon how ‘niche’ the 40+ market was. It wasn’t even just designers who were so dismissive; I was scoffed at by highly successful businessmen too, more times than I care to remember. On one occasion I was asked “does your mentor actually think it’s a good idea…?!”, and I was told by another that my business concept was “boring”. I was also told to ditch the name, come up with a new one, and for that matter actually come up with a whole new USP!
I’m pleased to say I didn’t listen to these comments, but I’m not going to pretend they didn’t upset me. They made me doubt myself an awful lot, and whether what I was doing was just futile. Surely they knew better? Even when the concept was accepted, I was told to change my business model entirely to make quick profits – with many of the suggestions, such as sticking with younger models, completely undermining the values and purpose of the-Bias-Cut in the first place.
It took time for this issue Franklin cared so much about to catch fire. But it did. Because, as she highlighted, true change takes time. It takes tenacity. And it takes consistency – always being fixed on a vision. If you look at any major disruption or revolution in history – either within the Fashion Industry or outside of it – it didn’t happen overnight. More often than not, the initial champions of change were scoffed at or ridiculed. But they pushed forward, maintaining their resilience. Fortunately I did plough on, and discovered so many women like you do share the same beliefs and values. But it can be pretty difficult to continue when it seems like no one else cares. Which is why I was so taken with Caryn Franklin’s speech “The Power Of One” last week at Pure. Franklin discussed how just one person really can make a difference, and the importance of persevering - because one day people will listen. She spoke about how much she struggled with fighting the industry’s acceptance of Terry Richardson – a photographer who had a long history of sexual assault allegation against him. It even got to the point where Franklin was just knocking on the doors of anyone who’d listen, challenging them on why they were happy to work with him. It wasn’t until the Harry Weinstein scandal that people finally did listen. She asked a publication if she could write on Richardson, and at last they were interested. The industry took notice and now, thankfully, the likes of Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair have cut all ties with him.
Listening to Franklin discussing this gave me a new wave of confidence and determination. It reminded me to trust my instincts, and to brush off those negative comments I’ve been on the receiving end of (and continue to be at times). Franklin declared herself as a ‘Fashion Disruptor’ – which she defined as someone who loves Fashion enough to demand change, to engage, and to drive reforms where they feel they can be effective.
I like to think of myself as a Fashion Disruptor too, and you should too. If you want to see change in Fashion, whether that’s in the form of ending ageism, more diversity generally, sustainability or something else, you can do something about it. Don’t just sit by and assume you can’t do anything to change it. Whether you’re in the industry, or are a consumer, you demand change – whether that’s through voting with your wallet, writing articles, or simply vocalising your view online. You may feel no one is listening, but people are. And one day, even more will.
You have a voice, so use it and trust it. Because if I hadn’t the-Bias-Cut wouldn’t exist. So it’s time to “Embrace the Power of One.”