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International Women’s Day: the brands celebrating and empowering females

Barbie Sheroes
Barbie Sheroes

Brands and retailers are celebrating and empowering women in multiple ways, from product to advertising, this International Women’s Day.

As the #MeToo movement shifts its focus beyond Hollywood to multiple other industries and fields, 2018 is a particularly pertinent time for this conversation. Here, we highlight some of the best brand activations that tap into topics of female empowerment and gender equality.

Celebrating Females

Celebration is a big focus this year, with the likes of Mattel leading the way. It continues to push both its product lines and messaging as tools of empowerment to little girls with the launch of its Sheroes Barbie range, which celebrates pioneering women in history. Dolls include British boxer Nicola Adams, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and American pilot Amelia Earhart.

In a more literal way, Johnny Walker has introduced a female figure – called Jane Walker – to its famous bottles, while beer marker BrewDog has launched a satirically pink beer bottle.

Net-a-Porter
Net-a-Porter

Charitable Collaborations

The need to align with consumer causes such as empowerment is reflected in the multitude of exclusive collaborations whose launches coincide with this year’s IWD too.

Soap & Glory, as well as the designer Rebecca Taylor, have chosen to show their support for the campaign “She Should Run”, encouraging females to run for political offices. While the beauty brand is raising money through social media, Taylor is taking the more direct step of pledging 10% of all online store proceeds on Thursday March 8 to the charity.

Female education on the other hand has taken priority for a range of companies, including Lancôme, who has partnered with CARE, a non-profit organisation to launch the campaign #WriteHerFuture, to end female illiteracy. Likewise online retailer Gilt wants to “close the gender gap in technology” and aims to give 100% of net profits to the “Girls Who Code” initiative.

Meanwhile Net-a-Porter has collaborated with a series of designers such as Ganni, Zadig & Voltaire and Temperley, to launch capsule collections to support charities that ensure women in need of better health and safety are protected.

Empowering Messages

Empowerment is otherwise front and center. To celebrate the accomplishments of female athletes and to support the company’s belief “in the inspirational power of sport to break down barriers”, for instance, Nike Women has launched a new campaign starring Serena Williams.

Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer label ADAY has taken to Instagram to share a range of exclusive postcards showcasing its feelings on female empowerment. Users are able to purchase the postcards, with the option to pre-address them to their local senator.

The iconic suffragettes are also receiving a nod, as previously referenced at this season’s NYFW with designer Jonathan Simkhai’s collection. This time, British department store Liberty is paying homage to the historical movement by showcasing photographs by Mary McCartney, who captured eight inspirational women to celebrate.

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business Editor's pick Startups sustainability

H&M Foundation empowers women with list of 500 all-female entrepreneurs

Elankumaran Selvmalar, one of the Foundation 500 women
Elankumaran Selvmalar, one of the Foundation 500 women

H&M’s non-profit arm has launched an alternative to the Fortune 500 list, published each year by Fortune magazine. Foundation 500, as it’s called, showcases female-only business leaders from around the world.

Done in partnership with humanitarian agency, CARE, the aim is to challenge stereotypes and redefine what a business leader looks like. The initiative ties to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals on women’s empowerment and gender equality, which demonstrate that empowering women is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty and create economic growth.

The stories of successful women from 11 emerging countries, including Burundi, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Jordan, Peru and Zambia, among others, are told, alongside imagery captured by Malin Fezehai in a style similar to that of business magazines covers.

“The entrepreneur is the hero of our time, and it is estimated that over the coming years over 1 billion women will enter the workforce – a majority through entrepreneurship. But, you can’t be what you can’t see. Women rarely make the covers of business magazines, in fact the last time a woman was on the cover of Fortune Magazine was October 2014. With the Foundation 500 list we want to redefine what a business leader looks like,” says Diana Amini, global manager at H&M Foundation.

Further women in the Foundation 500: Karunakuran Kirupaliny, Philomène Tia And Suriyanti
Further women in the Foundation 500: Karunakuran Kirupaliny, Philomène Tia And Suriyanti

The 500 women included are a representation of the 100,000 participating in the Global Program on Empowering Women through Enterprise Development initiated by H&M Foundation and CARE in 2014. From 2014-2020, H&M Foundation has pledged 120 million Swedish krona ($14 million/€12 million) to support over 200,000 women entrepreneurs from emerging markets with seed capital and skills training to start and expand their businesses.

”Born with zero privilege, the women portrayed in the Foundation 500 list have made their own fortunes in the harshest of startup-environments. Yet, their stories often go untold. I wish I had seen women like these on the cover of business magazines when I grew up in South Sudan,” said British/Sudanese supermodel, entrepreneur and H&M Foundation Ambassador, Alek Wek.

“Media can play an important role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by unveiling inspiring stories helping to change mindsets of what women entrepreneurs can achieve and giving role models a platform to show what is possible. This can contribute to changes in convictions, attitudes, behaviour, rules, regulations and policies,” the write-up from the Foundation reads.

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Editor's pick film

Wrangler’s #MoreThanABum campaign pushes forward the “women not objects” movement

Wrangler's #morethanabum campaign
Wrangler’s #morethanabum campaign

Wrangler has launched a new campaign starring Grammy award winner Kimbra focused on a cry against female stereotyping.

#Morethanabum aims to move the cultural conversation away from simply aesthetics about women towards a deeper understanding of achievement and aspiration. It is anchored by a song composed by Kimbra called Ain’t About What’s Behind Me, including samples of women saying the word “bum”.

Created by ideas agency We Are Pi, it looks to go beyond traditional advertising in women’s fashion and in denim in particular, to launch the brand’s new “Body Bespoke” range. This line redefines the design process of women’s jeans by going against the fashion industry norm of using model proportions as the base for designs.

Jessica Perri, head of strategy at We Are Pi, said: “We set out to communicate an empowering message that is intrinsic to the Wrangler brand: the jeans are stylish, but it’s what you do in them that matters. We all know the image of a woman smiling confidently in the mirror because her jeans finally fit right. We wanted to bypass the mirror altogether. Of course her jeans fit right, freeing her up for much, much more interesting things.”

The campaign also features a range of other inspirational female ambassadors in a short film, including Olympic volleyball player Francesca Piccinini, dancer and choreographer Nikeata Thompson, transgender activist Paris Lees, and music journalist and radio presenter Gabriela Drzewiecka.

Said Kimbra: “These women remind us that our bodies are only one part of us and it’s important to take pride in that but also to stand up for the fact that we have so much more to offer the world. It’s not just about how we look in our jeans, it’s about what we’re doing in them.”

The initiative follows a big focus on unraveling female stereotypes in advertising and a call across the industry to end the objectification of women. Anchoring that movement is a campaign called #womennotobjects by agency Badger & Winters, which has been shared over 130 million times since its launch in January 2016.

“There’s always a smarter, more creative way to tell a brand’s message that doesn’t rely on demeaning women, but in fact does the opposite – it emotionally engages women in a respectful way,” said Jim Winters, president of Badger & Winters, during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year.

Furthermore, research carried out by Badger & Winters shows that focusing on the idea of “sex sells”, which the fashion industry is particularly notorious for, is in fact disastrous to brand reputation and purchase intent. Their study shows that the objectification of women impacts every single KPI, to the extent that women today have less interest in wanting any sort of interaction with such brands at all, co-founder Madonna Badger said. She noted that 91% of women today say advertisers don’t understand them.

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Editor's pick film

Burberry teams with GQ for scripted video series

Sophie Turner 1

Storytelling in a way that provides a peek into someone’s world, and leaves you wanting more, is the name of the game for a new video series from GQ, in collaboration with Burberry.

Tying in with the brand’s Mr Burberry fragrance, three episodes will launch in total. Picking up where the fragrance campaign left off – after a steamy night in a hotel – the first, sees actress Sophie Turner (of Game of Thrones fame) recounting her night with a mysterious man over the phone to a friend.

“The Departure”, as it’s called, sees her sharing details of her evening with him while sat in a room at London’s Café Royal still in the gown she wore at the awards ceremony they’d met at. It ends on a note of: “What happens next?”

The series was co-written and shot by female director Sara Dunlop, whose short film Dreamlands has been nominated at the 2016 Cannes film festival. The following two films will also celebrate female actresses, starring Joséphine de La Baume and the Sai Bennett respectively.

All will appear exclusively on the websites and social media platforms of British GQ, GQ US, GQ France, GQ Italy & GQ Germany.

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Comment technology

Why is wearable technology so damn ugly?

This piece first appeared on The Telegraph

Rachel Arthur, a fashion business reporter, was dismayed by the wearable technology on offer at CES last week. Not only were most devices useless, they were also utterly unwearable by any self-respecting woman

ces-pebble

Stick 150,000 tech people in the middle of the Nevada desert and what do you get? Well for one thing, no queues to the ladies room I can assure you.

I hit Las Vegas last week for my very first experience of CES, the consumer technology tradeshow, and wasn’t in the least surprised at the ease to which I could nip to the bathroom in between traipsing around the exhibition halls. This wasn’t ever going to be an event for battling my way through any kind of female crowd, unless you include the countless number of “booth babes” hired to help sell the gadgets (sporting a variety of rather oddly sexual mermaid, kangaroo and nursing costumes).

Gender observations aside, like everyone else; I was hitting Sin City for the products. I work as a business reporter and trend forecaster in the fashion industry, but largely cover technological developments. So CES for me was all about one thing: wearable technology.

After all, if it’s ‘wearable’ it must mean fashionable right? Wrong. More of that later. But first up, let’s deal with a big myth: women don’t buy technology. Also wrong. Women are more likely than men to purchase tablets, laptops and smartphones. We also use any internet-connected device, not to mention social networking sites, our mobiles and GPS more than our male counterparts, according to a 2012 report from Intel researcher Genevieve Bell.

Now most of you may not care about wearable technology very much, just yet. But its overwhelming presence at CES, usually a great place to figure out ‘the next big thing’, is telling. This is the annual showcase where the latest and hottest devices are revealed – that you and I will soon start using. (Aside from wearable tech – you can look forward to watching telly on curved TV screens, the chauffeur experience for all with the advent of self-driving cars and become your own newsagents with the dawning of 3D-printed sweets. Believe they taste good, I tried one.

The ‘wearables’ space is already burgeoning, but remains for the time being an enthusiasts’ market. Think early adopting sports fanatics who like to quantify their own data with the Nike FuelBand, the FitBit or the Jawbone. Outside of that niche there are also smart watches like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear or the Pebble, as well as items like Google Glass.

The fact is, wearable technology is predicted to leap from a $1.4 billion industry in 2013 to $19 billion in 2018, according to Juniper Research. So it’s pretty safe to say, a lot of us will be buying it and sporting something tecchy – beyond our watches.

However, the big gap between what was on show at CES and what consumers will be willing to buy is quite simply design, especially if these companies want to attract female shilling. At the moment, all of the aforementioned devices are unbelievably masculine. I mean I do like my sportswear, but I also like delicate accessories. A big chunky (and by that I mean, ugly) cuff (digital or not) on my wrist is not something I enjoy wearing, meaning a couple of weeks into owning something like that, I am likely forgotten to have forgotten about it. The novelty has worn off.

A friend said to me as we walked around the show that most tech companies aim their product at men in the hope that women might still buy it, rather than aiming it at women knowing that men will never buy it. This pal was a bloke. And an honest one at that.

Naïvety won’t pay off

In part, that may be true, but it’s a naïve and short-sighted strategy by these companies, hoping to crack wearable technology.

First of all, let’s consider the real estate opportunities of the human body. Without delving into the realm of clothing and soft accessories, men are – broadly speaking – limited to their wrists and to eyewear. Most women on the other hand, will wear a watch, bracelet, ring, necklace, earrings and glasses, and often multiples of all of those at the same time. The female form, simply put, is far more valuable.

So where has this disconnect come from? Why were vibrating pants one of the most memorable ‘female’ bits of wearable tech on offer? Is it as simple as men designing wearable technology for men?

Jennifer Darmour, design director of user experience at product design firm, Artefact, has recently been working with a large brand (which she cannot name) that is about to launch a whole line of wearable devices aimed at women. “I went to meet with them recently, and was shocked that not one person in the room was female despite what they’re aiming to do.” It’s not that encouraging is it?

Female designers anyone?

We’ve been saying for a long time we need more female engineers, computer scientists and coders. Well how about the tech industry focuses on recruiting some female designers too? Of course the issue might also be that design hasn’t been a consideration for wearables full stop so far, rather an afterthought to the technology. But turning that on its head is precisely why the likes of Apple have done so well. The technology and the design of its devices are both equally impressive.

As Sonny Vu, founder of Misfit Wearables, tells me: “Wearables is a bit of a misnomer, because not many of them [the devices] are that wearable.” His company’s fitness tracking tool, Shine, is the closest there is to elegant on the market right now.

The development of Shine, unlike many others where pastel coloured straps are the typical nod to a female consumer (pur-lease – do they think we are children?) has focused on what people actually want to wear and will feel good wearing, he explains.

Others at CES this year looked to be tackling jewellery, but most of it was sorely disappointing (and again by that I mean unsightly). Think human Christmas tree – as with one company trying to sell the idea of a ‘crystal necklace’ which with just a click of a button makes these puppies light up.

Design, or lack thereof, was a big debate throughout the week. Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, said: “If we want the premise of wearable technology to come forward we really have to think about going back to the drawing board with the hardware, moving beyond the idea of a square block on your wrist.”

One of Intel’s announcements at the show was a smart bracelet launching later this year designed by Opening Ceremony and carried by Barneys New York. This could, for the first time, suggest fashion or aesthetics have been a consideration from the outset rather than an add-on. As Liza Kindred, founder of Third Wave Fashion, says: “In order for people to adopt wearable tech, the tech must disappear and the item must be beautiful.”

Let’s focus on purpose shall we?

Of course we also need a device that we – as women – want to use. It needs to have a purpose that we’ll genuinely buy in to. Vibrating pants, USB bracelets or tweeting shoesjust aren’t going to cut it, but actually things we want. Jennifer Darmour refers to the necessity of “meaning”; not just something we want to wear but something that will add value to our lives.

There are endless possibilities in terms of functionality as wearable technology continues to evolve, but it needs to feel useful and worthwhile. It can’t just be a gimmick if women are going to buy into it. June by Netatmo, which also launched at CES, is one such example – it’s a bracelet that measures sun exposure, tracking UV intensity and advising women on skin protection on a daily basis. The design isn’t totally there, but it’s not half bad either.

Personally I would totally buy into a wearable device that would automatically adapt the heating in my house based on my body temperature, alert me to retail sales I would be interested in based on my location, or detect what nutritional value I’m missing from the day and suggest a recipe for dinner on my way home.

In this billion dollar industry, I can guarantee the brand that manages to make wearable technology beautiful as well as incredibly useful, will be the one with the key to women’s wallets the world over.