International Women’s Day: Fashion Leaders

Women in Sustainable Fashion Share their Inspiration

2017 was certainly a year full of inspiring women. From every #metoo survivor that shared their story to Oprah’s rallying cry of #timesup at the Golden Globes, this International Women’s Day I feel compelled to name the women who inspire me.

Within the world of sustainable fashion, where I spend much of my time, there is no shortage of inspiring women to choose from. Whether taking on fast fashion or quietly breaking new ground here at home, we are have some serious powerhouse ladies to choose from.

Although I could certainly rattle off a long list myself, I decided to poll the ranks of our local sustainable fashion world. I asked women across the industry, Who is your favourite sustainable (female) fashion icon and how has she inspired you?

The answers I received were thoughtful and, yes, inspiring.

Eileen Fisher’s ethical fashion viewpoint inspires Encircled’s sustainable styles

Someone I look up to immensely in the fashion industry is Eileen Fisher. She, too, started her business with no fashion experience, and basically invented ethical fashion. I always like to see what she’s doing next to get inspiration on how I can help Encircled continue to grow our mission to positively impact the planet with our designs.

Kristi Soomer, Founder & CEO, Encircled

My sustainable fashion icon is contemporary designer Gabriela Hearst. I had the opportunity to interview her last year; she had such an ease and determination about her.

Gabriela Hearst: Eco-friendly fashion icon

Her clothing is not only beautiful (her handbags and loose coats are the epitome of style for me!), but she really takes a full-circle approach to her label. Everything from her buttons, fabric, zippers and even her packaging is sustainable. She uses a brand called Tipa to package her deliveries. Tipa is a plastic-like film that biodegrades in about five months. She had to adjust her ordering schedules to accommodate this, but in the long run it was worth it for her. My goal is to have a few of her standout pieces in my closet as soon as possible!

Michelle Bilodeau, Editor, The Eco Edit|

I can’t say I have a favourite sustainable fashion icon. Rather, I take inspiration from the many women around me who are just trying to live more empowered lives, and are using fashion as a channel to do so. They inspire me because, despite having their own struggles, they still have the strength of mind, courage, and resolve to choose to live more consciously, simply because they care more about others than themselves, and to me, that’s pretty amazing.

Gelaine Santiago, Co-Founder, Cambio & Co.


Emma Watson: A classy approach to sustainable fashion

On a global level, I love how Emma Watson has used her influence in the world of sustainable fashion by lifting up brands that are working hard for the greater good. Her style is classy and timeless, and her grace in how she carries it is very inspiring. On a local level, I admire Anne Pringle‘s commitment to raising the profile of Canadian brands. She has introduced me to a lot of great brands that I am loving to learn about and support. She has great taste and always inspires me with her take on outfits.

Christal Earle, Co-Founder & CEO, Brave Soles


Kelly Drennan uses fashion to take action


I know I wouldn’t have the knowledge about sustainable fashion, nor would I be where I am today without
Kelly Drennan. As the founder of Fashion Takes Action, Canada’s leading non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainability, she has continually inspired me to always stay motivated and push forward even when the light might look dim. Since 2007, she has been advocating and implementing strategies to make change by working with industry leaders and creating events for consumers, such as Design Forward and the WEAR conference. Each event and time I see her there seems to be a new piece of wisdom I learn from her. I am honored to be part of the FTA team and so grateful for female leaders like her who make a massive difference in the world!

Cassandra Ciarallo, Founder & Designer, Chic Made Consciously

Emmanuelle Alt stylishly embraces slow fashion

Not known for being “sustainable” in the traditional sense of the word, my fashion icon is Emmanuelle Alt.

Never swayed by trends, always wearing classics, and re-wearing her timeless wardrobe, Alt embodies ‘slow fashion’ in a quiet way and has influenced the way I shop. I’ve learned to value a small, curated wardrobe full of items I love through all seasons, and can wear for decades to come.

Alyssa Beltempo, Slow Fashion Blogger & Youtube Vlogger


Advocate of slow fashion, Safia Minney









Safia Minney (pictured above, left), Fair Trade fashion pioneer and long-time advocate of the slow fashion movement, has a huge influence on me. Early research on my ethical fashion business led me to her books, where she shared her insights and knowledge on sustainable fashion. Her journey on being a social entrepreneur has empowered and inspired me. I also met her in person and she was kind enough to give me business advice and an invite to visit her in London, UK!

Sheryl Luz, Founder, Artisella

Peggy Sue Collection has a farm-to-fashion ethical way with her extensive collection

After stumbling across the Peggy Sue Collection label a few years back, I couldn’t help but be taken with the designs. Fast forward to the TFI New Labels competition, where the fashion crowd was peppered with the farmers who helped bring Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks’ designs to life, and I was completely smitten. (She won, by the way.) Peggy Sue is such a champion for sustainable fashion. It’s so important to know the story behind clothes and she is able to weave a beautiful tale so effortlessly.

Karolyne Ellacott, Product Copywriter, Saks Fifth Avenue

Sustainable clothing cultivator, Livia Firth

My first contact with sustainable fashion was watching the documentary The True Cost on Netflix in 2015. I was very impressed with Livia Firth, one of the biggest advocates for the cause. She is the founder and Creative Director at Eco Age, a consultancy for sustainability, and she has been recognized for her activism with several awards. I find her commitment to ending fast fashion and its horrible consequences absolutely remarkable.

Amanda Machado, Fashion Retail Consultant

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