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brandsMonday, 8 March 2021

Happy International Women’s Day 2021: Celebrating Female Icons

It feels fitting that International Women’s Day is in spring. A time to embrace change and feel a sense of hope — a period that holds a new weight after a difficult year. 

 

The global day is a time to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but it is also a call to action for change. With a #ChooseToChallenge theme for International Women’s Day 2021, the 8th March presents you with a choice — how will you accelerate change?

 

Despite accounting for half the world’s population, women made up more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate people, an estimated 60 percent of chronically hungry and held just 28 percent of managerial positions globally in 2019 (almost the same as in 1995). Historically, women have been valued as less than their male counterparts. 

 

Cue Amanda Gorman onto the global stage, the Black American poet who captured our hearts with her inauguration poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ (and who aptly turns 23 the day before International Women’s Day). Head-to-toe Prada — a powerhouse whose success is owed to Miuccia Prada’s vision — Gorman stood before the nation in her blood-red headband and sunflower yellow coat. She was the beacon of hope the world didn’t realise it needed. 

 

Whether you’re saluting the iconic women in history who fought for us to have the vote, the modern feminists who continue to speak out against inequalities, or simply supporting the next generation of women, and doing your bit for the cause, why not pay homage to those iconic women of the past and present through your fashion choices?

 

From the likes of Audrey Hepburn to everyday mother figures, five female creatives recreate their ultimate icon’s aesthetic and chat to us about what they hope to see change for women in the years ahead. 

 

Happy International Women’s Day — we raise a toast to all those who identify as women and, in Gorman’s words, remember, ‘There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it’. 

Andrea Cheong wears Tadashi Shoji gown, and Jennifer Behr headband.

Images by Alise Jane
Hair and makeup by Alice Howlett

 

Andrea Cheong @fleurandrea

Based in London

 

Who is your female icon you have chosen to create an outfit inspired by? 

I chose Diana, Princess of Wales, who is a fashion icon and a woman we’ve all fallen in love with again this year thanks to ‘The Crown’. 

 

My outfit is a nod to the title ‘Princess’ — Princess Diana wore a lot of pink and feminine dresses. She also wore a lot of casual wear that inspired many ‘how to guides’ and her style is particularly on trend today. 

 

 

Thinking of famous female style icons, how can the way you dress be a source of empowerment?  

A lot of the time, famous people’s clothes are an expression of what they want to portray but not necessarily who they really are. From royalty to Hollywood, their wardrobes were curated for the public. Our generation has totally transformed what a ‘style icon’ means — in many ways, it’s lost its original meaning because of democratisation through social media. Today, when anyone can be a style icon, empowerment really comes from what labels we buy, who we support or who we aspire to wear.

 

How did your feminist icon pave the way for all women?

What strikes me the most about Princess Diana is her focus on mental health. It was a taboo subject even in the early ‘90s. Yet she is so elegant, graceful and known as a lovely mother. This is great encouragement for women today, who may feel they weren’t able to show ‘weakness’. 

 

With the IWD theme of #ChooseToChallenge, what stereotypes do you hope modern-day feminists will tackle most this year? What challenges do you think affect your life as a woman?

The first thing is to challenge the perception your immediate circle places on you as a woman. My experience as a Singaporean-born Chinese woman is very different from other Asians, let alone people of other ethnicities. In my culture, being conservative and domestic-oriented is highly valued. There’s a lot of pressure on us to be married and have children young. 

 

We’re also not encouraged to discuss mental health or family issues, even with our friends. Being a successful professional in a recognised career, as well as a mother, is an expectation. 

 

Then there’s the stereotype that as an Asian female, I would be submissive and keep opinions to myself. It’s important to challenge stereotypes because everything is a matter of perception. You can’t change the way someone thinks but you can provide an alternative view. Importantly, you have to defend your right to be the woman you want to be, unapologetically.

 

How do you intend to make the most of this women’s day celebration?

By celebrating the women in my life that have supported me through highs and given me free therapy through the lows. 

Krystal Bick wears Desa 1972 trench coat.

 

Krystal Bick @krystal_bick

Based in New York

 

Who is your female icon you have chosen to create an outfit inspired by? 
My icon is the inimitable Amelia Earhart, an American aviation pioneer, known best as the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organisation for female pilots. A lesser known fact about Earhart is that she actually launched her own clothing line, marketed for ‘the woman who lives actively’ — much like her. 

 

What I love most about Earhart’s legacy and style all comes down to her fearlessness. She dressed for the job and the activity she was embarking on, regardless of social norms of the time — comfortable separates, relaxed trousers, smart loafers, sleek neckties and silk scarves — very much menswear inspired but with her own unique twist. 

 

I like to think Earhart would appreciate this Desa 1972 panelled trench coat for a lot of those reasons. There’s a slight aviation sensibility to it and paired with the right ascot scarf and knee-high boots, you're ready to take on the skies.

 

How did your feminist icon pave the way for all women?
Much like any woman, or any person who is the first to achieve something in a given field, she opened the door for others to follow.


Thinking of famous female style icons, how can the way you dress be a source of empowerment?
The way you dress can be an incredible source of confidence. It impacts the way you carry yourself, reminding you to push your shoulders back and hold your head high. It can demand attention and, as we’ve seen throughout history and especially at the presidential inauguration, it can send messages of hope and solidarity. 

 

With the IWD theme of #ChooseToChallenge, what stereotypes do you hope modern-day feminists will tackle most this year? What challenges do you think affect your life as a woman?
‘Why not me? Why not her?’ That’s the challenge I want all of us to start asking ourselves and each other. There are plenty of areas that women have only started to scratch the surface in, and I hope we continue to shatter glass ceilings across them all. The point isn’t to settle with having the first and only. It’s to have many for years to come.

 

How do you intend to make the most of this women’s day celebration?
I’m currently re-reading the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s most famous dissenting opinions, as she’s another feminist leader whose mind and ability to inspire others to fight for change will never cease to amaze me. I’ll also be donating to several women’s focused charity organisations, like Global Fund for Women, whose work impacts the lives of women across the globe, helping them achieve economic independence.

 

Julia Friedman wears Nanushka blazer, and RE/DONE denim shortsMarni knitted crop topPaco Rabanne mini bag

 

Julia Friedman @juliafriedmann

Based in Miami

 

Who is your female icon you have chosen to create an outfit inspired by? 

When I think of a style icon, I immediately gravitate to celebrities. But in my case, I sat and thought about who has been a role model in my life and my mum, Edye, felt like the most obvious choice for me. 

 

My mum always looks put together and I don’t know how she does it. She means the world to me and is one of the strongest, most selfless people I know. Another quality I admire about her is her ability to be present. I’m practicing remaining present but hope one day I can be as present as she is. I love you mum.

 

Growing up, I loved looking at photos of my mum and always remembered this one photo of her in a high-waist zebra bikini in the ‘90s. I remember we used to laugh because high-waist swimwear was not a thing in the early ‘00s. Now, with ‘90s fashion making a comeback, I wanted to recreate this photo of her, along with another one of her at the beach in denim cutoffs. It seemed so fitting as I relocated to Miami about six months ago.

 

Thinking of famous female style icons, how can the way you dress be a source of empowerment?  

The way you dress can play an enormous role in everything you set out to do each day. From the fit to the colours, you can dare to be bold and dream big. When I am wearing an outfit that I feel good in, I feel as though I can conquer anything. When I think of powerful women and what they have accomplished, it often goes hand in hand with what they wear — how you dress is a form of expressing yourself.

 

With the IWD theme of #ChooseToChallenge, what stereotypes do you hope modern-day feminists will tackle most this year? What challenges do you think affect your life as a woman?

I think the stereotypes surrounding the ‘perfect body’ need to be challenged further this year. I know they have been challenged in the fashion industry with new-age models emerging in all shapes and sizes in recent years, but what we see on social media is still heavily filtered and edited.  

 

I think this idea that women need to look a certain way in order to achieve their goals or capture your attention is absurd. A woman’s body is a masterpiece capable of carrying human life, so I choose to honour it by nurturing and caring for myself mentally and physically.

 

How do you intend to make the most of this women’s day celebration?

I celebrate women not just today but everyday. I think it is so important to build women up and be an advocate for women of all shapes, sizes, and cultures. I hope I’m able to just make one person’s day on women’s day, but I’m also planning on hosting a Zoom ‘happy hour’ with some of my closest friends to celebrate each and every person’s achievements.

 

Onyi Moss wears Le Petite Robe Di Chiara Boni Dress, and Tory Burch pumps.

 

Onyi Moss @mossonyi

Based in UK

 

 

Who is your female icon you have chosen to create an outfit inspired by? 

My icon is Ella Fitzgerald, the American jazz singer. My look is old Hollywood glamour. It’s such a timeless and femine look, which is why I was drawn to it.

 

I chose Ella because she was a woman who faced many trials in life, yet she persevered. She was very diverse in her technique and an icon of her time — she paved the way for many Black women to come in the music industry. It’s easy to tell that she has genuine love for her work when you hear her sing. She famously said, ‘The only thing better than singing is more singing.’

 

Thinking of famous female style icons, how can the way you dress be a source of empowerment?

The way I dress can shape my overall demeanour, which is why I make more of an effort to go for looks that make me feel good. I’m much more likely to embrace my day and the challenges that come along with it if I do. The way I dress is also a way for me to express myself creatively, so I see it as part of my body of work. To speak through my clothing is something I always aim for.

 

With the IWD theme of #ChooseToChallenge, what stereotypes do you hope modern-day feminists will tackle most this year? What challenges do you think affect your life as a woman?

I’m not one to impress my opinion upon others, but I like to share my story from an introspective point of view. What I will say is, I wish for a community where we’re more open to listening and embracing dialogue to find common ground as human beings. If I were to use the hashtag it would probably be something along the lines of ‘#ChooseToChallenge your unconscious bias’.

 

Existing in the creative space has certainly opened my eyes to the lack of women, especially Black women with lead creative roles — even though many talented black women exist in these creative spaces. I find myself constantly improving upon my skill set and setting the bar in a space that can often be saturated. Yet I still feel like it’s hard to be seen and rewarded. I’m thankful that I continue to persevere in following my passion because the dream is mine and no one can take it away from me. Seen or not seen, I will continue to make my way.

 

How did your feminist icon pave the way for all women?

Ella paved the way by showing it was possible to succeed, despite existing in a time where women and Black people faced a lot of harsh prejudice. To succeed in the manner she did is nothing short of inspiring — especially to Black women, who would have seen in themselves a piece of her.

 

How do you intend to make the most of this women’s day celebration?

By supporting the work of other women and highlighting their efforts, while still doing my best to follow my passion — and hopefully inspiring other women along the way.

 

Shloka Narang wears Miu Mui checked skirt, Paige turtleneck sweater, and Prada sunglasses.

 

Shloka Narang @shloka

Based in London

 

Who is your female icon you have chosen to create an outfit inspired by? 

My icon who inspired this outfit is Audrey Hepburn. I’ve always found her style inspiring — it’s effortlessly chic, but was very relevant for her time. She often wore monochrome hues, checks and gingham, which is what inspired my look today. 

 

I love these style choices as they are classic and relevant — no matter the season, time or place, so I created an outfit surrounding that. Since I was a young girl I have looked up to Audrey Hepburn, it seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do. She was a dancer, an actress, she was part of the Dutch Resistance during WWII, she was a philanthropist and, of course, a fashion icon. She taught me that nothing was beyond my reach and to always have fun reaching for the stars. 

 

 

Thinking of famous female style icons, how can the way you dress be a source of empowerment?

When you dress the way you want to, whether it’s through styling a trend you love or trying something new, what you wear is an extension of yourself. It’s who you are, but for the world to see. Being able to do that on your own terms is incredibly empowering. When you feel good in what you wear, you can conquer the world. 

 

 

With the IWD theme of #ChooseToChallenge, what stereotypes do you hope modern-day feminists will tackle most this year? What challenges do you think affect your life as a woman?

I hope that we challenge the idea that there is a set path or a set timeline for what we need to achieve as women. So often it seems that unless you’re married, or having kids by a certain time, you haven’t achieved what you need to. I think it’s important we learn to celebrate other milestones and to normalise the idea that every woman’s path, timing and calling is different. I put a lot of pressure on myself to have major life goals ticked off by a certain time in my life, but I am trying to let go of this feeling and truly focus on what makes me feel happy and empowered. 

 

 

How did your feminist icon pave the way for all women?

Audrey’s commitment to doing what she was passionate about — be it helping the war effort, acting, or something as small as opting for flat shoes over heels, or trousers over skirts at a time when this was not always the ‘chic thing’, was so inspiring. She paved the way for us all to realise that there is nothing we cannot do, and that no obstacle can truly stop you. 

 

  

How do you intend to make the most of this women’s day celebration?

It’s a wonderful time to reflect on how far we’ve come, but also on the path ahead. I never want to feel like I missed out on something, or that I cannot do something because I am a woman, so I always vow to put myself out there and let no obstacle be too big to get in the way of my dreams. 

 

 

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