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Six Mothers Paving the Way for a More Sustainable Fashion Industry



Reflections from fashion leaders on motherhood and making industry-wide change.

In honor of Mother’s Day, here is a tribute to six admirable women who have dedicated their lives to fighting for a more sustainable fashion industry and a greener planet. Their unwavering commitment to balancing significant careers with family responsibilities serves as an inspiration to all of us.

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney was one of the first American designers in the fashion industry to embrace a sustainable approach in her business model. McCartney believes that the future of the fashion industry must be circular, where everyone must work together with unprecedented levels of commitment and innovation to make sustainability a reality. McCartney employs a nature-positive approach to farming and fiber production that ensures the process does not destroy land and soil, but instead rebuilds and restores the environment. Her knitwear collections are made from recycled cashmere and her regenerative cotton is sourced from SÖKTAŞ, a family owned cotton producer based in Turkey. Traceability — knowing the sources of materials — is important in order for McCartney’s company to ensure their products are sustainably sourced. McCartney, a mother of four, draws inspiration for her clothing line from her experiences as a working mom. As she said in an interview with Moda Operandi: “I believe in the future and I believe in our kids because they are the ones who are going to fight for their lives on this planet… It feeds and inspires me on so many different levels as a mother, as a wife, as a designer, and as a founder of a business.”

Eileen Fisher

In 1984, Eileen Fisher founded her company with only $350 in her bank account. Her one goal was to create simple yet chic easy-to-wear clothing for women. In 2023, Eileen Fisher Inc. generated revenue of more than $850 million. Fisher’s commitment to sustainability has been a hallmark of her brand since day one. She consistently champions environmentally responsible practices such as using organic materials, fair labor practices, and recycling programs. Renew, Fisher’s circular takeback and resale program, gives a $5 credit – Renew Rewards – to customers for any used Eileen Fisher garment, no matter the condition, in order to reduce textile and fiber waste. After dry cleaning, a portion of that collected clothing is resold. The remaining clothing is recycled and transformed into unique works of art or accessories such as crossbody bags, pillows, and wall decorations. Fisher’s advice to younger professionals and mothers in an interview with Inc.: “Slow down and be where you are—especially be with the people around you: Make sure your most important relationships stay on top. And take care of yourself. When I didn’t do that, it was chaos. I would also say, be present where you are. When you’re with your kids, be with your kids.” 

Eva Kruse

Beginning as a television host and magazine editor, Eva Kruse played a key role in the United Nations work on the Sustainable Development Goals for businesses. She eventually took the position as the former chief executive of the Global Fashion Agenda, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting collaboration within the fashion industry to drive sustainable efforts. In 2009, she created the Global Fashion Summit (originally the Copenhagen Fashion Summit), an annual meeting dedicated to having critical discussions on the environmental, social, and ethical issues facing the fashion industry, people and planet, which she led until 2021. Her TED Talk in 2013 entitled “Changing the World Through Fashion” insisted that not only companies and politicians, but also consumers, should be at the forefront of sustainability efforts. Currently, Kruse is the Chief Global Engagement Officer at Pangaia, an Earth-positive company with the mission of giving back more than it takes from the planet. Kruse’s work at Pangaia, based in London, includes innovative textile solutions such as upcycling carbon emissions into textile printing ink and harvesting wildflowers as insulation for winter coats (in place of animal down), among many other cutting-edge solutions. Kruse, a Danish mother of three children, reflected in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that her, “parents always spent their lives trying to improve the world,” and Kruse is now continuing the tradition for her own children.

Marie-Claire Daveu

When Marie-Claire Daveu joined Kering, a French luxury goods company, as Chief Sustainability Officer in 2012, she was already a celebrated public official, having been Chief of Staff for the French Minister of Ecology. Well aware that 10% of global emissions is estimated to come from the fashion industry, Daveu felt a responsibility to incorporate sustainability into the company as well as the luxury retail fashion industry at large. Daveu explains, “We are very lucky at Kering: our Chairman and CEO has for many years put sustainable development at the heart of Kering’s strategy.” With her chairman’s encouragement, Daveu focused on sourcing materials that are gentle on the environment and encouraged the fashion industry worldwide to be transparent about sourcing. In the Corporate Knights’ 2019 Global 100 Index announced at the World Economic Forum, Kering was hailed as one of the most sustainable retail companies in luxury fashion. In a recent Vogue Business Op-Ed, Daveu wrote that more needs to be done regarding sustainability in the fashion industry: “We know that on climate change and biodiversity loss, we have less than 10 years to turn things around. While I am optimistic, to seriously drive change we need policy to create a level-playing field. However, we must not wait for policy to change — the fashion industry must act today.” When asked how she handles her work-life balance in an interview with the Evening Standard, Daveu replies, “I won’t say that it’s easy. Every day is a challenge… I’m fortunate to have the support of my husband and mother to look after my children. I call and send messages all the time to check on my children, but also because I need to listen to their voices.”

Amy Powney

Raised on a farm in northern England with no running water and limited electricity, Amy Powney learned firsthand an appreciation for natural resources and a strong sense of environmental responsibility. Using the lessons from her childhood, Powney became the creative director and co-owner of Mother of Pearl, a women’s fashion brand that celebrates individuality, authenticity, and sustainability. Her determination to embed sustainability into Mother of Pearl is the subject of a documentary film by Becky Hutner, Fashion Reimagined, released in cinemas in March 2023. Powney’s sustainable collections have been shown at London Fashion Week and Copenhagen Fashion Week (for which she now sits on the sustainability board) and have been stocked by prestigious global retailers such as Harrods, Neiman Marcus, and Net-a-Porter. Reflecting on her simple childhood on the farm with her family, she said in an interview with Hole & Corner magazine,“I can see what my mum and dad were trying to do; to return to the land, to work with it and to look after it. I’ve long put my teenage angst to bed and now realize that my upbringing made me who I am today. It gave me a unique perspective on how I view the world and it showed me that I must use that for good. Now I must do the same for my children.”

Ayesha Barenblat

Ayesha Barenblat grew up in Pakistan and observed firsthand the detrimental impact of fast fashion on the waterways and air quality of her country. Her childhood experiences led her to found Remake, a social justice organization that advocates for worker rights and sustainable practices in the fashion industry through legislation, campaigns, and creation of accountability reports. Remake, where she serves as the CEO, scores companies based on “whether brands are doing more good and less harm. We look at everything from wages to water conservation to where their products are being made and then discarded.” Remake’s 90-day NoNewClothes challenge calls for consumers to stop and consider the role each of us can play in addressing overconsumption in the fashion industry. The aim of the 90 day challenge is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. Barenblat reflects on how she wants her children to grow up aware of where their clothing comes from. She explained in a conversation with The Good Trade, “In terms of my own values, I really try to focus more on experiences and human connection. Having been an American for many years now, I am still overwhelmed with the volume of stuff, how all of our holidays seem to center on consumption. I hope to raise my children to want less, appreciate nature, family time, and travel more. I believe we would be so much better off as a human race if we stopped trying to constantly buy our happiness and looked up and just talked to each other more.”

This Mother’s Day, let us all talk to each other more (especially our moms!) and celebrate these mothers who are incredible role models and work to reevaluate our own wardrobe habits. From shopping secondhand, researching companies’ sustainable practices, and educating others on this environmental crisis, we must all work together to make the fashion industry kinder to our earth. That would be the best gift to Mother Nature on Mother’s Day.

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Sasha Stern
Sasha Stern
Sasha is in 11th grade at the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts. She is passionate about educating her peers and community on the dangers of fast fashion and the textile waste crisis. Sasha spends her time working with the Nobles Environmental Action club, leading the Women in Business club, and rowing on the Charles River. She is also a content creator for the BlueDot Institute.

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