Who inspires you? Who are your role models?
On a personal level, several people have inspired me throughout my life, from childhood through to the current day. They are all people with a solid set of good moral values and open minds. People who care about and respects other humans, animals and nature.
On a professional level, there are a dozen people that I admire and view as my role models. These are people who, along with a good moral compass, have a great desire to make the world a better place and the courage to act on that desire.
They span wide from renowned leaders such as Barack Obama and Al Gore, to a former Indian supplier who put his work on hold, loaded a truck with rice and drove it to a flooded area where people were in desperate need of food.
Unsurprisingly, they also count a few figures from the sustainable fashion industry who started their mission to change the practises in the industry many years ago, and who tirelessly continues to do important work in order to improve working conditions in the industry and preserve our wonderful planet.
I have dedicated this blog post to some of them.
Safia Minney is an important figure in the UK sustainable fashion, being a pioneer in Fair Trade fashion. She founded People Tree in London in 2001 with the aim to improve livelihoods of the workers in the fashion supply chain. The task of sourcing and managing a largely artisan supply chain is incredibly complex and it is proof of the great determination she possesses. Not only did she manage to do this and grow People Tree to a considerable sized business, she also concurrently wrote two books: ‘Slow Fashion – aesthetics meets ethics’ and ‘Naked Fashion – the new sustainable fashion revolution’. In 2014, Safia Minney’s determination led People Tree to become the first company to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organisation label, which certifies that the business is fair trade throughout the supply chain. This means, that everyone in People Tree’s supply chain is being paid fairly and their human rights respected. She, along with her team at People Tree, literally has made a world of difference to these workers and their families, providing them with a decent living standard. Today she has left the business and set up her own ethical consultancy, continuing to improve the practises of the fashion industry.
Livia Firth is on a similar yet different mission. Originally a documentary film maker and very passionate about human rights and protecting the planet, Livia Firth is ‘selling’ the concept of sustainable fashion to the luxury consumer. Having set up her own consultancy, Eco-Age in London, she has managed to get some of the biggest luxury designer brands interested in sustainability and placed eco-fashion firmly on the map with the Green Carpet Fashion awards. While working with her team in the background to assess the supply chains of major brands, she herself is constantly at the forefront using her high profile to fight for her cause through interviews with the likes of Vogue and Vanity Fair. She is also known for persuading A-listers to wear ethical and eco friendly fashion at red carpet events, and for her role as an Executive Producer of the Movie ‘The True Cost’ about the fashion industry. It doesn’t come as a surprise that she is an Oxfam Global Ambassador and has been awarded the title UN Leader of Change.
Yvon Chouinard is the complete opposite of Livia Firth when it comes to being in the spotlight. An avid climber, his entrepreneurial journey started in 1957 making pitons to secure climbers to the rock face, and in 1970 he went on to found the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia. In addition, he is also a surfer at heart. He much prefers spending time in nature rather than in an office and frequently goes off the grid for months to do so. Since 1970, he has spent years developing the perfect outdoor product that has a minimal impact on the environment. Think recycled polyesters, organic cotton etc. In 2015, Patagonia’s turnover reached $750 million and Forbes wanted to include Yvon Chouinard on their list of billionaires. He strongly opposed this. Patagonia was the first company in California to become a B-corporation in 2002, and it is important for Yvon Chouinard that the focus on social and environmental causes are maintained – and that less focus is placed on growth and profit. It is very rare to find such large corporations with this philosophy, and also the reason why Yvon Chouinard put a succession plan in place years ago to ensure that the company stays family owned once he is no longer able to run it. It is admirable that every year, Patagonia donates either 1% of their sales or 10% of their profits to the planet – whichever is greater. And while Patagonia’s primary goal is to leave a healthy and clean planet to future generations, Yvon Chouinard also cares about his employees. Rumour has it that his motto ‘let my people go surfing’ is blown up on the wall at the reception area. It reflects his love of surfing, but also a love of freedom and trust in his employees. As long as they get the job done, they can come and go as they please. In fact, with in-house childcare, paid hours to work on charity projects and many other benefits, Patagonia sounds like the dream workplace!
While the above mentioned people have been hugely successful in different parts of the sustainable spectrum, one thing they all have in common is their authenticity. It is crystal clear they all have a great passion for their individual causes, and that they always stay true to their values. And it is because of this that they are able to inspire so many, including myself.
You might think now that it is easy to inspire other people if you are hugely successful. It is worth remembering that all 3 above mentioned people started somewhere and have worked hard for their success.
We can all be an inspiration to each other, regardless of the level of our success. What matters is that we act in a way that makes a positive difference to the world.