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To celebrate this years International Women’s Day we interviewed some of our favourite female founders to get their scoop on what this years theme #ichoosetochallenge means for them and their business.

Read our interview with founder Bella Nolan of ethical fashion brand  brand Project Bowman:

Tell us what this years IWD #choosetochallenge means to you and your business?

At Project Bowman, #choosetochallenge means shifting the status quo in the fashion industry to produce slowly and ethically. It’s saying no to fast fashion and yes to conscious consumerism.

What are the greatest challenges women face in the fashion industry?

The greatest challenge women face in the fashion industry is poor, unregulated working conditions.

The majority of garment workers are women. In a vast majority of supply chains they are not receiving a living wage, overworking, overcrowded, having their health and safety neglected and in many cases, exposed to harassment and abuse. These women are working to the bone to produce for some of the biggest companies in the world, yet they can’t afford to live above the poverty line or provide their children with education. It’s heartbreaking that our consumerism has this real life impact on female workers.

In your opinion what needs to change to create equality in the fashion industry?

In my opinion, to overcome this challenge a few core things need to be changed:

  1. Regulation of the supply chain. During our fabric sourcing process we were shocked at how many companies thought that simply stating they are not using child labour and a vague pre-written response about their workers being paid in line with government standards meant that they were ethically producing. It does not. We need global regulations and industry bodies that ensure high ethical standards are met across all steps in the supply chain.

  2. Saying no to fast fashion. Overworking, overcrowding and underpaying workers are all a result of the fast fashion industry over producing low quality garments at seriously low costs. Let’s stop feeding into the cash machines that are big fashion companies and shift our approach to supporting ethically produced, small brands that look out for their workers and produce consciously.

  3. Level out the hierarchy. Despite females making up the most workers, males still make up majority of the top level jobs. We need to create more opportunities for women to work their way up through companies, finding at least a 50% balance in senior positions.

How is your business contributing to a fairer future for women?

We produce with an ethically accredited and family owned manufacturer around the corner from us in Brunswick, Melbourne. By focusing our manufacturing efforts locally, we can ensure all garment workers are treated with respect, paid a living wage and can regularly visit them at the factory. We’re only a small label but our goal to build our team from the ground up, with a focus on up-skilling young women in production to help boost employment rates and keep the dying industry here in Australia alive.

Project Bowman is also contributing to a fairer future for women by using transparency to drive awareness of the negative impacts of fast fashion and challenging our audience to question their purchasing decisions.

What advice would you give young women wanting to get into the fashion industry?

Project Bowman begun when co-founder Amber and myself had enough of talking about starting, so we just did. We figured out the problems we wanted to solve, researched, started designing, created contacts and started to make. It’s been a huge learning curve but we always try to remember that you can’t start out an expert, the only way to get there is by doing.

The fashion industry is a huge space, so my biggest piece of advice would be to find your niche. Take the time to figure out if you want to be a technician, pattern maker, designer, marketer, etc. and what you want to create. Then get going – do your research, make from what you have and set up coffee dates with those in the industry. Remember, LinkedIn and insta DMs are your friends!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Project Bowman is female run, owned and funded. Co-founder Amber Rigney and myself have built the label from the ground up, without any outside investments, so that we have the freedom to stay true to our vision and support the good guys.

Written by Bella Nolan

Instagram address: @projectbowman