9 inspirational female fashion founders empowering women and caring for the planet

Rebecca Rhoades

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we highlight out some of the industry’s most inspiring female-founded fashion brands to have your radar…

1. NAJA MUNTHE, MUNTHE

Copenhagen-based fashion brand Munthe began in 1994 as a partnership between Danish designers Naja Munthe and Karen Simonsen. By 2009 Naja had gone solo, eventually rebranding the collection with a stronger focus on sustainability. Today Munthe is well-known around the world for its cool and conscious creations that merge fashion with art. For International Women’s Day 2024, the founder has designed a special charity t-shirt for the Danish Women’s Society, an organisation dedicated to keeping gender equality on the political agenda. “Of course we should have more women in power,” she says. “Of course we should have more women on boards. It’s a cliché that women aren’t brave enough. It’s also a lie, women are just as brave as men. The problem is that their courage didn’t pay off. The problem isn’t only childcare or structural. The real problem is that when women speak, men aren’t attending.”

CONTACT: E: hlm@munthe.com

2. REBECCA RHOADES, REBECCA RHOADES

Employing a team of local seamstresses in Leeds, fashion designer Rebecca Rhoades creates fashion that celebrates women. Her self-titled womenswear collection has a strong focus on occasionwear and resortwear, serving up colourful dresses, separates and playsuits in block colours or the brand’s own exclusive prints. Each piece is designed in-house and made to order to minimise waste while its team uses any excess fabric to create accessories. Cuttings that can’t be used are collected by a local charity that repurposes the materials for arts and crafts. Since launching in 2021, the brand has experienced 350 per cent growth and exports its collections around the world. This season marks its first foray into wholesale as it begins to build a network of independent retail stockists.

CONTACT: Tel: 0113 245 5187 E: info@rebeccarhoades.com

3. CLAIRE HILL, CLAIRE HILL DESIGNS

Named Accessories Brand of the Year 2023 at the Boutique Star Awards, independent Cardiff-based Claire Hill Designs specialises in responsibly crafted demi-fine fashion jewellery. Its eponymous founder, who launched the brand single-handedly during lockdown, creates pieces with longevity using recycled silver or thick 14k gold vermeil plate alongside lab grown gemstones and diamonds. Each piece comes inside 100 per cent recyclable packaging, including luxury pouches made from recycled bottles that can be recycled with domestic waste. The founder is also socially conscious, donating a portion of its profits to causes such as Welsh Women’s Aid, Choose Love, Trussell Trust and Black Lives Matter. Best-selling styles within the range include pop-bright enamel stacking rings, antique inspired huggies and star-emblem earrings and necklaces.

CONTACT: E: claire@clairehilldesigns.co.uk

4. JULIE HAWKINS & NANCY GRIES, COTI VISION

British female-founded brand Coti Vision has revolutionised the glasses market with its trend-led necklace reading glasses and chains. Created by Julie Hawkins and Nancy Gries, their vision was to create a stylish and wearable solution to help people keep their glasses to hand. The range includes its chunky acrylic Classic Glasses Chain in numerous colours and designs as well as smaller bead-style necklaces, each featuring silicone loops that attach to most frames. The concept was pitched on Dragon’s Den in 2021 – earning the brand instant recognition. Many of its products incorporate recycled and natural materials such as those in its handmade Amore Italia Collection. Heroes include its Necklace Reading Glasses, Elements pearl chains and Halo necklace or glasses holder.

CONTACT: E: info@cotivision.com cotivision.com 

5. DEBORAH BEE, BEE & SONS

With a mission to keep fashion out of landfill, Deborah Bee launched sustainable knitwear brand Bee & Sons in 2020. The label uses high quality recycled yarns such as cashmere to create its 100 per cent natural jumpers, cardigans, accessories and homewares. Its pieces are created by a specialist factory in Tuscany, which collects pre-consumer and post-consumer waste from around the world before colour-sorting, chopping, boiling and re-spinning it into fresh new yarn. The brand’s pieces are fully recyclable and made to last, with standouts including the striped Alice cardigan and chunky funnel neck Vanda jumper.  To support International Women’s Day, the brand is pledging 20 per cent of its B2C sales to Body & Soul’s Braver Together programme, which offers guidance for mothers with children in mental health crisis.  

CONTACT: Tel: 01373 830 085 E: hello@beeandsons.com

6. TESS DALEY & GAYLE LAWTON, NAIA BEACH

Created by friends and former models Tess Daley and Gayle Lawton, Naia Beach is reshaping the luxury swimwear market with its stylish and empowering resortwear. Their aim is to make women feel incredible with designs that merge luxury fabrics with glamorous details and ultra-flattering fits. Buyers can expect impeccably cut swimsuits, bikinis and cover-ups in bold hues, striking prints and figure-enhancing materials. Named Female Founded Brand of the Year 2023 in the Boutique Star Awards, the label is making waves in the swimwear sector thanks to its inclusive designs that are meticulously road-tested by its founders. This season the duo are also increasing their sustainable commitments with the addition of even more designs in recycled fabrics.

CONTACT: E: melwood@thebellaagency.co.uk

7. MARIA RODRIGUEZ, KIND BAG

British brand Kind Bag is shaking up the accessories market with its planet-friendly reusable shopping bags. The Islington-born brand – the brainchild of Spanish-born Maria Rodriguez – was originally created to combat plastic pollution while paving the way for women in business. The first capsule collection included strong and stylish reusable shopping bags made from plastic bottles destined for oceans. Since launching five years ago, the range has expanded into rucksacks, weekend bags, pouches and laptop sleeves. Meanwhile, the brand also works with artists and galleries to create special edition prints.

CONTACT: E: hello@kindbag.co 

8. SAFIA MINNEY, PEOPLE TREE

Safia Minney,

Pioneering sustainable womenswear brand People Tree was created over 30 years ago by social entrepreneur and women’s rights campaigner Safia Minney MBE. Its core mission has remained the same over the past three decades: to create every product to the highest ethical and environmental standard. The brand works with highly skilled garment makers from around world and ensures they are provided with good working conditions and paid fair wages. Its design team not only focuses on creating beautiful clothing, but also on preserving traditional hand skills such as weaving and embroidery to help women out of poverty. Its garments are made by unique fair-trade groups from around the world, such as sock maker Bulus in Turkey and Dhaka’s Artisan Hut, which put women’s rights at the forefront and take sustainability seriously.

CONTACT: E: wholesale@peopletree.co.uk

9. PRIYA DOWNES, NUDEA

Sustainable underwear brand Nudea was founded by Priya Downes who had previously been working in finance for brands including Chanel and Burberry. With a vision to marry her head for numbers and love of great products, she launched the label in 2019 with a mission to create beautiful and functional eco-friendly underwear. Each garment is produced sustainably with support and comfort in mind, with the brand achieving B Corp Certification after just three years of trading. Its core collection includes responsibly manufactured bras and knickers in premium fabrics crafted using recycled yarns. Recently the label expanded into the nightwear market with its Nudea Sleep collection as well as introducing its first organic cotton underwear for SS24. All its styles are made in partnership with responsible suppliers paying fair living wages and are manufactured in fully-certified factories.

CONTACT: E: info@nudea.com