Designer Anya Hindmarch is a veritable ideas machine. The daughter of an entrepreneur father and a French teacher mother – who was “brilliant at presents” (prizes wrapped with beautiful bows inspired the original Anya Hindmarch logo) – Hindmarch started her accessories business as a teenager, inspired by the leather duffel bags she saw all around her on an early trip to Florence. One of the very first designers to have her collection stocked on NET-A-PORTER when the website launched in 2000, she attests to the “mood-altering” magic of a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, while ever-ready to exploit fashion’s extraordinary platform as a power for good. Indeed, her ability to spin an idea into a product and a pop-cultural moment saw her bring about a game-changing shift in plastics consumption with her ‘I’m Not A Plastic Bag’ initiative, as she explains in this special 20th-anniversary episode of Pieces of Me.
A fashion designer with an artist’s eye for bold, uncompromising color, Roksanda Ilinčić studied architecture in Belgrade before following her dream to move to London and enrol at Central Saint Martins. There, she became part of a new generation of design talent that went on to transform London Fashion Week and the very definition of red-carpet dressing. Loved by women of substance the world over – her most recent front-row guests featured writer and activist Sinéad Burke and costume designer Sandy Powell, alongside actors Cate Blanchett and Vanessa Redgrave – Roksanda’s dresses have impact without ever having to shout. “It’s not about standing out in an aggressive or a shouting way; it’s standing out in a beautiful, elegant, chic and understated way. I want to give women a certain soft power, a certain shelter and protection. It’s about being their friend, rather than being a dictator.”
Model Halima Aden is a true change-maker. Her brave decision in 2016 to enter the Miss Minnesota USA pageant – wearing a burkini in the swimsuit round – was a zeitgeist-changing moment. The very first hijab-wearing Vogue cover star, in just over three years the Somali-American has redefined ideas of beauty, bringing diversity and the visibility of Muslim women onto fashion’s front pages. Veteran fashion editor Carine Roitfeld was an early champion, casting Aden on the cover of her CR Fashion Book, and she famously modeled in Kanye West’s Yeezy show; although, as Aden explains, that groundbreaking runway moment almost didn’t happen…
Costume designer Arianne Phillips has made an indelible mark on our culture, from her 20-plus years styling Madonna to her unforgettable costume work on movies such as Tom Ford’s A Single Man and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood (for which she was Oscar-nominated). In recent years, she has become increasingly focused on activism – using the red carpet as her platform. And, while she may be the queen of grand, dramatic moments in her work, Phillips prefers to cut a more low-key figure herself. In fact, she likes to describe herself as “a people detective”. Who better to tell her own story through seven key pieces?
Sinéad Burke is an activist for inclusion, who believes fashion and design should include everybody. At 3ft 5in, she is a ‘little person’, as is her father. The eldest of five siblings (all of whom are of average height), she was raised – and continues to live – in Ireland. A lifelong fashion-obsessive, who would ask her parents to buy her the September issue of British and American Vogue for her birthday, she initially worked as a schoolteacher. Indeed, it was a teacher-training assignment to start a blog that gave her a platform to write about her passion for fashion and the freedom to challenge the industry from her own perspective. “Nobody gets to choose what they look like, she says, “but we each choose how we behave”.
Zainab Salbi is the very definition of inspirational. A women’s-rights activist, author and speaker with a powerful commitment to freedom, she grew up in liberal, educated 1970s Iraq – a gilded childhood that was blighted when her family became closely entwined with Saddam Hussein. After ‘escaping’ Iraq to America for an arranged marriage to a man who ultimately abused her, she once again had to flee for her safety.
In 1993, when she was just 23 years old, Salbi formed the humanitarian organization Women for Women International – helping women survivors of war. She explains how working with so many women in war zones taught her to embrace the power of beauty and female adornment. In this episode, the memories of the clothes she wore at significant moments in her extraordinary journey are laced through with a heart-breaking story of betrayal and self-discovery.
Filmmaker and photographer Sam Taylor-Johnson rose to prominence as one of the rule-breaking Young British Artists (YBAs) of the 1990s Brit Art scene. She went on to capture public imagination with her one-hour video portrait of David Beckham sleeping, a film that explores masculinity, vulnerability and fame itself.
A two-times cancer survivor, there is a biographical narrative in her work about the body and identity, loss and hope – sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, but always witty, thoughtful and moving. And, today – although the mother of four professes to spend much of her life in sneakers – the symbolism and drama of fashion and clothes remain a constant in her work.
Tracee Ellis Ross
A brilliant raconteur and a bold advocate for social change, no one owns a red-carpet moment quite like Tracee Ellis Ross. And few know how to use those moments in the spotlight to raise issues about equality, representation and calling out sexual violence quite like her.
The award-winning actor best known for the boundary-pushing TV sitcom Black-ish is, of course, the daughter of the Motown superstar Diana Ross. In the debut episode of Pieces of Me, Ellis Ross talks about that extraordinary inheritance, skewing abuse in Hollywood with satire and claiming the right to dress with unapologetic joy: “There is a revolutionary aspect to joy,” she says, “especially as a black woman.”