International Women's Day 2021
#choosetochallenge is this year’s theme. In this video, I discuss the call to celebrate our achievements, recap my journey and offer ideas on how we can all support each other.
I continue the conversation on IWD with an inspiring group of women on new social media app Clubhouse. Come and celebrate your accomplishments and be inspired by the stories of women supporting other women.
(Transcript of the video below)
Hi, I’m Stacy, the founder and creative director of Stacy Chan, a handbag and accessories brand designed in London, all hand made in Italy.
Happy International Women’s Day. The theme this year is Choose to Challenge, a campaign based on the idea that a challenged world is an alert world. It calls on everyone to raise awareness against bias, take action for equality and celebrate women’s achievements for an inclusive world.
Challenging bias and inequality are things that we can look out for, but not all of us have the opportunity to practice this on a daily basis. However, we as women can all more easily rally around the third pillar of this year’s campaign to celebrate women’s achievements.
The saying that we are our own harshest critics can be especially true for women. We are constantly striving for some ideal of perfection and success that has only become more distorted by the prevalence of social media. Although I am conscious not to compare my journey to others, I do often fall into the trap of being so focused on the next goal that I forget to look back and celebrate my own achievements and how far I’ve come.
MY JOURNEY SO FAR
I have been running my Italian leather accessories business for many years now, but my career began in New York City in the male-dominated world of investment banking where I was one of two women on a 20-person team. I worked 85 hours a week, through weekends and holidays, many times over night, but I learned so much so quickly and it gave me the confidence to pursue my own goals.
I left New York for London barely knowing anyone in this new city, but I was determined to have a new adventure and experience a different culture. Little did I know that this move would result in lifelong friends and I would come to call London my home.
After 10 years of working in finance, my decision to build my own business was centred around my love of accessories – specifically handbags and shoes. Looking around, I felt like the same designs were being recycled over and over and there was also little faith in products that claimed to be “Made in Italy”. So while I was working at a hedge fund in London, I bought a sketch book – which being a distressed credit investor was not exactly in my wheel house of skills – and began drawing my own ideas for handbags.
This one small step led me to a Handbag Design course at the London College of Fashion and then onwards to Italy to find a tannery in Tuscany and small Italian manufacturers to help me bring my ideas to life. When I look back at my uncertain start, feeling around in the dark in a new industry, it is a wonder that today, I have been featured in prestigious fashion magazine, had my handbags carried by members of the British Royal Family, sell with Harvey Nichols and have customers all over the world.
WHAT DOES IWD MEAN TO ME?
With all the things vying for our attention on a daily basis, how can we set aside time to #choosetochallenge? My answer is I don’t think choosing to challenge only applies to grand gestures fighting for the rights of disenfranchised women around the world. I think there are small, everyday ways to reach out to other women that cost us nothing and can make a difference.
For instance, I have spoken to countless budding designers who have come to our pop-ups asking for advice on how to get started or what they should watch out for. But it can be even simpler than this by reaching out to a woman in your life.
Bring attention to a small achievement that they glossed over. Ask how they are coping with the stresses of work, family and lockdown. Or just a simple word of encouragement or thanks.
Last week I mentioned to a good friend that she has made such a difference to my life during lockdown and she started to tear up. I didn’t think this would be a revelation, but sometimes an unexpected word of kindness and appreciation can do wonders.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
I could tell stories all day about the amazing women in my life, but this video is already a bit long. Instead, I have organised my first Clubhouse discussion for Monday, 8 March at 11am London time which is officially International Women’s Day. This is a casual gathering for all women to share their stories of achievement, no matter how small and also to share stories of the women that have made a difference in their lives.
So find me with an inspiring group of women on clubhouse and join the conversation* to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021.
* Unfortunately, the Clubhouse app is currently iPhone/iPad only and requires an invitation to join.