OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Fashion industry leaders joined economists, scientists, activists, innovators and catalysts from over twenty countries, at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire for the 2017 edition of VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.
“VOICES is definitely the most important and special thing that BoF does. It's the closest we get to achieving the mission that we set out for this company, which is to open, inform and connect the global fashion community, and to connect that community with the wider world. That’s not something you can do purely through a screen. That’s something that you have to do through an event that brings people together,” said Imran Amed, Founder and CEO, The Business of Fashion.
Attendees were exposed to a unique programme of immersive activities and provocative talks from speakers including Dries Van Noten and Daniel ‘Dapper’ Dan, editors Carine Roitfeld and Phillip Picardi, models Halima Aden, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Karlie Kloss and Natalia Vodianova, Colette creative director Sarah Andelman and LVMH scion Antoine Arnault; as well as internationally renowned figures from the worlds of politics, technology and beyond, including, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, writer and scholar Jonathan Taplin, Google Arts & Culture director Amit Sood, activists Laith Ashley and Sinéad Burke, Warby Parker and Rockets of Awesome founders and chief executives Neil and Rachel Blumenthal and beauty trailblazers Moj Mahdara and Emily Weiss.
Dries Van Noten tackled the thorny topic of cultural appropriation and Colette’s Sarah Andelman revealed her next move following the closure of the beloved Parisian concept store: a new consulting company called ‘Just An Idea.’ But the need to bridge perceived divides and be more inclusive emerged as a key theme of the gathering.
The power of cross-industry collaboration was a key theme. And in one of the event’s most memorable moments, casting director James Scully — who only a year ago issued a plea to end the ‘cruel and sadistic’ abuse of fashion models — joined LVMH’s Antoine Arnault to discuss the drafting and enforcement of a landmark charter on the health and safety of models, developed in collaboration with Kering. Arnault did not mince words: “We have no problem at all not to work with modelling agencies who don't meet this charter no matter how big they are in this industry. If they don't comply, we will not work with them anymore.” Marie-Claire Daveu, the group’s chief sustainability officer, spoke on behalf of Kering. “For us, it’s a huge topic and we have been working on the wellbeing of fashion models for a long time, but this year, we felt the need to formalize this. So that’s why we wrote our principles in a great way with LVMH,” she said. “But it’s important to have other brands join us.”
The inclusivity revolution: the gender revolution, designing for disability, girls empowerment and modest fashion
Teen Vogue’s Phillip Picardi challenged fashion leaders to respond to the gender revolution and make their companies more inclusive: “In your companies, most of you hold esteemed positions, you need to go and fix the bathroom rules and the HR rules to make sure you are more inclusive of various gender identities and not just binaries.” Picardi spoke alongside Dr Shazhan Amed, trans activist Laith Ashley and Intersex activist Hanne Gaby Odiele.
Meanwhile, Karlie Kloss made a case for including girls in technology education and model Halima Aden, in conversation with Carine Roitfeld, said the industry needed to take modest fashion more seriously: “A year ago, I couldn’t pick up a magazine and see someone wearing a hijab. The only time I ever saw someone dressed like me was on CNN. All the time we’re talked about, but we’re not given the opportunities to speak for ourselves.”
Sinéad Burke, a Dublin-based teacher, PhD student and fashion blogger who is 105 centimetres (or three foot five inches) tall and an advocate for little people, recounted her challenges with fashion where her clothing options are severely limited and she faces countless obstacles when shopping for clothes. In a rousing talk, she said it was “goddamn time” for the industry to better serve a full spectrum of consumers.
GLOBAL VOICES Award 2017
The event climaxed with a celebration of supermodel-turned-philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, who won this year’s GLOBAL VOICES Award for outstanding achievement in fashion and exemplary impact on the wider world at a Russia themed gala dinner and party. From founding The Naked Heart Foundation and Elbi, a global philanthropy platform for millennials, to her work as a member of the Board of Directors of the Special Olympics and her advocacy for full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Vodianova has earned a global reputation as a passionate and vocal philanthropist, campaigner and fundraiser.
“We’re delighted to continue our support of VOICES for the second year running and provide guests with a unique environment to meet, share ideas and forecast future possibilities, together as one global community” said Stuart Miller, Global Director, QIC Global Real Estate.
Watch all the videos of the 2017 edition of VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.