LONDON, United Kingdom — The Business of Fashion is pleased to reveal its early speaker lineup for VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, which will take place from November 28 to December 1, 2018 in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.
VOICES is an invitation-only gathering that brings together movers, shakers and trailblazers of the fashion industry and unites them with the people shaping the wider world. Over three days, executives, entrepreneurs, experts and business leaders will converge on Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire to immerse themselves in a programme of provocative talks, interactive discussions and stimulating activities, capturing the power of cross-industry learning and collaboration.
This year, we are proud to announce that Stella McCartney will be honoured with the Global VOICES award, in recognition of her pioneering work in the field of sustainability within the fashion industry. The designer will also take to the VOICES stage to discuss the ongoing and urgent sustainability challenges the fashion industry faces, just as she begins to take her business independent from luxury goods group Kering.
Speaking to BoF, McCartney said it was “a great compliment and an honour” to be a part of this year's VOICES conference. “It gives us a platform to encourage and talk about other ways of doing business in fashion, and having a different point of view in the industry,” she said. “[Our] point of difference is being embraced, being taken seriously and we have a voice. … I’m very proud that having this voice can bring a positive impact to the planet.”
Acclaimed fashion designer Alber Elbaz will make a special appearance at VOICES 2018. Elbaz is best known for reviving the historic French label Lanvin, where he was at the creative helm for 14 years before his surprise departure in 2015. The much-loved, much-missed designer will share his thoughts and perspectives on a fashion industry going through a time of great upheaval and change.
“I’m so proud and happy to be part of VOICES this year,” Elbaz told BoF. “It’s a smart moment. It’s a moment when we talk about fashion, but not in terms of colours and shapes, it's much deeper than that. Here we are discussing yesterday and tomorrow, we’re questioning things. It’s an important moment ... when we don’t take anything for granted, but we question.”
VOICES is a smart moment. It's a moment when we talk about fashion, but not in terms of colours and shapes, it's much deeper than that.
Back in March, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie made headlines when he went on the record in an explosive articles in the The Observer and The New York Times which set in motion the scandal around Cambridge Analytica, which harvested data from millions of Facebook users to target voters in the US presidential election and the Brexit referendum in the UK. In a rare public appearance, the whistle-blower will speak on the VOICES stage to discuss the backstory on what has became one of the biggest news stories of 2018.
Also joining the speaker line-up is Riz Ahmed, the award-winning actor, writer, producer, rapper, soon-to-be director and activist. Born to Pakistani immigrants in northwest London, Ahmed has starred in Hollywood blockbusters, including “Star Wars: Rogue One” and “Jason Bourne” and was the first Muslim actor to win an Emmy award for his role in HBO’s “The Night Of.” Ahmed uses his platform to talk candidly about Islamophobia and his experience as a British Muslim, having given a guest lecture in the British Parliament last year on the need for diversity and representation in contemporary media and society at large.
Elsewhere, Peter Smith, co-founder and CEO of Blockchain, will discuss the company he built, which is the largest software provider for digital currency today. Joy Ajlouny, founder and creative director of Dubai-based tech start-up Fetchr, will speak about how her company solves the “no-address” logistics conundrum hindering e-commerce growth in emerging markets, and author Casey Gerald, whose TED Talk “The Gospel of Doubt” was viewed over 1.8 million times, will speak on America today.
In addition, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, will discuss her experiences in strategic leadership and human rights advocacy on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. McKinsey & Company's newly appointed global managing partner Kevin Sneader will speak about global economic and business trends in the Asian century, and Benedict Evans who writes Silicon Valley's must-read weekly “Benedict's Newsletter,” will share his insights and predictions on the rapidly changing landscape of consumer technology, ecosystems and mobile platforms.
VOICES will also provide an opportunity for attendees to live their best lives. Jasmine Hemsley will explain the benefits of a return to a simpler, more mindful everyday life; Mike Taylor and Tara Stiles of Strala will enlighten participants on the practice of yoga and tai chi; personal trainer Joe Holder will demonstrate how productivity begins by taking control of your health and former tennis player-turned-fitness influencer Akin Akman will return to VOICES following his impassioned talk last year on adopting a champion's mindset.
For the full list of speakers, please see below.
Stella McCartney is a designer renowned for her commitment to sustainability. A lifelong vegetarian, she does not use any leather or fur in her designs, building a responsible and modern fashion company. McCartney graduated from Central St Martins in 1995, being appointed creative director at Parisian house Chloé just two years later. The designer went on to launch her namesake brand, debuting her first collection in Paris in October 2001. Today, her collections include women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, accessories, lingerie, eyewear, fragrance and kids. She also has a performance sportwear line, Adidas by Stella McCartney, a long-term partnership with the sportswear giant. In 2012, Adidas appointed McCartney Team GB’s creative director for the Olympic Games. It was the first time in the history of the games that a leading fashion designer had designed apparel for the country’s team across all competitions.
Alber Elbaz is well known for transforming the once-ailing couture house Lanvin into one of the most sought-after luxury labels in the world during his 14-year tenure as creative director. Born in Casablanca, Morocco and raised in Israel, Elbaz graduated from Shenkar College, Tel-Aviv School of Fashion and Textiles before working in New York as the right-hand of American couturier Geoffrey Beene. In 1996 he relocated to Paris, working at Guy Laroche and Yves Saint-Laurent before heading to Lanvin in October 2001. Over the course of his career, Elbaz has been recognised with numerous awards. Last year, he was presented with the l’Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honour, by the Cultural Minister of France Audrey Azoulay. Since exiting Lanvin Elbaz has collaborated with French perfumer Frédéric Malle on a fragrance called Superstitious, which was released in 2017.
Christopher Wylie is a social researcher and data scientist. He is also the former director of research for Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group, a UK-based military contractor specialising in information warfare. In this role, he witnessed first-hand how culture, information and algorithms were being used by militaries, governments and companies to undermine elections around the world. In 2018, Wylie worked with The Guardian and The New York Times as a whistle-blower to expose how social media data was being exploited and turned against ordinary citizens. His testimonies at the United States Congress and British Parliament served as a wakeup call for many and have quickly led to new legislative proposals in both countries. Wylie is a graduate of the London School of Economics and lives in London.
Riz Ahmed is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, musician and activist. Born in Wembley, London to Pakistani immigrant parents, Ahmed went on to study at Oxford University and Central School of Speech and Drama. He made history after he became the first Muslim actor to win an Emmy Award for his leading role in HBO’s “The Night Of,” which also netted him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. Ahmed also enjoys a flourishing rap career, which has seen him release solo albums under the alias Riz MC; he is also one half of the rap duo Swet Shop Boys. Last spring, Ahmed was a guest-speaker at the British Parliament’s House of Commons where he spoke about diversity and representation. He also helped bring attention to the urgent conflict in Syria, launching a fundraising campaign for families caught up in the Syrian civil war. The actor graced the cover of Time Magazine’s 2017 “100 Most Influential” issue.
Joy Ajlouny is the co-founder of Fetchr, a tech company based in Dubai that aims to solve the "no-address" problem hindering the growth of e-commerce platforms in emerging markets. Fetchr, which uses patented technology allowing people to use their mobile phone's GPS location as their address, is the first startup in the Middle East to be funded by a top venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. To date, the company has raised $52 million in investment, including a $41 million series B round in May 2017. Prior to Fetchr, Ajlouny founded Bonfaire, an e-commerce discovery platform for luxury footwear and accessories, which was acquired in 2013 by Moda Operandi. Ajlouny has also appeared on the cover of Forbes Magazine in the Middle East, which named Fetchr the number startup in the region in 2017.
Peter Smith is the co-founder and chief executive of Blockchain, the largest software provider for digital currency and distributed ledger technology that provides the world’s most popular digital wallet, with over 27 million customers. Under Smith’s leadership, Blockchain has raised over $70 million in funding from leading investors including Lakestar, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Google Ventures. Smith is a 2016 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer and noted thought leader in the FinTech space, having been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business and TechCrunch. He has also spoken at conferences around the world including Techcrunch Disrupt, Money 20/20, Web Summit, Collision and Wired Money, among others. Smith has lived, studied and worked across the US, Europe, Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and Asia.
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is founder and chief executive of Lincoln Sarnoff Consulting. She has over 20 years of experience developing strategies for mission-driven companies. Previously, Lincoln Sarnoff was executive director of ocean conservation non-profit the 5 Gyres Institute, which fights ocean plastic pollution. Under her leadership, the organisation received special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and established education, science and advocacy campaigns in the United States, The Philippines and Indonesia. A team and thought leader, Rachel’s popular talk “Can One Straw Change The World?” was filmed at TEDx Santa Barbara in 2017. She has also She promoted sustainability on programmes including The Today Show and CNN.
Natsai Audrey Chieza is the founder of Faber Futures, a biodesign consultancy and creative research lab working with living systems to build sustainable futures. With a background in architecture and material futures, Chieza has been an early pioneer in the application of critical design thinking to bio-design, spending the past eight years developing novel methods to biofabricate materials. Faber Futures’ bacterial pigment extract recently became the first DNA labelled specimen in the Forbes Pigment Collection at Harvard Art Museums permanent collection. She has spoken widely about her vision of biological futures, appearing at TED, SXSW Interactive, Biofabricate, Synbiobeta and more. Chieza has also taught on biodesign programmes at Bartlett School of Architecture and Central Saint Martins, and was listed as one of OkayAfrica’s 100 Women for her work in STEM.
Casey Gerald is the author of the forthcoming memoir “There Will Be No Miracles Here,” which is considered one of the most anticipated literary debuts of the year. Although it has the arc of a classic rags-to-riches tale, the book stands the American Dream narrative on its head — while straddling the complex intersection of race, class, religion, sexuality and masculinity. A native of Oak Cliff, Texas, Gerald was educated at Yale College and Harvard Business School. Gerald has been featured in The New York Times, the Financial Times, Italian Vogue and on the cover of Fast Company, which named him one of the "Most Creative People in Business." He also opened for President Barack Obama at SXSW and his TED Talk, “The Gospel of Doubt,” is widely considered one of the conference’s highlights.
Jasmine Hemsley is a wellbeing expert and co-founder of Hemsley + Hemsley, inspiring her followers to shift their perspectives on food and lifestyle. With a passion for home-cooked food and natural remedies, she has captured the attention of a vast global audience and uses her platform as an author and influencer to encourage a return to a simpler, more mindful everyday life. Her latest concept is East by West, an idea that came to life as a pop-up café, bringing to life her vision of Ayurvedic cuisine and wisdom. Hemsley has also authored a cookbook under the same name. Most recently she launched a new project harnessing the therapeutic frequencies of sound with Sound Sebastien, consisting of immersive, uplifting and nourishing sound baths.
Kate Gilmore is the United Nations' deputy high commissioner for human rights, charged with co-ordinating human rights activities throughout the UN System and supervising the Human Rights Council in Geneva. She brings the position diverse and longstanding experience in strategic leadership and human rights advocacy from the United Nations, government and non-governmental organisations. Prior to joining the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Gilmore was assistant secretary general and deputy executive director for programmes with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Previously she was national director of Amnesty International Australia and then executive deputy secretary general of Amnesty International.
Kevin Sneader is the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company, based in Hong Kong. He has been involved in research efforts on global economic and business trends, productivity growth and innovation in China and Asia, as well as gender and diversity. Sneader is a frequent speaker on business topics at events across the Americas, Asia and Europe. He has addressed meetings of the World Economic Forum, the International Business Leaders Advisory Council for the Mayor of Beijing, Tsinghua University and the Milken Institute, in addition to speaking at the Singapore Summit and the World Internet Conference. He is the co-author of several reports, including "The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Asia Pacific," and "Overcoming Global Turbulence to Reawaken Economic Growth."
Mike Taylor and Tara Stiles are the co-founders of Strala, a practice which combines disciplines including tai chi, yoga, qigong and traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. Strala is practiced in more than 100 countries and thousands of people are leading the practice in studios, gyms and schools worldwide. Named “Best Mover” by MindBodyGreen, Taylor has practiced Eastern movement and healing techniques, including tai chi, qigong and shiatsu, for more than three decades. He studied mind-body medicine at Harvard University and complementary medicine at Oxford University. Stiles has been profiled by The New York Times, Times of India and The Times, and featured in several major national and international magazines.
Vishaan Chakrabarti is the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), a New York based architecture firm practicing globally. He is also an associate professor of practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, where he teaches design and theory. Chakrabarti is engaged in some of the most distinctive projects redefining global urban life in the 21st century. In addition to practice, Chakrabarti has actively advocated for more equitable and ecological cities. His book, "A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America," argues that a more urban United States would result in a more prosperous, sustainable, joyous and socially mobile nation.
Samer Al Moubayed is the co-founder and chief executive of Furhat Robotics, an advanced AI and social robotics start-up based in Sweden. Al Moubayed's vision is to build human-like robots with conversational and social AI that exhibit complex personalities and interact with people the way we interact with each other. The company is posed to be a leader in the ongoing robot revolution. Al Moubayed believes robots will be a mainstream computer interface, with a development and social acceptance curve similar to that of the laptop and the smartphone. Prior to Furhat, the executive worked at the research arm of Disney Imagineering, exploring applications for robots for the physical world, including Disney Parks and Resorts.
Joe Holder is a certified personal trainer and health and wellness consultant from New York. He is also the founder of "The Ocho System," "System of Service," and a Nike Master Trainer. A firm believer that productivity begins by taking control of your health, Holder has worked with top brands, celebrities and influencers — including streetwear kings Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston and Eugene Tong, as well as YouTube's Derek Blasberg, former Teen Vogue chief content officer Phillip Picardi and Victoria's Secret model Georgia Fowler — to help them maximise their health culture and potential. Holder has spoken at various locations including Harvard, Columbia, UPenn and Louis Vuitton. He has also been featured in publications including Vogue, Men's Health, Business Insider, Elle, Runner's World, The Today Show and more.
Akin Akman is one of New York most in-demand elite trainers. An instructor at SoulCycle, Akman also leads his signature bootcamps with a dedicated legion of followers — part of his Akin’s Army fitness brand. He is also a Nike training ambassador and an IMG model for a range of global brands, including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and Rag & Bone. He launched his first Akin’s Army brand collaboration with designer Todd Snyder in August 2017. A tennis prodigy, Akman spent much of his life training as an athlete; he was discovered and enrolled at age seven into the prestigious IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis academy in Florida to train with renowned American tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. Due to an injury, Akman's career was cut short after which he turned to coaching, dedicating himself to enabling others to achieve their fitness goals.
Benedict Evans is a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invests in technology companies. Evans has been working in the media and technology industries for 15 years. He began as an equity analyst in investment banking before moving on to strategy and business development roles at Orange, Channel 4 and NBC Universal. Benedict Evans writes about consumer technology, ecosystems and mobile platform on his blog and Twitter, and runs a successful weekly newsletter.