When June Sarpong asked me to be involved in this year's WIE Awards, I of course said yes. I have been fortunate to work with and be inspired by so many women in work and in life. It really wasn't until I reached my 40th birthday (almost four years ago) that I took time to reflect the impact these women had had on my life. I of course knew I had great people around me, but to understand that limitations were removed from my psyche from early life, I understood why I had little fear and that hearing no in my career was always seen as a challenge to change perception, not a final answer or restriction.
I was very lucky to have a strong mother who insisted the route to happiness was being in control of your own destiny. She instilled strong beliefs about how women had fought for the right for equality, the vote and that our generation mustn't settle for anything less - that any man that might suggest anything different was simply a relic, but that education not demonstration was the key to change.
I have worked with many inspiring women, not least the current chair of the British Fashion Council Natalie Massenet MBE who is visionary in the way she considers the fashion industry and inspires you to push further and think bigger. I am also incredibly lucky to have Anya Hindmarch MBE on our board who encourages you to be brave, take on the new and make things happen. But in the early days of the fashion industry I had a great mentor, Annette Worsley-Taylor, then creative director of London Fashion Week. Annette is a fashion pioneer, she has exacting standards, and is credited for creating the first designer fashion exhibition in the UK and shaping London Fashion Week for its first 20 years. She has a real love and care of the industry which was imparted to me in my late 20s. Slightly later on it was Hilary Riva, commercially savvy, strategically brilliant and a pioneer in the fashion retail sector an area then dominated by men. Of course I am also surrounded by brilliant women, the women who work at the British Fashion Council, the editors, retailers, designers, stylists, sales agents, PRs, philanthropists, as well as great friends and not least my daughter Lana and my two incredible sisters Liz and Shelley. Take inspiration from those around you, if they are good people they will empower you to be the person you want to be.
For the first time this year's WIE Awards will be opened with a fashion show of the LDNY-Legacy Collections, an initiative that supports the next generation of design talent and promotes female artisans from around the world, from territories such as Ethiopia and Peru, through the International Trade Centre's Women and Trade Programme. These collections opened the external calendar of the UN's 69th General Assembly Meeting - the first ever fashion show at the UN! The proceeds of the collections, which go on sale from July 2015, will go towards funding scholarships for students from low-income families to attend London College of Fashion or Parsons (NY).
An evening when we celebrate the success of women is incredibly important to inspire future generations that anything is possible. Fostering self-belief, determination and knowing there is a network of support for young women is a small step to giving-back just some of the support that I have been given along the way. Being also able to champion the LDNY-Legacy Collections that will lead to raising scholarship funds is close to my heart and the work of the British Fashion Council Education Pillar. Anything we can do to support young people to study as part of our pipeline of future talent for this industry is essential. And of course, working with two strong women who take seriously their role in inspiring young women, June and Miriam (Gonzalez) is both rewarding and a great pleasure. Roll on the 2015 WIE Awards.