Altering the Face of Beauty

Here was the moment Carrie Hammer had been dreading: the model line-up.

Carrie had recently designed a new line of stylish clothing for working women, and she needed to choose the models. But when one of the models in the line-up turned out to be 12 years old – yes, 12 – Carrie decided there had to be a better way to go.

She decided to launch her clothing line on the bodies of women who were most likely to actually wear them, women she also deeply admired – role models, not runway models. She started calling friends who were successful women in business, law and other fields. One of whom, Danielle is “leggy and blonde” and a successful psychologist. She also happens to use a wheelchair, making her the first woman to ever appear on the runway in this fashion.

Carrie shared her story at the Social Innovation Summit, held in Washington D.C. earlier in June. The summit brings together innovators in technology, investment, government, international development and business to explore solutions and partnerships that are disrupting history and generating positive societal benefits. Not only has Carrie’s show generated hundreds of emails and social media posts from girls with disabilities, touched by her decision, it has also impacted the fashion industry more broadly. Soon after Carrie’s show, three different clothing lines launched with models in wheelchairs.

Stories like Carrie’s catch my attention because I too spend a lot of time thinking about how women are portrayed and perceived. We have the pleasure of working extensively to empower women and girls, through our work with clients like the United Nations Foundation and the Nike Foundation. We also support a women’s empowerment portfolio that includes partnerships with the Tory Burch Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation, and Vital Voices (the Global Ambassadors Program), made possible by funding from Bank of America.

Carrie and the Social Innovation Summit remind us that if we wish to project a stronger, smarter image of women and implement meaningful change that catches fire and inspires others, our solutions must be unique, unexpected and authentic. Inspiration is everywhere…if you know where to look.

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