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A few weeks ago I hopped on a train pre-7am – it takes a lot to get me up so early – to spend International Women’s Day with a group of females I’d never met. Having all been invited to a magical mystery tour of London by the folks at Eastpak, the She Wears tour was an international event celebrating IWD that was simultaneously taking place all over the globe: Amsterdam, Antwerp, Aarhus, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Madrid, London, Guangzhou and Istanbul.
I didn’t really know what to expect of the day, other than we’d be meeting inspirational women with awesome stories to tell.
My journey into feminism has been a well-documented and rocky one. Until my divorce and the understanding of just how important my female friendships are, I wouldn’t have called myself a feminist, and would almost have gone as far to say as spending time in the company of a big group of women was not something I would have ever enjoyed.
But then I learned to lean on my friends, ask for help when I needed it and exceeded my own expectations of myself at work and at home. I realised that, contrary to what I believed before, women don’t actually need a man to do well in life and BOOM, a feminist was born. I’ve been discovering more and more about the inspiration and power of women ever since, and I continue to be thrilled and excited by other women each and every day.
Which is why it’s such a joy to celebrate International Women’s Day. Any excuse to stop and take note of other women excelling in their field, women achieving great things and paving the way with their creativity, benevolence and ambition.
On this particular IWD we were to celebrate a real eclectic mix of incredible women. Starting with the female-only fleet of black cabs we were picked up in.
First stop was ASOS to chat to Natalie Michaelides, who has risen through the ranks from an intern to Executive Fashion and Style Editor of ASOS.com. It was then time to jump in our cabs up to Finsbury Park to Parliament Tattoo, and the amazing artist Rebecca Vincent for a chat about her journey from landlord to tattooing (while designing our own, natch!)
We then headed down to Shoreditch to view street art by Amara Por Dios, commissioned for IWD by Eastpak. Despite the snow it was just glorious, a real sight to behold, and even more special that we were allowed to sign it. I felt very naughty indeed, having never indulged in the art of graffiti; luckily I don’t seem to have got the taste for it, no scribbling on toilet walls in Sharpie yet.
Onwards to learn about one of the most important businesses of the day; The Luminary Bakery, a Social Enterprise and Community Charity supporting vulnerable women in East London who are at a social and economic disadvantage. Empowering those from all kinds of backgrounds – abusive relationships, poverty, prostitution and criminal activity – they run courses, work experience and offer employment to enable women to build a career and a positive future. I can’t say how inspiring and important the work by The Luminary Bakery is, and I’m excited to see them go from strength to strength.
From one inspiring enterprise to another: FLOWERS! I adore flowers but always fail when it comes to arranging them, so I was excited to be taught how to make a flower crown (which I totally wore home on the train that evening having had one or two dirty martinis). Here’s Girl Lost In The City‘s Emma Gannon and me with out efforts, don’t we look ready to strap on the Hunters and head to Glastonbury?
Our last stop was at the beautiful home of food hero Anna Barnett for brunch and chat.
Anna’s food is right up my street so I was absolutely delighted to sample a meal cooked by her. There were incredible tarts and quiches, amazing juices, salads featuring my favourite ingredients (watermelon and beetroot? YES PLEASE), smoked salmon and cream cheese and endless pots of cheese. It was the most welcoming atmosphere and I’d wholeheartedly recommend keeping an eye on her supper clubs. I’ll definitely be heading to one as soon as I can.
If you can’t wait, check out her recipes here and create a bit of Anna Barnett magic at home.
I left my day with Eastpak feeling so full of the joys of being a woman. I feel very lucky that I get to be all the things that I am: mother, friend, business woman, creative. And surrounded by other women who are these brilliant things, too.
I’ve been on a couple of dates recently with men who, it’s shocking to say, err on the side of misogyny. I find it maddening that this is still something we’re battling as women, that some out there don’t believe women should have the same opportunities, jobs, salaries or rights as their counterparts with penises. It’s baffling and, quite frankly, wrong. Assessing the women that I’m lucky enough to surround myself with: we are all power-houses, high achievers, hard workers, big lovers. There’s nothing we can’t do, collectively or alone.
There’s my mum, who has been through her heart being operated on outside of her body, my friend Emma who has helped hundreds of families with the charity First Days she founded, my best friend who is raising the two most beautiful girls. My other best friend who is just about to launch a groundbreaking business, my friend Laura whose memoir is about to be released (pre-order it here!) or my very special group of Facebook work friends who keep me sane and on the straight and narrow. It’s a really wonderful group of ladies.
Then there’s me, who is as guilty as any other woman for not celebrating herself enough. I balance a business that I have built from scratch with motherhood, running a house and writing: I never pat myself on the back for all the hard work I put in, at home, at work or creatively.
So thank-you, Eastpak, for giving me a day to stop and think about just how wonderful us women are. I shouldn’t need the excuse to wax lyrical about my own inspiring gender but such is life: I’m learning to advocate for us as a feminist and it becomes more brilliant by the day.