Fashion Designer Arianne Elmy on Fighting for Gender Equality

“The clothing brand is secondary to the community; the clothing is a vehicle to unite us and raise money”

fashion | nadya okamoto

We’re in a time now where our world is being pushed to have a cultural reckoning in how we think of gender, race, and capitalism in the first place. With the advent of social media, especially amidst a global pandemic, changing how businesses build and brands are created, I have been really fascinated to watch how different companies and entrepreneurs navigate this time and continue their own advocacy work. 

Arianna Elmy is a fashion designer that I first connected with during one of her campaigns last year when she was raising funds and awareness for gender equality. I’ve been continuously inspired by her designs, and also by her commitment to her values. Here are snippets from our conversation:

fashion | nadya okamoto

What is your company?
Arianne Elmy is a women’s contemporary luxury clothing brand for all. We create quality, thoughtful, and inclusive designs (we just added products in sizes 00 through 26!). When you buy from Arianne Elmy, you become part of a larger community of women campaigning for change and actively igniting meaningful discussions.  

Arianne Elmy was named by Nylon as one of the top 9 designers to watch for and by NYMag/The Cut as someone “on the up and up.” The brand has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Paper Magazine, Nylon, BETStyle, People Style, StyleCaster, Schon and more.  The brand is consistently worn by actresses, singers, artists, and it girls including Brandi, Mariah Carey, Katy Perry, Lorde, Lil Kim, Remy Ma, Kehlani, Noah Cyrus, Sabrina Carpenter, Tinashe, Eva Marcille, Ashanti, Angela Simmons and many others. 

What inspired you to start the business? Inspired you to get into fashion design?
I grew up heavily involved in fine arts and I loved fashion as well so I just combined my love of the two. I am obsessed with making things! I was inspired to start my business because I couldn’t find any clothing I loved that was also priced well. I wanted clothes that had a story behind them, were made with a vision, and well crafted – but clothing like that was extremely expensive and I didn’t have the money (such as $1000 for a dress). 

The brand has since evolved to include more than “just” clothes as I have become involved with Women’s Rights. 

What were your doubts when you began your founding journey, and how did you overcome those doubts?
I think that’s actually how I was able to start a clothing brand, I had no doubts. If I thought about the doubts or the fears or negative what ifs, I never would have done it. My motto is always, “Just go for it!”  I think the older I get the more doubts come which is something I am trying to work on, I don’t like that with age doubts try to flow in – I want that forever childlike thought process that “Anything is possible.”

What are you most proud of in your journey?
I am proud of the amount of press I was able to get for my brand not through connections but rather hard work and believing in myself. Nothing can ever compare to the moments of seeing legends like Mariah Carey dancing in my clothes or Lil Kim giving me a personal shout-outs. I think I will always feed off those moments.

fashion | nadya okamoto

What are your dreams for the company, and how can readers help you achieve those dreams?
My dream would be to keep growing the company so I can expand my work for women’s rights. My vision is that the brand blossoms into a true community versus a clothing brand.  The clothing brand is secondary to the community, the clothing is a vehicle to unite us and raise money. I really want to start a weekly or monthly virtual group meet up to talk about different women’s issues even to discuss more common everyday things like how to deal with the constant catcalling. 

Readers can help me by following on Instagram and engaging with the content and becoming a customer is always helpful (have a look at our charity collab), which not only helps my brand but also other women!), if you can’t, share our work, spread the word etc, it all helps and I am forever grateful!

How do you incorporate ethics/impact/sustainability into your work?
I try to give back as much as I can in monetary terms, sometimes too much and my accountant is not happy haha. In terms of the clothing, I am an absolute perfectionist, so I work hard to make sure the clothing is well made. It is NOT fast fashion and we do very small runs in factories where workers are paid fairly.  I also work to educate myself and others on challenging but important issues (especially with women).

One of the projects I am most proud of is my partnership with Global Fund for Women page in which I created a capsule collection, gave 20% to them and helped raise awareness for their foundation and the multitude of challenges women face. I was able to get high profile celebrities and influencers to promote the campaign. We still have items left by the way! I Recruited 12+ diverse women, a Sudan Refugee, U.N. Employee, Editors, Founders, Nurses, Moms, and all around Warriors to share personal stories on: Pregnancy, Pro Choice & Birth Control, Lack of Opportunity & Sexism, Rape & Violence – see their stories at our Global Fund for Women page.

Thank you so much, Arianne! Best of luck and keep up the great work!

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