A Conversation with Female Fashion Founders
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
On April 11, SFA Co-Founder Joyce Hu moderated a panel discussion on Motherhood, Entrepreneurship and Inspiring Change with Mara Hoffman, Meena Harris and Sherri McMullen, hosted by Mother Magazine and McMullen.
The sold out event was attended by many SFA members, many who are mothers, and running sustainable fashion businesses themselves. The conversation went deep and vulnerable.
Mara Hoffman shared how having her son made it impossible for her to conduct her fashion company business as usual. She needed to know she was contributing to a better world for future generations. She transformed her supply chain at a time when her business was thriving and took an enormous risk to make things better for the planet. Her husband, an artist is their son's full time care taker, for which she is tremendously grateful. She showed us her vulnerability by sharing her thoughts about her "untraditional" mother role, which is challenged by her deep need to create through her business and designs.
Sherri McMullen, fresh off a flight from the Women in the World Summit, shed tears for a woman she met who was imprisoned for simply driving in their home country of Saudi Arabia. Sherri compared her place of privilege to theirs. Although she is part of one of the most oppressed communities in America as a Black woman, she acknowledges the advantages she has as an American and within her own community. She is continually inspired to uplift other people of color by being a role model in her community and in a very white and conventional fashion industry. She pushes designers she works with to diversify their runways, campaigns and corporate teams.
Meena Harris acknowledged her privileges as a light skinned black woman who had access to education. She uses her privilege for her activism and to give voice to those who are marginalized. She is determined to do everything she can to get the current president out of office and works hard at it, managing many demanding roles at once, alongside her full time job (bio below). When she asked her toddler daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, the tot responds with, "I want to work!"
See highlights from Mother Magazine.
Panelists bios as written by Joyce Hu:
Sherri I’ve known for years now. About 2 years after she opened her shop, a friend took me to her little yet gorgeously curated shop, which she opened next to ACE Hardware. She opened up a luxury boutique in Oakland, next to ACE hardware. Talk about guts! But with her vision, tenacity and of course unmatched eye for beauty she put Oakland on the global fashion map. She has been featured in Vogue and countless press outlets placing McMullen along side the most exclusive boutiques in the nation. As an East Bay native, I am so proud of what she's created. And she’s done all of this with so much elegance of character – keeping so grounded to her designers, her customers and the Oakland community.
Mara Hoffman, I’ve been following her since her bright bold swimwear patterns exploded on the internet and copied everywhere. In 2015, she took a radical turn from away from conventional fashion production, so fast that she is one of the industry’s leaders in sustainable fashion practices. Her magical fairy goddess aura inspires so much feminine mystical power. Mara Hoffman’s design vision continues to inspire fashion movements, including the sustainable one, always one step ahead of the rest.
Meena Harris, wow where do I even start with this Phenomenal woman! She’s not only so accomplished already, she’s so approachable, down to earth and so dedicated in her activism. In just over a decade after graduating from Stanford, she’s accomplished more than most can even imagine. This Stanford Harvard Law school Grad is a commissioner of San Francisco’s commission on the Status of Women, she’s Uber’s head of strategy and leadership, she’s actively engaged with organizations and accelerators focused on people of color, lead a national campaign in support for Christine Blasey Ford, she was a senior advisor for her Aunt Kamila Harris’ campaign for senate, contributing writer for Lenny Letter and many more, and of course, she’s the founder and creative director of Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign that has sold more than 30,000 fundraising tees since its launch in 2017. And she’s a mother of 2 young girls under 3. Meena's entire family - her politically active mother Maya and aunt Kamala all credit their drive for change to Meena’s grandmother Shyamala Harris, a civil rights activist and scientist. What a matriarchy to aspire to.