As we take the International Women’s Day to celebrate women across the globe, here are some women in local businesses that strive to create a more equitable world for the women in Malaysia and beyond. Despite being female-oriented businesses, the fashion and beauty spaces are very much male-dominated. While Jenn Low, Aisha Hassan, and Yann Fang are in their own niches, each of them finds incredible gratification in their ability to become impactful changemakers in their respective spaces.
It’s imperative to have fair women representation in these businesses — especially since these goods and services are marketed towards females. Jenn Low doesn’t only operate Wanderlust + Co sustainably and with care, but the brand also celebrates its wearers through the #WCOgirlgang. Newcomer on the rise, Dia, is giving local brands a global platform while honouring traditional techniques and design. Finally, Yann Fang of Beauty & Co is revolutionising the industry to allow its practitioners more room for flexibility and access. Their endeavors inspire women and men alike, encouraging both consumers and their colleagues to #breakthebias and achieve their goals.
This International Women’s Day, we interviewed these savvy entrepreneurs on their insights into breaking the bias – the theme for this year – and what it means for them.
Meet these beauty and fashion entrepreneurs paving the way for a more equitable future:
Jenn Low, founder and managing director of Wanderlust + Co
The much-loved homegrown jewellery brand not only sells stunning-yet-affordable precious accessories, but with each release and campaign, it’s clear that the direction the brand seeks to head towards is confidence, self-love, and kindness. “We truly believe in a people-powered journey, and our ethos is truly reflected in our unique yet wearable pieces that often serve as positive daily reminders via self-love affirmations and mantras,” Jenn shares.
Its latest campaign, Becoming — which features everyday individuals, with real stories — the brand honours women everywhere, as well as the driving forces behind their journeys. For Jenn, whose brand is celebrating 11 years of creation, the recent pandemic brought a monumental shift in her mindset. “We’ve learned to be more accepting of changes and life’s unpredictability, taking one day at a time, and opening up our minds to new challenges,” Jenn reflects.
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On the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, she says she has “definitely seen a shift away from having gender-specific conversations towards having more focus on the change we are trying to drive as individuals. I believe that breaking the bias just represents any individual that is standing up for their ideas and is unafraid to take a leap of faith outside their comfort zone.”
While she takes joy from her success at Wanderlust + Co, with its global presence, one of her most rewarding experiences is being able to balance between her work and home life. “Whenever life starts to feel complicated, my children’s smiles help me reprioritise what’s truly important, and the values that should ground us in our every day,” Jenn tells.
Aisha Hassan, co-founder of Dia
Thanks to movements like “Sapot Lokal”, we have arrived here — where local creators can fully realise their dreams now that they can acquire goods and services that once seemed only accessible by global brands. Curated by three friends, Dia gives our Southeast Asian artisans a digital home that welcomes and delivers to its international audience.
What will you find on the site? Aisha lists down the criteria: “First, we look for brands that make beautiful items, then we explore whether they use craft-centric techniques to make contemporary pieces. We’re also interested in what inspires our artisans, and think the limited nature of our curation makes the products even more special to own.”
Running a business during the height of a pandemic takes tenacity, but starting one takes moxie. And with borders shutting down, it was an uphill battle — even more so with its supply chain dotting the region. “When small businesses and artisans are suffering greatly, it matters more than ever,” Aisha shares. Dia isn’t taking the traditional route too, utilising immersive events to further drive their message and education. This month, you can experience their showcase the “Recrafting Stories: A Decolonial Pursuit” exhibit at Small Shifting Space.
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To Aisha, her version of breaking the bias is taking the analogue approach at a time where digital media reigns and the Metaverse holds the future in its monolithic grip. “There is a pair of hands or a set of dreams behind everything on Dia, and these things work slowly but surely,” she reminds us this International Women’s Day.
Yann Fang, founder and director of Beauty & Co
If you’ve been a fan of co-working spaces, Beauty & Co’s is unlike any other. Merging the idea of community and beauty, Yann Fang branches out into the world of a beauty co-working space, modernising the conventional beauty service businesses. “I always believe in alliance rather than competition. I enjoy establishing a community that shares the same vision, values and passion,” Yann Fang divulges. And after having seen the massive closure of many beauty businesses, both big and small, this would give beauticians a fighting chance.
What began as a thought and some musings has now become a reality. For Yann Fang, Beauty & Co’s endeavour itself is breaking biases. “People are empowered to govern their working hours with the co-working idea. Now, they are able to accomplish greater success and are considerably happier,” she mentions.
However, not everything in the beauty sphere is as pretty as it seems. According to the founder, who has spent over 20 years in the industry, she has seen its dark underbelly — “pricing wars, aggressive selling, and unregulated machinery that make customers wary.” Yann Fang admits that there is no easy way to achieve her goals, but she trusts in the journey and that educating customers takes first priority.
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And after two long years of surviving the tides of the pandemic, Yann Fang now has decided to devote more time to her physical and mental health. “Aside from that, I’m researching and expanding my knowledge and work on longevity.”
As for Yann Fang’s idea of breaking the bias, she firmly disagrees with the notion that women become less productive in their professional areas once they enter motherhood. This International Women’s Day, she shares this: “All the women I met are both leaders in their fields and moms of two to three children. They have a better vision and make more mature judgments, helping them to lead more successfully.”
Featured image credit: Dia