Laura Legendary Interviews Co Founder Emily Davison
Transcribed by Kayde Rieken
Announcer: This is Fashionability, your guide to accessible style. Finally, style within reach of everyone.
Laura Legendary: This is Laura Legendary for Fashionability, and you’re about to hear an interview with co-founder Emily Davison.
In thinking about how we wanted to roll out the first few episodes of the Fashionability channel, Emily and I thought it might be a good idea to present some introductory content so that you can learn more about the founders of Fashionability, guests, and regular contributors. We also realized that not everyone was going to discover us the same way, nor is everyone going to discover us at the same time. If you’re hearing my voice a year from now, you might be wondering, Who are the founders of the Fashionability channel? What is their background or experience in the fashion industry? What inspires them, and what do they hope to achieve with the Fashionability channel? Well, sit back, relax, and learn more about co-founder Emily Davison.
Okay, Emily. I’m very excited to have an opportunity to interview you so that the Fashionability audience can learn something about you personally. So why don’t we begin with you sharing with the Fashionability listeners something about you. Tell us about your background and how you became fascinated by fashion and style and anything personal you’d care to share.
Emily Davison: Well, I think really my fashion background kind of started from a very early age because I grew up in a very fashion-orientated household. My mother worked for a cosmetics company for many years, and some of my earliest memories of seeing her when she was getting ready for work — and, you know, it was very much an industry where she needed to look good and feel good about herself. So for me, it was always something I grew up around. My — both my nans were very into fashion. My aunt used to do a lot of stage acting when she was younger, so she always liked her fashion and her makeup and her cosmetics; and I suppose, for me, it was just something I loved and always had done. and I was always fascinated with old Hollywood films and the style icons like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. And it was just — for me, I always saw fashion as a way to express yourself and to discover something about yourself that you loved; and for me, that was always the most important thing about it. Fashion has, for me, always been about the individual, and it’s a process that we go through and it’s something very special because we all have the ability to find out who we are through fashion, whether we know it or not. And fashion is very much like a language; and when someone actually finds something that they love, it shows that they can speak their mind through what they’re wearing. So I was always taught to see the beauty in it and to see fashion as a way of being creative and allowing a part of yourself to, you know, come through. And that’s obviously where the — that’s the main ethos of my blog because it’s about self-discovery and promoting being artistic and being creative and doing what you love.
And yeah, I mean, I think, for me, probably a fact about me that — about fashion is that I really, really, really am a big advocate of a lot of kind of things that are not just trend but are also kind of classic styles. So when there’s a certain trend that comes in and it is advocating a classic style or something that will be quite enduring, I’m a massive fan of it. I love vintage fashion. My favorite fashion decade is the ’60s with the — with the Go Go Girl dresses and the really short dresses and A-line skirts and all that kind of thing because it represents an era where things were starting to look up for — for women; but also, it was an age where things like scientific discoveries were being born. And I kind of see that, for me, as my — my era because it speaks about my personality and the fact that I’m a big advocate of lots of kind of, you know, new movements and an advocate of people having equal rights; and a lot of things that happened during the ’60s, like, you know, the emergence of great musicians and bands is kind of — for me, it’s — it speaks a bit about my personality, I think. On one hand, I like the whole beehive look and the very kind of English [unintelligible 4:06]; but then, on the other hand, I do really, really like the sort of — the very Bohemian, very sort of, like, hippified look. I’m also a bit of a hippy. I do love that kind of thing, and I’m very much that sort of person who likes to put a bit of Cecil spray in and wear some kind of, you know, flowers in my hair when I’m not doing anything, you know, where I need to look a certain way. So I think, yeah, for me, I’m kind of — I do have two different sides to my personality, and I think that those show with my fashion because sometimes I’m very laid-back, but other times I dress in a way that suggests that I kind of — I have a bit more of an understanding of kind of what my society demands and kind of what fashion is. But I think it’s always good to experiment with style, and I think fashion is really good, as it enables you to do that; and fashion trends are very good because it shows you what you like and what you don’t like about fashion.
LL: Would you care to share any information about the nature of your disability? I don’t know if that’s too personal a question to ask, but maybe our listeners might want to know how you identify with the disability community in general.
ED: Well, yeah, of course. I think, for me, my disability started from birth. So I was born with a condition called Septo-optic Dysplasia; and amongst many things, it affected my sight. So it affects the optic nerves connecting the eye to the brain, and it means that a lot of them are severed, so I’ve only got very limited vision in one eye. So in my left eye, I have ten percent remaining vision; and in my right eye, I’m completely blind. Amongst other things, it also meant that I had hypoglycemia, so I suffer from very severe low blood sugar levels. I had to go for a lot of tests and kind of examinations when I was younger because people didn’t really know what the condition entailed because it affects one in 10,000 infants in kind of the U.K. alone, and it’s quite a rare condition to have. And at the time, people didn’t really know how it was going to affect me. I mean, people used to say that — my doctors and my consultants, when I was first diagnosed — that they didn’t know whether I’d be able to ride a bike, whether or not I’d be able to pass an exam, because they didn’t know whether it would affect my — kind of my cognitive abilities or kind of my learning abilities, so they weren’t really sure. And there was not a great expectation of what I could do, and people weren’t too sure whether or not I would be able to achieve anything because of my disability. But as I grew up and I started to learn more about myself, and with the support of my family, I proved them wrong. So — I don’t ride a bike, alas; I have rode a quad bike, if that counts. But I am happy to say that I have got a scholarship to study at [unintelligible 6:38] University, and I am very happy with what I’m doing. And I think, for me, my disability was very tough when I was growing up; but then, as I learned to cope with it and I learned what it was and how it affected me, I was able to overcome it and live a relatively normal life, which now that I am completely, a hundred percent happy in.
LL: Wow. That’s incredible. You are obviously very accomplished. Would you mind sharing with the Fashionability listeners a little bit about some of your personal achievements?
ED: Well, I think one of the ones that I’m very proud of is the fact that I was the first visually impaired person to get a GTC in astronomy at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich; and that kind of, for me, has been something that I’m really proud of because it was something I loved since I was young, and I was able to get a GTC in it and do observations and actually get a very good qualification in it. Of course, my scholarship has also been a massive achievement for me because it was a whole [inaudible 7:37] scholarship, so it meant that my whole three years of studying at university have been paid for; and that’s a massive achievement for me. I also really think that having a guide dog, for me, was a massive achievement because it’s meant that I’ve been able to live my life and have a totally new perspective on the way I want to live it. My blog, of course, is one massive achievement to me as well because it’s meant that I’ve been able to meet so many inspirational people, one of which is now talking to me. (Laughs) And it’s just — for me, I think I — there’s so many things that I’ve achieved that I wouldn’t have dreamed of, and one of the most recent ones is that I’ve actually been nominated — shortlisted for an award by the Guide Dogs Association in the U.K. And it’s for the Inspirational Young Persons Achiever’s Award, which I’m going to find out if I’ve won or not in December at the award ceremony. So I think, you know — I’ve just — because I’ve been a writer and because I’ve allowed my writing to progress and I’ve not let my disability stop me, it’s allowed me to just meet people and have a great perspective on life. And I think that’s how I’ve achieved so much because I’ve been quite open-minded and allowed myself to open up to the world.
LL: I can’t wait to find out when you win the award. We’ll have to have an award watch countdown, and you’ll have to tell all of our listeners that you’ve won. That’s spectacular.
ED: To be fair, I’m up against one very worthy candidate. I don’t know who the other person is, but the person I know, he’s fantastic. So I think we’re winners because we’ve got guide dogs; but plus, you know, we’ve all — we’re all finalists of this award. So if I don’t win, that doesn’t matter because I’m going to be going to an event which I get to wear a really nice dress to, and I get to meet some amazing people.
ED: So I’m happy whatever way. I’m a winner, for me personally, regardless whether I win the award or not. It’s just so wonderful to be recognized for doing the fashion blog, to be honest. (Laughs)
LL: And you get to dress up. You get to wear a beautiful dress, and you know, it’s an excuse to indulge in your fashion sensibility and then talk about it to the Fashionability Channel listeners, right?
ED: Great. Win-win situation, whatever way you want to look at it. (Laughs)
LL: I love it; that’s fantastic. Well, since we are talking about fashion and style and you talked about your personal sense of style, would you care to provide a bit of a physical description of yourself so our listeners can have some idea of perhaps where you’re coming from in terms of the choices that you make or any challenges that you may have when you’re putting yourself together every day or when you’re shopping?
ED: Yeah, sure. So I think, for me, I am very, very, very short; I’m classed as petite. So for me, that means that I have to select clothing quite carefully for my — for my shape and my size. I’m quite a small build; I’ve got quite a small, delicate frame, hence why I usually get IDed a lot at bars and IDed a lot when I’m going out, so — just because I’ve got a very small frame. I have got a very fair complexion. I am a redhead, so I’ve got naturally red hair; and that means that I’m very pale and have the occasional freckle, although not as many as some other people do. I have very light blue eyes, so I think, for me, I like to wear things that complement my coloring. So I wear lots of light blues or light pastel colors or things that will really complement my hair color. I also wear a lot of amber colors. And I love autumn seasons because I think it particularly suits my skin type and my hair color because they’re very rich colors that I’m able to wear, very jewel-like colors; and I love this sort of season because I’m able to really, you know, find things that really enhance my coloring, and that’s why I love autumn so much. I also kind of — you know, my hair’s quite long. It’s — you know, I’m growing it at the moment still, but it’s kind of — it’s below waist-length. So — and I usually either wear it very long and straight or I curl it, depending on what mood I’m in. I have quite a small, thin nose. It’s quite sharp in look; it’s quite a — you know, some — I usually would describe my nose as being quite evil-looking because it probably could slice someone because it’s so, like, it’s so narrow. (Laughs) But yeah. And, you know, I think I’m quite classic in style, so I — because I’m quite small in frame, I like to wear a lot of kind of like very classic vintage-inspired looks or very, like, you know, things that are very classical Bohemian looks. I love sort of folklore and fairytale trends that we’re seeing quite a lot of at the moment because they’re very pretty. You know, I also wear things like jeans and quite casual numbers or, like, loafers and things or [inaudible 12:27] loafers because I am a university student as well, so I try to dress for comfort some days but also have a bit of style, depending on what mood I’m in. And yeah, I mean, some people would probably call me quite classic and quite kind of English-looking because I do have that fair complexion and, you know, the colorings that would suggest that I’m a Brit from the U.K. where we get no sun whatsoever. So yeah, I hope that kind of gives you a bit of an insight as to why I choose the certain colors that I do and why I have to get a lot of clothing that is on the small side or that enhances my — my curves or my figure because I’m quite a petite person.
LL: Well, that does definitely help the audience to get a sense of what you look like and therefore how you might need to shop for something specific to accommodate your particular needs, which in your particular case would be that of a very petite person. And did I hear you correctly that your hair is below your waist?
ED: Yes, it is. Yeah. (Laughs)
LL: Wow. Well, that is a bit hippy, if you think about it. It’s a bit “flower child” and ’60s hippy, so yes, I can definitely imagine that look. I can’t wait to see you and your long red hair. Wow.
ED: (Laughs) I curl it or I sometimes have it wavy, so it — and it’s still — I’m still growing it. I’ve still not finished with it yet. (Laughs)
LL: Tell the listeners something about your vision for Fashionability and how you plan to tie together your background, your experience, and your world view to bring the Fashionability listeners information they can really use that will help them to formulate their own style statement or maybe change their look or to help someone else who is trying to establish their own sense of style.
ED: I think, for me, Fashionability is something that I want to appeal to everyone, whether it be the person who is in a wheelchair who wants to find out what is the perfect dress to wear for an occasion, whether it be the person who is visually impaired and wants to kind of understand a few more aspects to fashion and trends that they might be struggling with, or whether it be a person who just simply wants to find an environment where they feel included and, like — you know, everyone is different, but everyone can enjoy fashion and access it in the same way as any other person. Because, like I said earlier, fashion is a unique process. It’s very special, and for me, it’s very magical because it allows you to go on a journey and find out what you like about yourself, what you dislike about yourself, what you feel about creativity and the visual culture or, you know, what you — how you feel about wearing certain things and how it, you know, helps you emotionally; and I think everyone should feel that same sensation when they access fashion. But I think sometimes, the fashion industry kind of puts a burden on us that it is a fantasy for only certain people and that only certain people can access it; and, you know, it’s very much a narrow perspective on who can enjoy it and who can’t enjoy it, and that there’s only a certain kind of person who can enjoy it. But regardless of your age or disability, your budget, you know, where you’re from in the world, it doesn’t matter because fashion is something that we all have to use. You know, we all have to wear clothing, but it’s a choice that we make of how we want to present ourselves; and I want to remind people of that because I really want Fashionability to be a place where everyone can be happy and everyone can socialize and enjoy fashion and remember what it’s about. And really, it’s a place that I want to be kind of very much something that will grow, and there’s something for everyone. I think that’s the fun thing. I think it will be like, you know, a department store, like Harrods in London. Everyone loves Harrods because there is, you know, a food section; there’s a massive, amazing jewelry section; there’s a clothing section; there’s a section for children; there’s something for everyone. It caters to all ages; and no matter how old you get or how young you are, there’s always a certain kind of feeling when you go in there or a department shop like it, and it’s always something that you can look forward to and enjoy and know that it’s going to be something that will always be there, and you can always find something that will suit you. And that’s what I want Fashionability to be. I want it to be like a department store that everyone can come in, enjoy themselves, feel like they’re being accommodated to, and that they’re being pampered and treated like anyone else and have a really good experience and just enjoy the luxuries of fashion and really have some fun and just allow themselves to, you know, be free and liberal and find out who they are as a person and why they love fashion and what it is, exactly, they love about it.
LL: That is a great answer. I love the idea of an enormous, inclusive department store. That’s fantastic. Do you have any personal causes? I guess you would say, any work you’ve done in the area of advocacy that in some way relates to your background and experience in fashion?
ED: Yeah. So I probably would say that one of my biggest advocacies is for accessibility in a lot of cosmetics products. So at the moment, I’m running a campaign to try and get Braille on products for people with sight loss because I feel that it’s something that is not being accommodated as much as it could be for people with sight loss. And so — I mean, on my blog, whenever you go on there, you will always see that I always describe everything I’m wearing, describe the details, describe where you can get it from, how kind of accessible it is, some of its pros and cons. And [inaudible 18:23] advocacy of trying to give people an educated decision and to promote people being able to access fashion equally and have all the knowledge they need to assess whether or not it’s going to suit them. You know, so I would not want any of my readers to feel like, because they’ve got a sight impairment, they can’t understand what’s in front of them; so I’m a massive campaigner in advocacy of that. I’m also a really big advocate of having more models with disabilities on the catwalks and high-street stores and kind of brand campaigns; and one of the things I’m doing at the moment is I’m campaigning alongside Models of Diversity. I’m one of their campaigners to try and get brands to have more disabled models in their high-street campaigns so that it kind of raises the profile of disabled models to the public but also kind of breaks down some of these barriers that faces disability, and that’s something I’m a massive believer in. But what’s more — one of the other things I’m a massive advocate of is trying to promote brands that are cruelty-free and do not test on animals and that try to be as fair-trade as possible. I am a massive kind of animal rights advocate. I’m a massive kind of fan of using products that are not tested on animals and that promote products that are — have alternative methods or use products that don’t need to be tested. And on my blog, I don’t believe in forcing opinion on anyone. If — whether or — if you want to, you know, take up my advice, that’s up to you; but I think what I am a believer in is giving people an education and a choice into what they want to put their money in towards. So I will not review products that are tested on animals, but I — you know, I don’t try and preach to other people; I just try and tell you how it is, and then you can assess whether or not it’s for you. And if it’s not, then that’s fine; but if it is, then great. And then there’s the information that you need to find out more about it and more about how to kind of get involved and what to do and how to stop buying products that are cruelty — not cruelty-free and that are tested on animals.
LL: Well, all of that sounds amazing. You obviously are very active in many areas — your personal life with regard to your ongoing education, advocacy, and the fashion industry — and I am so thrilled that you are my partner on Fashionability. And you talked about describing things and how you would like to see more products accessible to people with sight loss in particular. To that end, I was hoping you might take just a couple of seconds for the benefit of our audience and describe for them what the Fashionability web property look is, how you have branded Fashionability. Maybe you can describe for our audience who cannot see it a bit about the website, our logo, and what you came up with, and let them in on a little bit of the branding that you worked up.
ED: Of course. Definitely. That would be a great idea. So I think, for Fashionability, what we wanted to go for was something quite symbolic, liberating, and that represented kind of a metamorphosis — like, a transition from one state to another. And kind of something that presented, like, movement and freedom and that kind of thing, and beauty. So in the end, Laura and I came up with the idea of a butterfly. So the butterfly is kind of — it symbols — for us, it symbols transition, it symbols change, movement, everything that we wanted to kind of portray. Well, also nature and the fact that nature is something that’s always changing and it’s very diverse; and that’s what we wanted to get across. So the actual banner of Fashionability is an [inaudible 22:13] effect green and white background, so it goes from green at the top to a very kind of lighter color, whitish, sort of — even a bluish at the bottom. And then what we have is, in bold black text, we have “Fashionability” in this kind of nice delicate scroll handwriting; and then what we have around it is all these beautiful butterflies. So we have ones that are — we’ve got one that’s yellow, and it’s kind of resting on the F, having a little rest, and kind of like — it symbolizes, you know, one of our main ones for Fashionability. We’ve got ones that are purple with very delicate tipped wings; we’ve got ones that are red, that are blue, very kind of a light blue; we’ve also got ones that are kind of a very deep sort of emerald green. And they’re all kind of very different in shape and size, and they’re kind of just scattered around the banner. So there’s ones going kind of in more of a diagonal direction and ones going more up straight, to left, to right. And they’re all different in size and kind of the wingspan and the wing kind of shape; but they all represent how fashion is diverse and how these butterflies are like people that we cater to and how they all have something different to say, but yet they all have something to say nonetheless when it comes to fashion. And then our logo that we designed was — it is kind of a light blue-green background, and then it’s got this lovely butterfly kind of with outstretched wings in the middle. And the butterfly has got multi-color wings, so it goes in the order of the color spectrum. So if any of you have been remembering your science lessons, it goes red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet; and that’s kind of the direction that our — kind of our butterfly’s wings go in. So it goes in all the different colors of the rainbow, right down from kind of the brightest red to very — to the deep blue to a very lovely violet. And then we have sort of gray-colored tips at the bottom, going down to white. And they’ve also got a black kind of outline around the wings; but that represents, you know — again, the color idea came — comes from the fact that we want to represent diversity and difference and, you know, we want to cater to everyone; so that’s why we chose to go with a color spectrum that was like that. And then our blog is very kind of simplistic; it’s very easy to use. It’s kind of got all of our contact details easily displayed, as well as our RSS feed; and it’s in a very light sort of pink color. And then, on the top right-hand corner of the blog, we have our little toggle; so on there we’ve got some of our icons where you can follow on Facebook, Twitter, and our RSS feed. And it’s also got the banner going along the top; and then, as you go down, you’ve got all of our — kind of our latest content, including our transcripts that we do, as well as our content like our audio that we offer. And it’s — the blog is very much a simplistic layout so you can navigate it easily. And then we’ve also got along — going along the banner — so kind of the bottom hand of that — we have all of our kind of menu options, so — including our “contact us” details and information that we’re going to have about us, so our bio lines and kind of that sort of thing. So it’s very easy for you to navigate and very easy for you to find out where we’re based and what we do and more information, should you require it.
LL: Well, there’s plenty of information to be had about Fashionability Channel because we are on AudioBoo; obviously, that’s where we began. However, we are also on iTunes; we’re available through our website RSS feed; and we are also now on iBlink Radio, thanks to the fine folks at Serotek. Is there anything else that you would like to tell the Fashionability Channel listeners about you, maybe something I didn’t ask or anything in particular you would like for them to know about you?
ED: I would have to say that, for me, I just want to say to people that I am very much a person that approves of classical liberalism, and I like people to have, you know, the ability to choose what they will and have a very kind of free life. So I’m a very sort of autonomous person; and I think that kind of [inaudible 26:07] with the fact that I’m a little bit of a hippy at heart. So I think, you know, I always approve of kind of freedom of speech. And don’t forget, if any of you ever want to, you know, ask me any questions, I’m also on my blog; and you can find more details about me via that. And I just want to say to people that — don’t forget that you all deserve the right to be happy, and we really hope that Fashionability helps you to achieve that in some small way.
LL: And finally, I just want to point out that both Emily and I have written blog posts about each other; and you will be able to find additional information about Emily and I on our blog page for Fashionability. So Emily, would you mind telling everyone where they can find the actual Fashionability blog and maybe some other information about our social links?
ED: Sure. So you can find our blog which is on WordPress; and all you have to do is type in the Fashionability WordPress blog, which is Fashionabilitychannel.wordpress.com. AND that will be linked in the downbar of this description. You can also find us on Facebook by searching Fashionability, and that’s our Facebook page. We also have a Facebook group for any potential contributors or anyone who wants to chat for more about getting involved with the channel; and that is the Fashionability group. And you can also find us on Twitter by searching @inclusivestyle; and again, that will be also linked in the downbar of this description. And finally, you can email us: email@example.com; and you should be able to find us and get in touch with any queries or any questions you might have.
LL: Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to sit for an interview with me. I really wanted our listeners to get to know you a little bit better and to hear some of that which you hold dear to be spoken from your very own lips. And I hope that our listeners now feel that they know enough about you to recognize that you have plenty to say on any given topic related to fashion and style and how motivated you are and how inspired you are and how passionate you are in pursuit of accessible information. And I can’t wait to hear what you have to offer. I know your segments are going to be interesting as well as entertaining. And thank you so much for taking the time to sit with me for this interview.
ED: It’s been an absolute pleasure.
LL: All right, everyone. Until Next time!
Special Thanks to Kayde Rieken!
Follow her on Twitter @kd213
Greetings Fashionability Listeners!
Welcome back to another episode of Changing Perceptions, the series that aims to showcase inspirational people, organisations and charities who are helping to revolutionise the way that the fashion industry perceives and caters to people with disabilities.
In todays episode co founder Emily caught up with
blogger at Bold Blind Beauty. Join them as they talk all things beauty, fashion and lifestyle and here Steph’s story on how she is blogging to make fashion more accessible.
All Steph’s and our social links can be found below.
Where Else to Find Fashionability
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iTunes Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/fashionability/id920900206?mt=2