Liezel Strauss: Co-Founder & Creative Director of Subject Matter, Founder of Art Girl Rising
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Liezel Strauss to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Subject Matter: The means of selling art hasn't changed for decades. The current gallery model is exclusive, old-fashioned, and opaque; which is keeping a lot of people, especially women, from buying art. We want to change that.
Art Girl Rising: I’m addressing and raising awareness for the dramatic under-representation of women artists in museums and galleries around the world. I hope to help change the numbers so that women are more equally represented worldwide.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
Subject Matter: The number one art college in the world, The Royal College of Art, invited us back to do our fourth program with their students: an insight into the business side of the art world.
Art Girl Rising: When art critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Jerry Saltz wore the AGR T-shirt and praised the project!
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
Subject Matter: We are a small bootstrapped business with a mission to help change the art world. We have limited resources, and overcome this by keeping our costs very low and working hard to generate sales.
Art Girl Rising: Sourcing ethical T-shirts has been a challenge. “You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another” (Ethicalbrandz). Great quality T-shirts with a mission, simply aren’t enough. Magnifeco and Fair Wear Foundation led me to an approved ethical garment factory, from where we now source our T-shirts.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
LS: The hundreds of messages and kind words from women artists around the world as well as our buyers and supporters—they are our fuel.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
LS: I hope that they will ask more questions than I did. I had no idea how bad the numbers are for women artists. I also hope that they will help and celebrate each other, and realize that we are stronger together and that there is enough light for all of us. Your success does not mean my failure. Your success means my success.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
LS: I believe innovation is only sustainable when it includes innovators from the whole population. We will only solve white, middle-class, male problems if the net is not widened. We need innovators from all races, sexes, income groups, and religions.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.