Rachel Roy is adjusting a dress on a mannequin. She has long black hair and is wearing a leopard print dress.

Rachel Roy: Founder, Designer and Executive Chairman & creator of Kindness is Always Fashionable

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Rachel Roy 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?

Rachel Roy: I am helping to solve the problem of the fashion industry’s role in child labour, trafficking and discrimination. I am helping to provide jobs for men and women who cannot easily find work in third world countries, through my program Kindness is Always Fashionable.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

RR: I realized my innovation was a breakthrough when I was told “NO” by 99% of the people I asked to join me, including those I work with, friends and colleagues. Doing the right thing is never the easy thing, so being told “no” for something that I inherently knew was right, let me know that the work needed to be done. No company should allow children to make their product. No woman should not be allowed to provide for her family.

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

RR: During this process, I learned to be okay with people not liking me. I learned that doing the right thing is, many times, not the popular thing. You lose friends, you lose notoriety, you lose an easy work environment, and you become titled the “crazy emotional female,” simply because men in business do not know how to control your beliefs or your value system. I learned the relationship I have with myself, both personally and professionally, is the one that I need to respect and nurture.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

RR: I love my work as a designer because it is what I was meant to do and I have always known that. I create products to make women feel better about themselves, stand up a bit taller, and walk with self-love. I know my customer so well because I am her. I love my work as an activist because I know that I am meant to be a voice for those who are not allowed to use theirs.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

RR: I hope young women look at me as an example of how to be brave enough to design the life they want to live, not a social media life, not a plastic life; a life of following their hearts and bringing as many people along the path with them as possible.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

RR: Women have been treated unequally to men for so many years in so many aspects. It is paramount that women innovate to open doors, to create change, and to chart their own history.

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Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.