I am very proud to bring you this weeks Future Female, Ali Mapletoft from Age Of Reason. Ali has been inspiring me by championing sustainable fashion with her label Age of Reason since 2011. I love her feminist views and the mantra of standing up and standing out! Find out why she feels it’s important to look at ‘things I’m changing’ rather ‘things I would change’.
FF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
A: I was raised in Lesotho in Southern Africa, in the community of artists and craftspeople. My parents are a Potter and a painter. In their businesses my parents worked with a lot of creative women, so it was natural that this inspired my own work.
FF: What Does Future Female mean to you?
A: Future female means one thing to me :empowered by equality.
FF: The recent #MeToo hash tag caught the attention of many women who joined the conversation, what is your view and have you been affected by misogynistic behaviour during your lifetime and is it something you feel comfortable discussing?
A: I have tried to teach myself to be comfortable discussing the uncomfortable. Being voiceless would be a terrible shame because I believe it’s my duty to speak up so that my daughters will hopefully experience less misogyny than I have in my lifetime. I’m in the fortunate position where I have very little to lose by speaking up; I’m not beholden to any particular person for my career. I think most of the inappropriate behaviour and misogyny experienced in my life time was between the ages of 14 and 20. I particularly remember my concerns about being harassed and stalked by a fellow student being ignored at university. My female tutor told me to cut my hair off and get fat because that would deter the stalker. I’m hopeful that university tutors have received a little bit of training since then. We all need to work incrementally towards a society that protects all women, not only from harassment and misogyny, but from the false idea that women themselves are responsible for it.
FF: When did you set up Age of Reason and can you tell us a bit about your gorgeous products?
A: I set up Age of Reason in 2011 to offer fabulous statement pieces which encourage women to stand up and stand out. I hand draw artwork for scarves cushions, clothing and wall art, which is then crafted in the UK from natural materials and sustainably printed silk. We use wool from seaweed eating sheep in Orkney to stuff our cushions, and a water saving printing process.
FF:What do you love about being your own boss, and what are the challenges?
A: The challenge is getting everything done, the beauty of it is doing it on my own terms.
FF: Can you tell us about a project that is inspiring you at the moment?
A: I’ve just created a T-shirt collection with charity womankind worldwide. 5 £ from every T-shirt goes towards training women leaders globally to combat the violence and discrimination. The aim of the charity is to help women to become equal respected and proud within their communities.
FF: There is a shift in how and where women work, was it a natural progression for you to go it alone and why?
A: I really don’t like being told what to do, so it makes sense to be my own boss. I’m not knowledgeable enough about economics to make a statement about trends in the workforce but I do know that one example, once women have had children, it is very difficult to remain in the corporate world, largely because fathers aren’t properly supported as primary child carers yet. I was an animation director and TV commercials Producer in London before starting age of reason. It would have been extremely difficult to continue doing that after I had my children. The industry is not particularly supportive of women in general and it certainly needs to get its act together when it comes to flexible working.
FF: If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
A: All the things that I would change about my life as a woman are possible to change. I can’t change the way other people treat me, but I can change the way I behave towards myself and others. So rather than thinking about “things I would change” I prefer to look at this as “things I’m changing”. I am working on accepting myself as a leader. I’m working on understanding and practising the idea that I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. I’m working on surrounding myself with the right people. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business or brand is, you’re still the leader, and you define the direction and the values of your world.
FF: Are there key messages you are passing on to your children when it comes to gender equality, how important do you think it is to change your story around gender?
A: I think the most important thing I want my girls to understand is that they can do anything. And I want them to grow up seeing simple things like shared household tasks. I want them to understand that when Dad does the dishes or looks after them, he’s not “helping mum”- He’s just doing the dishes or looking after them. Those things need to get done, regardless of gender.
FF:What are you reading at the moment?
A: I’m reading “The Power” by Naomi Alderman. It’s a dystopian science-fiction novel about inverting the status quo between men and women, so that men fear women because women have a dangerous power. It articulates just how undesirable it really is to have a dominant, violent gender.
FF: How would you describe your style?
A: I would describe my style as posh punk. I love standout statement pieces and good quality classics. I love silver jewellery that references safety pins or lips, jeans, boxy shirts, feminine touches on masculine shapes. I buy once and buy well.
A massive thanks Ali, for taking the time to join the Future Female conversation and inspire others to stand up and stand out! Do take a look at the statement designs Ali produces, and follow her gorgeous feed on instagram Instagram Age of Reason and to purchase the beautiful products in this article you can find Age Of Reason here: Age Of Reason Studios