Extremely proud to introduce Esa Evans, a woman on a mission to promote diversity with her recent #WearWhatYouLove photoshoot. Esa Evans Jewellery brand is designed with an artistic focus. The recent ‘Females Unite’ necklace is a celebration of womens voices and inclusivity. The photoshoot represents the celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage in the UK with a rallying call to support women in all spheres of life with a Females Unite statement necklace. Shining a light on women’s achievements, needs and wants is something that we can all get behind. Discover why Esa feels its important to educate her sons about diversity.
FF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
EE: My first thought is to think about my mum! She was and is a forthright feminist. She exposed me and my sisters and me to feminist thinking and the fight for equality. My mum taught assertiveness training and sexuality workshops so I was a fairly confident child.
Creativity was a big thing too and so it was almost inevitable that I’d go on to do a degree in Fine Art (at the Sheffield Hallam University). I am still friends with people from school and university – I even work with one of my best friends from art college in my jewellery business.
FF: What does Future Female mean to you?
EE: For me, Future Female is about the continued struggle for equality and getting rid of misogyny, especially the soft misogyny that’s casually accepted. It means educating my boys to be thoughtful and respectful of diversity, not just feminist thought.
FF: The recent #MeToo campaign 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?
EE: There are so many incidents that it’s turning out to be very easy to discuss misogynistic behaviour! I’m happy to point out to men (mainly) when they act that way.
My first bad experience when I was 9 and was flashed at by a masturbating gentleman (why am I calling him gentleman??) who pulled his car over after driving past me in the street. This had a severe effect on my early perception of men.
When I was 18 I took my car to a garage and was asked if I’d sell my worn panties to the mechanic. I laughed it off but shouldn’t have had to deal with it in the first place.
Earlier this year I had to move seats on a late night train due to a talkative guy who thought he was God’s gift and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Will it ever stop? I was infuriated that at 40 I was still being hassled and that even my continued efforts not to engage with this man had no effect. I eventually had to change seats on the train.
FF: Describe your current work role and your creative process
EE: My jewellery begins with what I love and what I want to wear. I love fashion, music and art – these give me plenty of inspiration and while I avoid looking at other jewellery designers’ work, I am often pleased to see that I’m ahead – or in step – with fashion trends and themes.
I don’t do it all alone. I work with a great team of freelancers who bring skills, expertise and, very importantly, fun to the business. Most of them are women, but not all. I have a wonderful right hand woman without whom I couldn’t run my business. She believes in what I do and that means a lot.
FF: What do you love about being your own boss, and what are the challenges?
EE: I love being my own boss, the flexible working hours are a winner. Choosing who I want to work with is a plus too. The stress and worry of making money is always a challenge and as I’m the main decision maker, I’m responsible for any mistakes I make.
FF: Can you tell us about the amazing #wearwhatyoulove project that has launched this week in collaboration with Samuel Wiles?
EE: The idea for #WearWhatYouLove began with wanting to work with friends to create an inclusive, positive photo shoot. It became clear pretty early on, that this would be a diverse group of people and I wanted each one of them to feel great about their involvement. So we asked them to wear the clothes that they love, the clothes that make them feel like the version of themselves that they like the most.
Isn’t it odd that we save clothes for special occasions – why don’t we wear the clothes we love as much as we can? It was very exciting to hear these women giving advice to their younger selves. A big theme was to dress for themselves. The time to rock a fluffy white jacket (my particular favourite) can be fleeting – wear it and love it.
Every single person named things they like about their bodies too. So much for low self esteem! We have our strongest advocates inside us all the time. Listen out for that inner voice of love and strength – seriously, you’ll never dress to ‘blend in’ again.
Samuel Wiles has been a long time friend and photographer to the business. It never feels like ‘work’ when we plan and prepare for a photoshoot – I hope he enjoys it as much as I do!
FF: There is a shift in how and where women work, was it a natural progression for you to go it alone and why?
At the time, I was working as a Teaching Assistant in a school for excluded children. I think the stress of the work got my creativity working again. At first I was selling at craft fairs and in one local gift shop.
Once I decided the stress was too much, my husband suggested I develop the jewellery business. His support has been invaluable. It also meant I could do school runs and be around for my kids even though it was a struggle. They are older now, so that’s getting easier.
My husband has changed the way he works too, so parenting is a much more shared experience these days. I can get away for trade shows several times a year without feeling that home life will fall apart.
FF: With the rise of small business entrepreneurs, what do you think of this?
EE: If the formal workplace doesn’t create space for working mothers, it doesn’t mean women stop thinking and working. Running your own business can be a no brainer – it can be rewarding, flexible and challenging, but you know, it doesn’t suit everyone.
FF: If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
EE: I think the thing I’d change about being a woman would be the pressure to look a certain way and the conforming of a beauty standard, particularly as a teen and young woman. I have wasted so much energy and time to feeling shit and bad about myself over the years (including a bout of bulimia) and I think that it would have been great if I hadn’t gone through this, or that any woman should feel she should look a certain way.
I have tried very hard over the last few years to accept myself and feel positive about what my body can do. I try not to enter into any body shaming conversations about myself or with anybody else, which is quite hard. When I’m on my deathbed and reflecting on my life, I don’t think I’ll be wishing I’d been thinner or had a thigh gap!
Oh. And I wish I’d told that mechanic to fuck off.
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?
EE: We are living through such an interesting moment. I really feel that if we want to make a real change in the way we see men and women as ‘people’ first, we have to change the way we talk about gender.
I’m having conversations about gender with my boys. My eldest son (aged 12) has been learning about suffragettes recently. He was indignant that men weren’t allowed to join and said that he definitely would have been a suffragist. He has identified as a feminist for a few years and sees that equality is a basic human right.
The youngest is a different sort of child (aged 10). He watches some, perhaps inappropriate, YouTubers. He and a mate referred to girlfriends lately as “gold diggers” and claiming that they would “have to spend all your money on them”. The notion of loving relationships was invisible to them.
There’s a sea of content out there that reinforces the idea of women as some “other” kind of person who should be quiet, forgiving and endlessly understanding. I’m pushing back and fighting that wave of misogyny with conversation, in the moment and with love – tactics of attrition. I’m not quiet and I’m not ashamed.
FF: What are you reading at the moment?
EE: I have just finished an excellent book called “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and other lessons from the crematorium “ by Caitlin Doughty @thegooddeath on Instagram. I love a book about death and dying. I particularly feel strongly about “good deaths” and alternative ways of how we deal with death and dying in our society.
This was sparked by my six year old sister dying from meningitis when I was 19. We held an “alternative “ funeral for her which was still unusual at the time (20 years ago). I looked for books like Caitlin’s at the time – part of my grieving process was that I wanted to understand about bodies and how they decomposed. This book would have ticked all the boxes at the time!
Basically, Caitlin’s book is a fascinating and amusing account of her thoughts and experiences. She totally rocks and please, can I be her friend?
FF: How would you describe your style?
EE: Fashion style? Bag lady chic (but urban) as described by my husband who loves my look. I think it sums it up well!
Thank you so much Esa, for being part of our Future Female community Esa, we love your diversity project and brilliant answers, especially telling the mechanic to fuck off!!! We look forward to seeing the project unfold over on your instagram feed Esa Evans Jewellery Instagram and your website Esa Evans Website