For International Women’s Day 2019, the team at womenswear retailer Warehouse took the opportunity to do something a bit different.
Led by three of the Warehouse team – Laura Chadwick, content and social media manager; Eve Dauncey, senior brand creative manager; and Jess Byrne-Walsh, digital marketing manager – the women of Warehouse set about creating an International Women’s Day campaign based on what they personally wanted to see from advertising campaigns targeted at women.
The resulting project features five diverse and inspiring women telling their own remarkable stories – with the tagline “I define me”. The entirely unretouched imagery and video for the campaign were shot by a team of women and developed collaboratively by the female staff at Warehouse.
Alongside the campaign, which the team hopes will open a dialogue with customers about the topics that matter most to them, 100% of the proceeds from a £16 T-shirt bearing the “I define me” slogan will benefit the UK charity Rosa, which works with women and girls throughout the country.
Drapers sat down with Chadwick, Dauncey and Byrne-Walsh ahead of the launch as they explained how the campaign became a collaborative, empowering process for the team, as much as for the customers it seeks to speak to.
Jess Byrne-Walsh: “How are you supposed to navigate your way in the world if you don’t know who you are?”
Hash [Ladha, Oasis and Warehouse CEO] challenged us on the spot to think about how we would engage customers differently or speak to them in a way that was potentially more interesting than how we had done before.
This is a brand that has been run mainly by women, for women for more than 40 years. We are really like minded and passionate about gender equality, so this was an important opportunity for us to host a conversation that we were having ourselves, with our friends and with each other, which affects us as employees and our customers alike.
Our roles throughout the project were way less defined than they normally would be. I pitched the campaign to our CEO, and through the project brought the cause to light within the company.
The process was a lot more blended and collaborative. Everybody had a place to bring in their own opinion: about how they felt when they were being marketed to as women and how we’d like to see it done differently.
This is the kind of campaign that I’ve been waiting a long time for: to really see yourself. Rather than being told what to do – we wanted a platform for women to be themselves and to talk about their concerns.
Doing something like this, we hope will help the next generation of girls growing up. There’s a fair amount of judgement still put on women that stands in the way of you determining how you define yourself. How are you supposed to navigate your way in the world, especially as a young girl or teenager, if you don’t know who you are?
Laura Chadwick: “It’s about taking ownership of your own subject matter”
When we began speaking to people in the office about the concept, we realised that Warehouse made up of a bunch of strong, likeminded people that are really passionate about the same things.
We talk a lot about brand transparency: we have to be as honest with our customers as possible. But we have to be a step beyond that now. Customers expect brands to have a stance on something, and this was the best opportunity for us really do that.
The development was an open conversation with the whole office. The amount of topics that came out of that led to the idea of “I define me” – women in their own words.
It’s really about taking ownership of your own subject matter. We don’t want to come across as the authority, but we have the opportunity to use our platform to put a spotlight on stories that really matter to our customer today.
My role in the projects focused on delivering the campaign story, interviewing the five women and developing the content to launch across our channels.
This is the first campaign I’ve worked on here when people have been begging to take on more responsibility. Every team member was so keen on it, this is a topic so close the people’s hearts.
We’re aiming for more open conversations than you often get to see on social media. Especially when we’re a retail brand, people are often asking us about the products. This is stepping away from that completely, talking about topics that really matter to our customers.
Showing the other side to the brand personality, one that we don’t really often get to show.
One highlight from the project has been the conversations. I’ve got to know more people in the office and I understand my team a lot better because of this campaign, because of all the open conversations that we have had.
Eve Dauncey: “It has pulled us all together as a business”
Working on “I define me” was probably more inclusive than ever in terms of how we approach a project. We really wanted to sound out all of the women here, because we’re all so affected by the conversation. We were really trying to capture as much feedback from the women we’re trying to address as possible.
We’re really proud to have worked with the five women in the campaign, but there’s so many more conversations and topics out there.
My role comprised of identifying these key women in the industry to speak to, all of whom had great stories. I also brought together the concept and assets for the campaign.
We like to imagine this as an ongoing opportunity – this is just a start point. The shoot itself was a real moment of achievement. Not only had we got the project to that point, but we also had an all-female crew as well as cast. It brought such an amazing energy to the day.
I think the project will have a lasting impact on how we work. This is a conversation that everyone wants to be involved in and the response we had internally has blown me away. It has pulled us all together as a business. The approach, where we worked so closely, I think that will remain.
The tagline of the campaign has really rung true, not just in terms of letting our cast of women speak, but as employees we’ve been empowered to do the same. We presented the project to the business in our own words – it wasn’t something the executives did, we did it as a team. It has been a genuinely empowering experience for us to be working on it.
After we presented the project to the business, our knitwear buyer came to talk to us about what she had learned and what she was going to go home and tell her daughter. The fact that already that our message was already going beyond these walls and to young people – that lifted me a huge amount.
We’ve been starting to feel, throughout this campaign, that empowerment is happening throughout Warehouse and we have the ambition that will then spread far and wide.