Quin rewrites rules of fame game

  • Freida Pinto wearing Catherine Quin’s Belmonte jacket and Larkin pants as part of the designer’s Women of Purpose initiative (Photograph supplied)

    Freida Pinto wearing Catherine Quin’s Belmonte jacket and Larkin pants as part of the designer’s Women of Purpose initiative (Photograph supplied)

  • Catherine Quin

    Catherine Quin


Catherine Quin believes it is time we celebrated people for their contributions rather than their fame. It is the reason behind her initiative, Women of Purpose.

The photo spread features 25 women wearing “a capsule of [her] minimalist designs”. Rather than the models or celebrities typically favoured for print and runway, the Bermudian designer chose to use women who “excelled in their personal and philanthropic pursuits” to show off her Women of Purpose collection.

It is an unusual move for a fashion designer. Publications such as Vogue Italia, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and The Telegraph have all taken notice.

“It came about because I was thinking about role models and the Catherine Quin woman — who our demographic was and who we admire. I decided it was people who actually achieved and contributed to their community, women who lived their lives with grace and determination.

“In an age where celebrity lifestyles too often eclipse contribution, I felt it was important to recognise women for their achievements.”

Freida Pinto, an actress and humanitarian; Nyasha Matonhodze, a model and women’s rights activist, and Polly Stenham, an award-winning playwright, are among the chosen 25.

“I wanted women doing great things from different backgrounds. We have an architect, a women’s rights activist, a playwright and a musician — people living their life in their own way and not conforming to stereotypes. I felt in this age it was important to have role models. In this celebrity world we’re living in, I felt it was important to recognise people who have enough strength and independence to make their own choices and live in a very sort of deliberate, conscious way.

“My brand is very much about making women feel good — the fabrics feel very tactile; they feel good against the skin. The whole idea is to enhance the woman not to objectify her. It’s all about empowerment and confidence in whatever form that can take. We want to inspire other women, especially the younger generation, to show them that it is worthwhile not being a TV reality star, that you can do worthwhile work that is meaningful and purposeful.”

The women in the campaign range in age from their thirties to their sixties. “There’s also the idea that there is value in more mature women,” Ms Quin said. “There’s wisdom and a lot of great things to be celebrated in women of an older age; we don’t have to always idealise youth.”

Just as important to her was that the campaign had a cause. Twenty-five per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the Women of Purpose collection will be donated to Women for Women International, a charity that helps “women living in the world’s most dangerous places rebuild their lives”. “I had heard of Brita [Schmidt Fernandez], the executive director, through a friend and asked her to be a part of the campaign,” Ms Quin said.

“I wanted a charitable aspect but wondered how to do it and what form it would take. I was so inspired by what she was doing and, [through] her, wanted to make sure we made a tangible contribution to empowering women internationally.

“What’s really great about Women for Women is it’s not just a charity. It’s a yearlong programme of training for people in war-torn countries. It started in Bosnia and it’s in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Afghanistan; it’s starting in Jordan for Syrians there. It teaches them skills — such as how to save money — it teaches them their rights; it’s a very transformative programme. It’s not just giving them handouts, it gives them a skill they can use to give them confidence so they actually can go out and do something instead of just being at home and sitting in the kitchen all day. At the end, they have talents and feel valuable as people.

“I really loved the idea of being involved with that charity and helping women really get that message of empowerment. I feel it has great synergy with the values of our brand — about inspiring women to go on and do great things.”

It is a lesson she is pleased to have learnt as a child from her parents, Max and Jan Quin.

“They always felt I could achieve whatever I wanted,” the former lawyer said. “They always put a strong emphasis on academic, erudite pursuits and also the contribution you make; what your social value is. They encouraged me to try to do something with a social value. That was always something that my father really believed in.”

Although she intended to make her contribution through the legal system, she found she was better suited to “a more creative approach”. Her late mother, a tennis pro who championed women’s rights on and off the courts, had taken a similar route.

“I had to think, ‘What’s an intelligent way to do this? How am I helping women be of service and have social value in the world?’

“My mum was very encouraging of women doing things. She was born in the Forties and championed women’s equality and rights. She wanted to show that women could be as good as men.”

Catherine Quin’s eponymous collection is available on catherinequin.com

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Published Jul 12, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 12, 2018 at 8:09 am)

Quin rewrites rules of fame game

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