Zadig & Voltaire Hosts Female Empowerment Panel

by Taylor Harris

Zadig & Voltaire is known for their inimitable brand of cool — a mix of French insouciance and classic rock n’ roll — but the brand is also passionate about women’s empowerment. Hence, the basis for Tuesday night’s panel at their Madison Avenue flagship.

The brand invited a handful of successful women from various walks of life to engage in a dialogue with Fern Mallis and discuss the issues facing women today. Proceeds from the sale of panel tickets benefitted the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund. Ten percent of sales at the store from May 17 to 22 were also given to the charity, which aims to provide women with the socioeconomic framework to create viable opportunities for themselves and their families.

Among the speakers at Tuesday night’s panel discussion, titled “Ambition + Purpose” were Zadig & Voltaire’s longtime creative director Cecilia Bönström; Karen Sugar, founder and director of the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund; Nike Global Master Trainer Kirsty Godso; model-turned-vegan-skincare-empiress Emma Willis; and Nicole Chapoteau, stylist and former fashion director of Allure.

Cecilia Bönström (Mike Vitelli/

Kelly Rutherford (Mike Vitelli/

The women also took part in a little pre-panel shopping. Guests sipped bubbly and eyed chic, feminist-minded merchandise from totes with the words “GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING” emblazoned across them to tees with protest imagery printed on them. Eventually, guests were seated and the women opened up their discussion by defining the word ambitious within the context of gender, examining how the word takes on a negative meaning when applied to a woman. “The word can be a double-edged sword, it’s more of a complicated word than people think,” Sugar said. “But everyone’s ambitions should have value.” Other topics included seeking outside validation versus personal validation; women lifting one another up collectively rather than competing; The Women’s March; the self-imposed pressure that can come with female empowerment; raising teenage girls in the age of Insta-filtered beauty standards while also in the age of #MeToo accountability; and the importance of self-care.

“If you’re not properly serving yourself and not nurturing yourself, you can’t properly give and serve others,” New Zealander Godso said. “It’s almost like what they say on the airport,” Mallis added. “Please put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others!”

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