When you listen to Carrie Hammer talk about everything that came before Role Models Not Runway Models, it’s easy to see why she's known for so much more than just designing clothes.
On the 27th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, Hammer talked about building her eponymous clothing line and how it led her to create a movement with larger and more socially conscious aims. It’s not a story that begins with her Forbes 30 Under 30 selection or a profile in Entrepreneur Magazine, but back when Hammer was a young woman disheartened with a career in advertising.
“I left my job and went to Paris for this fashion program, and everyone made fun of me. This was six years ago and that was before people were taking a year off,” Hammer said. “It was right after the movie Eat Pray Love had come out and everyone —my bosses, my family and my friends — were like ‘Oh my god, Carrie’s doing this Eat Pray Love thing. Everyone wanted me to have a plan when I got back.’”
Her family accused her of “just laying around watching TED Talks” but Hammer was laying the foundation for a career that would transcend the fashion industry. The impetus for that becomes clear in Hammer’s original ambition to create business wear for women that doesn’t conform to the outdated and sexist guidelines of professional dress codes.
“Don’t show too much knee, don’t show too much décolletage, you want to make sure they know you’re serious, don’t even show your shoulders,” Hammer remembers. “I think about this now as I’m designing and I’m having kind of a moral struggle with it. Why do we as women have to be ashamed of our bodies?”
Even after designing and launching her clothing line, Hammer continued to face the outdated pillars of the fashion industry. At one of her first fashion shows in which her professional clothing was being modeled, Hammer said she discovered one of the models wearing her clothes was 12 years old.
“I show up and she’s getting her hair done while doing her algebra homework,” Hammer said. “I make professional clothing. Most of my clients have 12 year olds.”
After realizing that the insanely young age of most models was setting unrealistic expectations for women around the world, Hammer decided to try something a little different at New York Fashion Week in 2014.
“Everyone who walks my fashion show is a famous CEO, executive, badass woman, and those are my clients,” Hammer said. “That first fashion show we had incredible women, like the founder of The Daily Show and the head of the Google Fiber project.”
Her fashion show went viral and Role Models Not Runway Models was born. After trending on Facebook and Twitter, other brands started emulating the campaign.
“True beauty comes from substance and our passion, purpose and accomplishments. That is so overlooked, all day long by our traditional fashion and beauty industry… and I don’t think it has to be that way anymore,” Hammer said. “In an industry that loves a good makeover, it’s really time for us to give ourselves one.”