Harvard GlobalWE Student/ Alumni  Roundtable

From Lotus Shoes & High Heels to Burkas & Bikinis:

The Complex Relationship between Clothing and Women’s Oppression, Exploitation, and Empowerment

Saturday, February 8, 2020 | 3:00-5:00pm ET | Phillips Brooks House, Harvard University Campus

Thank you to everyone who attended this event. Please find an abbreviated recording of the event here.

Dear Harvard GlobalWE Members, Please join Heather Kaye, Angela Latham, Marley Healy, Elizabeth Semmelhack, and Susan Brown for a discussion on fashion and women’s empowerment on Saturday, February 8th from 3-5 pm at Phillips Brooks House. We will be examining whether fashion as we know it today exists as a form of oppression or self-expression. Our speakers are acclaimed entrepreneurs, scholars, curators, and historians who will discuss the relationship between the fashion industry and gendered societal authority structures. The event is hosted by Harvard GlobalWE in collaboration with the Harvard Alumni for Fashion, Luxury & Retail SIG and the Islamic Fashion and Design Council.


Some of the questions we will tackle:

  • Is the choice of clothing women wear today, be it a skirt or a dress, an unconscious decision by them or a result of centuries of reinforcement and oppression?
  • How does fashion play a role in empowering women?
  • Do women really have complete freedom on how they dress? Or are they bound by societal norms of what is “womanly” or “sexy”?


Last year, alumni and students gathered in a roundtable discussion on the polarization of the media with Annafi Wahed founder of The Flip Side and board members Allison Lee Pillinger Choi, AB '06, and Angela Cho (as covered in The Crimson). This roundtable is the 3rd annual event of The Harvard GlobalWE Student/Alumni Roundtable series, which is held each February at the conclusion of the HAA's Alumni Leadership Conference. 

Event Details

Saturday, February 8, 2020

3:00pm - 5:00pm Eastern Time


Phillips Brooks House, Parlor Room; 1 Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA

Note: A virtual (online) option has been added for this event. Login details will be sent to registrants closer to the date of the event.


We will be serving light snacks and refreshments.



FREE for Harvard College students and Harvard University graduate students

$10 for Harvard University alumni, affiliates, staff and guests


Event Registration

Harvard College students and Harvard University graduate students

Please register for FREE via our FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE! (If you would like to attend virtually, please send us a message through Facebook) 


Harvard alumni, affiliates, staff and guests (for in-person attendance)

Register by clicking below:

Harvard alumni, affiliates, staff and guests (for online attendance) 

Register by clicking below:



Panelist Bios

Heather Bowie Kaye

Heather Bowie Kaye is the co-founder of Loop Swim, founder of the Shanghai Eco Warriors Summit, and co-creator of the “Plastics are Forever” impact project with Green Initiatives. She is a frequent speaker, panelist, contributing writer and educator on empowering female entrepreneurs, circular fashion, and plastic pollution. In 2010, Heather and Itee Soni co-founded FINCH Designs with the goal of upending the most unsustainable aspects of the fashion industry: fast fashion cycles, body negativity, throw-away quality and environmentally damaging raw materials. In April 2019 FINCH Designs became Loop Swim, focusing on eco-swimwear made exclusively from Repreve® recycled PET plastic bottles. Loop swimwear is responsibly made in China, and retails globally with value-aligned hotel, resort and specialty boutique partners. A California native, Heather is a graduate of Harvard University (AB ’96) and Parsons School of Design (AAS ’99). She lives with her husband George and their two daughters in downtown Shanghai.


Angela Latham

Angela J. Latham is a historian, teacher, and theatre artist. Her published writings focus primarily on how women embody, resist, and shape culture through performance, including the performance of fashion. She is the author of Posing a Threat: Flappers, Chorus Girls, and Other Brazen Performers of the American 1920s. Her essays and performance texts have appeared in Theatre Journal, Text and Performance Quarterly, Liminalities, Performance Matters, and others. Angela is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies and an Affiliated Faculty in the Gender and Sexuality Studies program at Governors State University in the Chicago area. She continues to create theatre, and has produced, directed, acted, served as dramaturg, and designed costumes for numerous theatre productions over the course of her career. Angela holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Marley Healy

Marley Healy is a Consulting Curator based in Boston, Massachusetts with expertise in fashion and textile-based exhibition making. She has a BA from Harvard University Extension School where she studied History and Anthropology (with an emphasis in fashion, of course), and a Masters of Arts in Fashion Curation from the London College of Fashion at University of the Arts London. She has curated exhibitions at the Rambert ballet company on London’s South Bank, the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and the Women’s Museum of California. As a freelance consultant, she provides collections management services and advises on display options for museums and private collectors of fashion and textile objects. Marley is a regular contributor to fashion studies publications and academic journals, often reviewing dress-based museum and gallery exhibitions. Her special areas of interest include late 19th-early 20th century women’s active sportswear, fashion illustration of the early 20th century, and cross-disciplinary approaches to exhibition making.


Elizabeth Semmelhack

Elizabeth Semmelhack is an acclaimed shoe historian as well as creative director and chief curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. She is the author of Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture and Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe. She has been featured in articles and interviews in most major newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal as well as magazines such as National Geographic, Vogue, Elle, InStyle & W Magazine.


Susan Brown

Susan Brown is Curator of the Contemporary Muslim Fashion exhibition at the Smithsonian in New York City, and comes to GlobalWE from The Islamic Fashion and Design Council. She is Associate Curator of Textiles at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where she oversees one of the nation’s premier textile collections, including more than 27,000 textiles produced over 2,000 years. She has curated numerous highly successful exhibitions for Cooper Hewitt, including Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance (2005), Fashioning Felt (2009), Quicktakes: Rodarte (2010), Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay (2011), David Adjaye Selects (2015), Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse (2016), and Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color (2018). She has contributed to scholarship on textile design through publications such as Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe, published by Vitra Design Museum, Ruth Adler Schnee: Modern Designs for Living, published by Cranbrook Museum of Art, Ripples: mïna perhonen, and Suzie Zuzek for Lilly Pulitzer: The Artist Behind an Iconic American Fashion Brand, 1962 – 1985, forthcoming from Rizzoli. She also teaches in the Masters’ Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies offered jointly by Cooper Hewitt and Parsons/The New School for Design, as well as lecturing regularly for the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.


Other Details


Questions: If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact us at [email protected].


Views: During our events, we expect our participants to be respectful of one another's opinions and experiences. The views expressed during our events are solely those of the speaker(s) and Text for email to GlobalWE members to be sent via Campaign Monitor participating audience and do not imply endorsement by Harvard GlobalWE and/or Harvard University.


Harvard Alumni For Global Women's Empowerment Harvard GlobalWE is a shared interest group of the Harvard Alumni Association. We are dedicated to the empowerment of women through education, dialogue and connection among individuals working for women's rights and freedoms worldwide. Harvard GlobalWE does not advocate a specific ideology or political or cultural agenda. We are an inclusive organization with membership open to and comprising all genders.


Membership is free. To become a member of Harvard GlobalWE, please JoinWE. To learn more, please visit our website and our Facebook group.


The views expressed during our events are solely those of the speaker(s) and participating audience and do not imply endorsement by Harvard GlobalWE and/or Harvard University.




3:00PM - 5:00PM Sat 8 Feb 2020, Eastern timezone


1 Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138

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