Right face, right time, or so it goes. As was the case for South London-girl Fern Bain Smith who was scouted by photographer Jamie Hawkesworth at her boarding school. She was primed to make an impression. Since then Fern has somehow maintained a fan club that includes the likes of Alasdair McLellan, David Sims and Hawkesworth while simultaneously flying under the radar–by modern standards. A seemingly unabashed goof with an appetite for activism, Fern and her brand is one of no imitations: her quasi-modelness (speaking affectionately), her it-girl status, her uber-authenticity.
But Fern’s natural cool doesn’t stop there, it gets better: she’s an ambassador for the feminist, non-profit organization Women in Fashion. WIF aims to address issues like diversity, representation of gender, age discrimination and sexism. “My role as an ambassador is to spread the WIF message and to inform people about us–everyone is welcome,” Fern explains to Models.com. It was thanks to the organization’s co-founder, Daisy Walker, that she got involved promoting the group and its message of empowerment. “Meeting my sister/mentor/best friend/founder of WIF, Daisy Walker, changed my life and career,” says Fern, “I owe a lot of my development as a human to her. She taught me to ask for what I need and how to say ‘NO’.” She admits her ambassadorship began selfishly (if you call it that) with her own quest for self-improvement, “I couldn’t get enough of the educational and self-affirming relationship I had with Daisy as a woman further along in her journey than me, and I wanted more!” Fern, in turn, took a greater interest in campaigning for the issues facing women, “I really value people who take up space when they’re told not to…the girls and women speaking up about their experiences with sexual assault, trans women who are saying “Yes, I deserve to be heard”, but also those who are watching on the sidelines, maybe at the beginning of their journeys, still existing and figuring it out or just supporting and listening.” (The next Women In Fashion meeting is at 7.30pm, 9th Nov, Stoke Newington. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. See website www.womeninfashion.co.uk for more details)
The 19-year-old’s Instagram @Fernbullshit doesn’t run the risk of coming across overly serious, more the opposite: it’s cheeky, quirky and slightly self-deprecating. Don’t be mistaken though, beyond the pretense of antics is a clear message of female empowerment whether it be promoting the next meeting of WIF, supporting female artists or adapting Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde’ T-shirt for International Women’s Day. “I’m actually taking a break from Instagram at the moment, it can be a bit of a vicious vacuum and it’s easy to forget that it is just a tool, not the whole world! But it can be great for promoting my career as a hilarious person, for finding inspiration and using it as a discursive platform,” she tells us. What’s encouraging to Fern about the state of the industry? “People and groups like Grace Wales Bonner, Claire Barrow, Nii agency, and gal-dem make me feel excited about fashion again. Fashion and media are a reflection and consequence of society, and these people are doing something necessary and inspiring.”