For many of us who experienced our teenager years in Australia throughout the 90s, Supré will hold a special place in our hearts. It was where we decked ourselves out for school dances, and where all weekend clothing was purchased. Today, however, Supre is so much more than a teenager's dream shopping destination.
Thanks to the Supré Foundation, girls across Australia – and indeed throughout the world – are being empowered and supported in a way that will leave mothers of daughters breathing a huge sigh of relief. Passionate about funding programs that educate, support and empower girls, the Foundation’s dream is to foster a world where all girls can achieve their dreams and have access to all they need to fulfil their potential. In a climate where 1 in 4 children are bullied regularly, and with such rapid emergence of social media influences, this has never been more critical. We spoke to Supré’s Strategic Brand Manager – Vanessa Tindale – about the Foundation, how we can support our daughters and the inspiring way Supré is empowering girls and women, from their stores right through to their head office. Find out more about the Supré Foundation here.
Supré has been a main-staple in young women’s’ wardrobes for decades . How has the brand gone about maintaining relevancy in a market that has shifted so dramatically?
When Cotton On purchased Supré and the brand evolution began in 2014, we would constantly hear the stories of a generation who had grown up shopping Supré, myself included! We quickly realised that this brand, which has existed for 35 years, came with heritage and sentiment that was part of the Australian girl’s psyche. It also came with a questionable brand perception around how it talked to teenage girls. The very first thing we did was develop a clear vision of what we wanted to stand for and who we wanted to be as a brand – We exist to empower, celebrate and create positive change for girls globally. We then did a complete overhaul of our business – which is a continuous journey we’re on – to review our product, repositioning how we’re speaking to our girl and of course, creating a shopping experience (online and in-store) that she would enjoy and that was reflective of her lifestyle. Mostly, we obsessed about our girl, listened to what she was saying and engage with her via our social and digital channels where we know she is spending a lot of her time.
Over the years that Supré has been in girls’ wardrobes, there have been incredible changes in lifestyles - particularly when it comes to social media. What have you found are some of the most common challenges facing young women today, compared to 20 years ago? And what concerns have remained the same?
The Supré Foundation exists, not as a strategic positioning driver, but as a critical and authentic part of our business. It is what we do! Without a doubt the evolution of technology and social media has resulted in some of the greatest challenges facing girls today. There has been a massive shift in exposure, with girls constantly looking at a hyper-contrived world and being asked at a very young age to tell the difference between this and ‘real life’. The pressure from this world to be a certain way, to look a certain way and to be constantly ‘selfie’ ready is intense, as is the relentless commentary and opinion being thrown at them. In December, we ran an online survey with over 13,000 respondents; the most cited social issue concerning girls was bullying. Bullying is not a new phenomenon however; the ways in which it can now manifest have grown insidiously. For teens, whose lives exist online, there is no sanctuary. There are so many different types of bullying facing young women today – from face-to-face, to online, and more – with 1 in 4 young people being bullied regularly. As parents, carers or friends of young girls – we must begin to have conversations with them about these challenges, and to support them through this. Be a part of this world as opposed to hoping it disappears.
Tell us about the Supré Foundation and how this fits into the broader Supré brand.
At Supré we believe in the power of girls and with that, we believe we have an obligation to help our girl navigate through her formative teen years and early adulthood. The Supré Foundation funds programs that support educate and empower girls globally with 100% of proceeds raised through the sale of Foundation products in-store helping empower girls globally. To date we have raised $3.1 million dollars which has funded projects tackling bullying in Australia, building resilience and confidence in New Zealand youth and providing reusable sanitary wear to some of the 4 million girls in South Africa who don’t have access to this.
We’re seeing a real societal movement toward women’s empowerment (finally!). How does the Supré Foundation work toward making girls feel empowered and supported?
When Cotton On acquired Supré we had the unique opportunity to utilise the group’s longstanding philanthropic framework to give back to our girl. The first thing we did was ask our customer and team members what issues resonated the most with them. Overwhelmingly, in Australia, they came back with mental health, specifically bullying, with 1 in 4 teenagers reporting they had been bullied in the last 12 months and 1 in 5 young women have experienced image based abuse. This motivated us to partner with headspace on the launch of our Bullying. So Not Ok.campaign tackling bullying and subsequently, with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation on Share This! Image Based Bullying So Not Ok. speaking to image-based bullying more specifically. By the end of June 2019, we will have funded the delivery of 401 in-school workshops nationally and distributed in excess of 320,000 booklets tackling both bullying and image-based bullying.
Talk to us about girlfriends and the importance of female friendships.
This is a lifeline. For our teenage girls, female friendships can be the support they need that helps them navigate one of the trickiest times of their lives. Personally, my female friends have been instrumental in allowing me to grow and evolve into the person I am today. The importance of female friends is priceless.
How do you think we can try to foster beautiful female friendships in our daughters? Particularly when adolescence can be such an emotionally tumultuous time?
Lead by example. Teach her to support her friends and the value of working together. From a young age show her that we are so much stronger when we support each other and operate in a world of collaboration, not competition. Instilling trust and respect is incredibly important. Without trust, there is no conversation and it is the conversations that cement all our relationships. Spending time doing the simple things with your children allows the space for these conversations to start. Having a picnic, looking at the sky at night, wondering at the beauty of this world together. There is so much going on in their magical minds and it’s sometimes, only in moments of peace, that they will let us into this. Watching both my children, even at the young ages of four and six, develop their own sense of independence and voice reminds me how time moves so quickly. I hope that as they grow they will witness my friendships and their importance in our world and this will set them up as they go through life.
How do you embrace these same messages of empowerment and support in the Supré office, with such a high proportion of female employees?
We deliver the empowerment message in all facets of our business. From team induction to marketing and product, we are aware of the messaging we put out into the world, understanding the power of our voice. Our teams are passionate and committed; they are without a doubt our greatest ambassadors. We give our community a platform, celebrating moments such as IWD with initiatives like the Power Project. We use our voice for good. We offer flexible working hours, through our ‘empower hours’ program, offering employees flexibility in working hours. Many of our team are parents and work 4-day weeks, including our General Manager, Jodie Bongetti, who has a beautiful 3-year-old daughter and absolutely understands the challenges working mums face. We offer a bespoke ‘Returnity’ program for parents returning from maternity leave designed to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible. We offer heavily subsidised gym memberships, financial planning and regular health checks. Supporting working parents and empowering our teams through a positive work/life balance is something we take very seriously – the list is endless! To welcome our team members every day, as you enter our clubhouse (affectionate term for our office), the first thing you see is a huge neon sign, ’We believe in the Power of Girls’. Everything we do is directed towards this purpose.
What tips do you have for mothers to employ a really strong self esteem in their daughters?
Teach your daughters that success comes with hard work, that they are equal and worthy. There is a phenomenon called ‘Imposter Syndrome’, where one believes they are a fraud and they do not deserve their success. It is particularly prevalent amongst high achieving women. My hope is this does not exist by the time my daughter reaches adulthood. I am a strong believer in empowering people, be there to support and guide but encourage and inspire them to dream big and believe anything is possible. One of my favourite quotes of all time, is ‘Little girls with dreams become big girls with vision”. Teach them to be proud of their individuality, celebrate it and never ever be afraid to fail. They are loved unreservedly. Teach them that they are human, a gift that comes with incredible beauty and equal challenges, but it is being human that will allow them to scale mountains and conquer the world. As a mother, believe in yourself and they will see this and learn from you.
Can you tell us about your resources? How can we find out more and get these into the hands of our girls?
The Bullying. So Not Ok. and Share This! booklets are available free in any Supré store or downloadable online with further information available at www.bullyingsonotok.comin addition to this. We also respond to almost daily requests from schools, community groups, youth organisations and sporting clubs for copies of the booklets which we happily facilitate. The in-school programs are running across Australia and if anyone has any concerns and would like further support, we suggest reaching out to Headspace and Alannah and Madeline Foundation for support directly.
Finally, can you tell us a little about the work you’re doing internationally?
It’s hard to believe New Zealand has the highest female youth suicide rate in any Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country. We knew what we had to tackle this and as a result, committed to fund the Graeme Dingle Foundation in the delivery of life-changing programs to kids in Papakura. The programs focus on building confidence, self-esteem, resilience and life skills throughout six schools. We have seen an outstanding impact including attendance rates jumping by 7% and a decrease from 20 incidents (fighting, bullying & reported incidents) in term 1 down to 6 in term 4 in one school alone. In South Africa, around four million girls do not have access to sanitary wear and as a result, miss school for a week of every month when they are on their cycle. We are currently working with Dignity Dreams to fund the creation and distribution of reusable sanitary packs to help keep girls in school and fund menstrual health education sessions when we hand these out. To date, we have delivered 2,500 packs to schools in South Africa.
What’s next for Supré and the Supré Foundation?
As a brand, Supré will continue to focus on our customer, delivering on our vision to create the ultimate world for our girl to live in – whether it’s via our Supré Foundation initiatives globally and locally or her shopping experience with us in-store and digitally. Wherever she is, we want to be, using our voice and platforms to spread a positive and empowering message.