Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design has recognised its first Honorary Fellow, Laura Winson, the visionary founder of Zebedee Talent Agency.
Zebedee launched in 2017 as an inclusive talent agency championing diversity in fashion and media in the UK, US, Australia, and South Africa. The company represents more than five hundred models with disabilities, and visual differences, or are members of the trans and non-binary communities.
CEO of Condé Nast College, Nick Isles, says, “This year sees a new step being taken in the life of our College and that is the inauguration of our first Honorary Fellow. We have created the Honorary Fellowship to recognise people in the industry who are making or have made, an outstanding contribution to changing the industry for the better. For our inaugural Fellow, we chose Laura because she is expanding our horizons and opening up the industry to diverse perspectives in every way possible. Put simply, she is making a difference.”
Laura explained to the students how Zebedee had come into being. “My sister-in-law Zoe and I were just having a chat one day about the lack of representation in fashion – how disabled people were excluded, how they didn’t have access to an agency; and this was 2017. Even a few years ago, it really was very, very rare, almost unheard of to see anybody with a disability represented in any advertising, or in any form of media. We just had a light bulb moment and thought if there wasn’t anyone there to represent disabled people then why don’t we go ahead and do it, advocate for their needs, and drive social change and drive industry change? We now represent people with disabilities, people who have visible differences and people who are trans or non-binary. Fashion and media reach everybody in society, and as such, you want to see people who look like you and represent you. All people should have equality of opportunity. This impacts their feelings of self-worth. It impacts their families and communities. Representation makes for a kinder, and more inclusive society.”
Zebedee’s impact on the industry has been such that the company’s impressive client list includes big names like Gucci, Fenty Beauty, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry and Estée Lauder, as well as big High Street brands like River Island Primark and M&S. She says, “We didn’t set this up as a business, we set it up to try and change the industry.”
Having expressed her gratitude for receiving the Honorary Fellowship, Laura had a message for the students. “It’s really important for me to be talking to you today. Young people and students often have an innate enthusiasm for social justice, and looking at how to make the world a better place. You guys are the decision-makers and power players of tomorrow, and ethical practice, whether it be sustainability or inclusion must run through your work. Don’t be afraid to have important conversations with your colleagues and managers, or if you’re looking to be a business owner in the future, think carefully about how you can ensure that your company values are ones to be proud of.”