The Activist Muse Every Fashion Girl Is Following on Instagram

What does it take to be the next big thing? Whether you say innovation, irreverence, or lots of flash, it’s undeniably the elusive It factor—that can’t-look-away but also can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it instinct. And we’re doubling down for It Girl, It Brand, our latest series, speaking to who and what is on the edge of being huge.

This time around, we have a powerful pairing befitting our August editorial theme, #WeAreWomen: activist and Female Collective founder Candace Reels and sustainable accessories label Brother Vellies. Both set on spotlighting the work and stories of women around the globe, these changemakers are a fashion match made in heaven.

Not even five minutes into my interview with Candace Reels, I learn a valuable lesson: Life is too short to do anything other than what you love. The Los Angeles native was 26 when she had her what-am-I-doing-with-my-life existential moment. Unhappy with her job at the time and lacking any kind of inspiration, she knew it was time to hit the refresh button. Enter the Female Collective, a platform born out of Reels’ passion for activism and intersectional feminism. More than just a blog, Female Collective is a digital community empowering women to come together, tell their stories, and bring awareness to the issues that matter to them most. “We are so much better working together than separately,” says Reels of the driving force behind FC. “There are so many things that separate us, but if we can use all of those things and work to equalize all playing fields for all women, it’s just much better for the world and all of us.”

When Reels isn’t advocating for women’s rights, curating her feed with motivational messages, or working on exciting products and collaborations for FC (you can catch her at Create and Cultivate’s Chicago conference August 25!), she is inspiring us in a different way: with her spirited approach to fashion. Never one to shy away from bold color combos, a statement-making chapeau, or intriguing layers, Reels has a personal style as refreshing as her stance on feminism.

Below, see Reels in some of Brother Vellies’s most exciting pieces and get to know the activist as she talks about the biggest lessons she’s learned from her FC community, her fashion idols, and the Target purchase she can’t stop wearing.

Photographer: Paley Fairman | Photography Assistant: Anthony Espino | Market Editor: Michelle Scanga