Disrupting the Fashion Industry: Breaking Gender Barriers

It started with a local human connection in Berlin and led to a small, sustainable fashion brand reaching thousands of H&M customers. The UN Women Industry Disruptor was the catalyst.

Mirjam Grupp is the woman behind Wearable Poetry, a sustainable fashion brand that prints and embroiders self-love poetry on existing garments, inspiring people to love themselves and join the circular fashion movement.

A writer and designer, Mirjam created the first Wearable Poetry piece to support herself through a challenging period. She now spreads that message of self-love to others, combining sustainable fashion with emotional support. “Lean on me” is embroidered in soft velvet on the shoulder of a sweatshirt. “Open 24/7” is stitched above the heart of an upcycled shirt.


Along with 230 other women across Europe and India, Mirjam participated in the UN Women Industry Disruptor in partnership with The DO. The program provides women entrepreneurs working in gender-equitable, sustainable fashion and lifestyle with the opportunity to engage with multinational brands, investors, and mentors to scale through e-commerce, funding, and collaboration opportunities. 

Through the program, Mirjam developed her relationship with Head of H&Mbeyond, Oliver Lange, who she had previously met through an H&M space for local Berlin designers. H&Mbeyond is an open innovation retail lab working to create sustainable products.

Mirjam and Oliver’s connection led to the Self-love to Wear pop-up series in Berlin H&M stores, where customers could create Wearable Poetry prints on either their own clothing or purchased  garments and attend self-love workshops.

Oliver says H&Mbeyond is on a journey to break down barriers. “Mirjam and I met locally. We connected first as humans and created an understanding of what Mirjam was trying to express to see how we might help. I loved her mission and felt H&M customers should see her products.”

The relationship between Wearable Poetry and H&Mbeyond built over time. The UN Women Industry Disruptor created the opportunity for it to flourish. Mirjam raised the idea during a speed networking session. It took months to move from idea to prototype to launch. Usually, the tenacity this requires of an entrepreneur and corporate partner means good ideas might not see the light of day, but Mirjam and Oliver were determined and the UN Women Industry Disruptor provided a formal structure.

Mirjam is not alone. Women entrepreneurs tend to have less access to decision makers in large companies. According to the World Bank Group’s latest Global Findex report, more than 70% of women-owned enterprises have inadequate or no access to financing. These social and financial capital challenges make it an uphill climb for women-owned enterprises.

Mirjam says the validation, alongside the entrepreneurial training she received through the UN Women Industry Disruptor was invaluable.

"When you’re beginning your entrepreneurial journey, you need feedback. That H&M recognized and supported my work was truly important for me at that point in my journey. By presenting the self-love prints in their stores, I could connect with customers person-to-person and learn what they loved about the prints and what their wishes were.”


Following the collaboration, H&Mbeyond is showcasing Mirjam’s Wearable Poetry to their partners worldwide. Mirjam is working on releasing NFTs and collaborating with another female entrepreneur who she met during the UN Women Industry Disruptor program.

Through H&Mbeyond, Oliver is dedicated to providing local creators with more opportunities.

“The UN Women Industry Disruptor plays a vital role in making this happen - creating a space for entrepreneurs and large fashion brands to develop relationships, working on social and environmental challenges together. If we can create thousands of Mirjams who get the little push they need at just the right moment, we can break down barriers across the globe.”

Learn more about Wearable Poetry.

All photos in the article credited to Dominika Diandini.

Thank you to our partners

The UN Women Industry Disruptor is supported by UN Women and the European Union. A special thank you to all our partners who make the program possible.

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Do you have a business, project or initiative that is improving our planet? We invite YOU to get on Die Neue Welt map! Spread awareness for your work on a global stage, connect with like-minded people and inspire others to take action.

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