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“No borders, just horizons”

Belstaff celebrates #BalanceforBetter with words of wisdom from our pioneering icons

Our proud association with inspirational women goes back almost a century, to the pioneering spirit of aviators Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart. It might seem commonplace now, but back then, Belstaff’s decision to dress women as well as men was a move that had our commitment to equality at its core.

We have always recognised that an adventurous spirit doesn’t have a gender, and today it remains as true as ever. Modern-day Belstaff icons such as aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor, survival expert Megan Hine, architect and round-the-world motorcyclist Elspeth Beard and racing car driver Katarina Kyvalova are all women who are changing the gender landscape in their own way and on their own terms.

So what better way to celebrate #BalanceforBetter and the International Women’s Day theme of gender equality, than to focus on the achievements and the wisdom of our female brand ambassadors past and present?

“There’s more to life than being a passenger.”

These are words that American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart lived by. Not content to simply go along for the ride, she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928. Earlier still, in 1921, she was one of the first supporters of US legislation to give equal rights to women. In 2019, it has yet to be ratified.

“What did I do when I found a job beyond my strength? At first I used to fetch a real man engineer, and if he couldn’t do the job he’d fetch some tool that would. I soon learned that it saved time to fetch the tool right away.”

The wry wit of of British pilot Amy Johnson carries with it an important message of self-reliance that is as true today as it was then. It was a trait that helped her become the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930, and from London to Cape Town in 1932.

Aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor, who has followed in the footsteps of these aviation giants, recreating Amy Johnson’s solo flight to Australia, among others, has travelled even further in her bid to promote balance. Her focus is the male-dominated aviation world, where she has built an outreach programme designed to encourage more young women into the field.

“So much of recorded history has excluded women and undervalued their contribution.” Tracey says. “Mentoring is a way of connecting personally and encouraging by example. The most powerful element is showing how others also struggled and prevailed against the odds.”

Survival consultant Megan Hine is no stranger to prevailing against the odds. She has been caught in the cross-fire of remote, warring tribes, been bitten by poisonous snakes and stalked by big-cat predators. Confounding expectations is nothing new to her:

“Male clients had never seen a woman in the position I was in. I saw this as a great opportunity to prove that actions speak louder than words. By them seeing me there, doing my thing, working hard, it sowed the seed of change in their minds.”

Another point made elegantly, and often, in Megan’s extraordinary career, is that gender balance also means valuing the strength in difference.

“My gender often makes me appear non-threatening and has given me access to areas my male colleagues aren’t allowed to go. This ability to be underestimated, which at one point in my career frustrated me, I see now almost as a super power.”

Award-winning architect and adventurer Elspeth Beard was similarly self-reliant when undertaking her round-the-world motorcycle journey in 1982. She stripped down and completely rebuilt the engine of her 1974 BMW bike before she left. Knowing the bike inside out meant she could carry out any repair herself, however the possibility of mechanical failure wasn’t the only obstacle she faced…

“As a female motorcyclist in the early 1980s, I often came up against prejudice. You have to have total belief in yourself and your abilities, I learnt to ignore the comments and not get distracted, it’s essential to stay focused.”

Focus has also been key for Katarina Kyvalova, whether on the race circuit or in a rally car. A founding member of the Bentley Belles, the only all-female team to compete in a Bentley, Katarina has also levelled the playing field while raising the bar by taking a podium place at Goodwood Revival in the Freddie March Memorial Trophy, alongside co-driver Phil Keen.

“The most adventurous thing I have done,” says Slovakian-born racing driver Katarina Kyvalova, “was a 24-hour race.” The race she’s referring to is the Benjafields 24, a gruelling endurance event for pre-war cars, in which she competed with her racing team, The Bentley Belles. “The first all-female team ever – so that was quite something,” she adds.

Each of these women has embarked on a personal adventure that has impacted the wider world in an incredible way. Belstaff is proud to support them as they continue that journey.