Yesterday was International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Across the world, women unite to recognise the outstanding creativity and power of women across history and in present day. In fashion, iconic female figures have inspired us to chase our dreams, break the rules, and redefine what is it to be a women in society. We’re taking a look at some of the most outstanding women in the fashion industry, both the past and present…
Coco Chanel is one of the most innovative and influential designers of all time. She revolutionised the way women wore clothes, freeing them from restrictive corsets and skirts. Starting out during WWI, she gave women more wearable, sleek clothing that moved away from the flouncy and impractical fashions before. Her little black dress, tweed jacket, and tailored suits are still symbols of elegance in fashion today. Chanel was the first designer to borrow from menswear for women’s attire. The Chanel suit – a collarless boxy wool jacket and slimline skirt – was the perfect choice for the post-war woman who was trying to build a career in the male-dominated workplace. It became a favourite style of powerful women like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and Grace Kelly. To learn more about Coco Chanel’s life and career, watch Anne Fontaine’s beautiful film Coco Before Chanel.
Elsa Schiaparelli was a huge competitor with Chanel, as they both worked between the two World Wars. Born in Italy, but creating fashion for figures across the world, Schiaparelli’s name has been forgotten by many. Despite being less remembered than Chanel though, she was one of the most innovative designers of her time, and often regarded as bolder than the Chanel house. The signature Schiaparelli hand-knit trompe l’oeil sweater put her on the fashion map in 1927. She used fashion for experimentation and freedom of expression. Her nonconformist designs including wild colours and unique fabrics. Schiaparelli often collaborated with artists, and in 1937 she worked with Salvador Dali to create “The Lobster Dress”, a white silk evening gown featuring a crimson waistband and a painted lobster on the skirt. Her unique style landed her a cover for TIME magazine, she was the first female fashion designer to ever earn the honour.
Twiggy is an iconic figure of the ’60s. Her pixie haircut and big doe-eyes with painted eyelashes were unique to the traditional norms of beauty. She was declared one of the first supermodels in 1968, and was also one of the first models to portray an androgynous look. Twiggy’s legacy celebrates individuality.
Dame Vivienne Westwood is the ultimate nonconformist of the past few decades. She merged high fashion and punk in a riot of colour and unique shapes. Holes, safety pins, dog collars, studs, skulls and her iconic tartan pattern paved a new way for high-end designers to consider fashion. Westwood is also an extremely vocal and inspiring activist, fighting everything from human rights, animals rights, climate change, and supports a variety of different important charities. Westwood has never been afraid to stand up against all odds to be in honest and fight for what she believes in. Her nonconformist style mirrors her bold and brave stance against the injustices of the government and the world.
Stella McCartney is both designer and activist, she uses fashion to make social and political statements. As a lifelong vegetarian and animals rights supporter, McCartney has always used vegan materials for her clothing. She creates her collections using eco-friendly methods and is extremely outspoken about animal rights and taking care of the planet. What’s more, McCartney lays importance on wearable fashion. She focuses on clothing that looks good on real people, not just the models on the runway. McCartney continues to inspire us with her forward-thinking designs and activist speaking.
Anna Wintour needs little introduction, she sits at the head of the fashion industry. As long-standing Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Wintour transformed the magazine into a cultural phenomenon. High fashion became popularised for new generations of women and she made fashion a lifestyle. Vogue is like a fashion bible and Wintour is the ultimate power woman. She’s independent, and inspires us that women can sit at the top of the industry and have a great influence on many.
Winnie Harlow is a 22-year-old Canadian model who celebrates uniqueness and diversity. At the age of four, she was diagnosed with Vitiligo, a skin condition that causes white patches to develop. Even if you’re not a model in the public eye, looking different can be tough, but Harlow reminds us that our differences make us unique and beautiful.
There are endless inspirational women we could discuss. The female influence in the fashion world is strong and continues to grow each year. Who is an inspiring female icon for you? Let us know in the comments below.