March the 8th is annually International Women’s Day and what better way to celebrate than looking at the most iconic women in fashion, music, literature and film?
This years’ theme as decided by the UN is ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity, Picture it!’ whilst the dedicated hashtag ‘Make It Happen’ will
be the official mantra of the event. It’s difficult not to feel inspired by the buzz of empowerment for women everywhere this year; from Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars on pay-gap equality to Dolce and Gabbana’s dedicated fashion collection for mothers and motherhood – this years’ International Women’s Day truly celebrates everything feminine. Here’s a run-down of the women in fashion who inspire us here at B Sunglasses…
Debbie Harry was one of the first front-women who proved that she could rock just as hard as the boys’ in New York born post-punk New Wave band Blondie. With her platinum blonde locks and glamourous yet grungy style; Harry had swagger, fierceness and a stunning unique voice that proved she wasn’t just a pretty face in a group of male musicians. Her edge, thrift-store bought onstage costumes, lyrics and energy placed her as one of the most iconic women in both music and fashion and even today we still hail her as a Godmother of punk, a Queen of disco and a pioneer of female rap.
Fashion may be in her blood but it wasn’t until 1978 when she was just 29 that she took on her style heritage in the form of her grandfathers luxury leather bag company, Prada. Prior to this, Miuccia (nicknamed Miu Miu by those close to her… but we’ll get to that later) had been studying for a pHd in Political Science, was a member of the Italian Communist party, had established herself as a feminist fighting in Italy for womens’ rights and had trained at the Teatra Piccolo in Milan to perform as a mime for five years. She was less than thrilled when the Prada empire was left to her however Miuccia soon turned her mind to the brand creating a multi-billion dollar business, a distinctive reputation in the fashion world and even her own spin-off brand, Miu Miu. Frequently making Forbes rich list and having won awards for her work, Miuccia Prada is one of the most influential names in fashion today.
Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam is better known by her stage name M.I.A. Born in London from Tamil-Sri Lankan heritage, M.I.A’s unmistakable sound of electronic hip-hop, reggaetron and rap have made her stand out from the crowd on the alternative music scene since the release of her first album Arular in 2007. Now a musical and cultural phenomenon, M.I.A’s unique look and political lyrics have also contributed strongly to her infamy. M.I.A has always gone against the grain from her days of studying film at Central Saint Martin’ to collaborating with Versace and performing at nine months pregnant for the 2009 Grammy’s. Her videos and lyrical content may have caused controversy but M.I.A is one woman who certainly marches to the beat of her own drum.
As eloquently put at the 2015 Golden Globes by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler “Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip…So tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award!” Though this was a joke made in good humour, Amal’s achievements are truly remarkable making her more than just George Clooney’s stunning wife. Amal was born in Beiruit and left for London with her family during the Lebanese Civil War. Whilst growing up in London she eventually attended Oxford on scholarship and graduated with a MA in Jurisprudence before attending New York University School of Law in 2000. Her career in Law has been long and prosperous – and far out-shadows her newly found ‘celebrity’ persona however with brains and beauty, impeccable style is just the cherry on the cake when it comes to Amal.
There was a distinct lack of female directors nominated at this years’ Oscars but one success story that still retains its’ poignancy is that of Sofia Coppola who is the third woman ever to be nominated for a Best Director Award and the first American woman to win the top prize of the Golden Lion award at Venice Film Festival. The grand-daughter of the accomplished The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia struck out to make it on her own as a director in 1998 and has since become one of the most admired female film directors in the business. From the Oscar winning screen-play for Lost In Translation and distinct directorial style shown in her films Marie Antoinette, Somewhere and The Virgin Suicides (as well as the campaign videos she completed for H&M’s collaboration with Marni), Coppola has proven that she is worth her salt in the arts’ world as well as her occasional dalliance with the fashion industry.
From the moment she first appeared on the silver screen, Audrey Hepburn was destined to become an icon. A trailblazer for the 1960s beatnik look and a muse to Hubert de Givenchy himself, Audrey differed from her Hollywood peers and the wasp-waisted women in the Fifties magazines of her time due to her slender ballerina physique, doe-eyed beauty and Belgian via London accent. There’s no doubt that Hepburn made her name as one of the greatest actresses of the time with her roles in Funny Face, My Fair Lady and of course, as the now iconic Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s however she was more than just a great beauty. Appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, Hepburn dedicated the rest of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest areas; working in Ethiopia, Somalia Bangladesh and much of Central America. Whilst her cemented place on the endless lists of best dressed stars and most decorated actresses of all time are certainly earned, Hepburn’s compassion and charity work truly made her one of the most inspirational women in modern history.
The punk sound popped up out of both New York and London thanks to bands like The Ramones and the Clash. However, the definite punk look was undoubtedly created by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. From their London boutique SEX (previously known as ‘Let It Rock’) on Kings Road, Cheshire-born Westwood launched a look that would change a generation by drawing inspiration from bikers and fetishists; an aggressive anti-thesis to the politics and tastes of the time . A mere few months later the Sex Pistols were born and the punk revolution took hold of London like nothing that had ever gone before. Today, Westwood still challenges the establishment with her influential designs and political spirit. Westwood, who dressed the likes of Siouxsie Sioux and Sid Vicious draws on the Regency period and pirates for her more modern collections and even once famously graced the cover of Tatler dressed as Margaret Thatcher in a move which allegedly infuriated the ‘Iron Lady’. Westwood regularly appeals for the Green party and passionately campaigns against nuclear power, ethical abuse in the fashion industry and climate change as well as being an advocate for the PETA promoting World Water Day and reduction in meat consumption. At 73, we can say that Westwood is well and trult keeping the punk rock spirit alive.
There are few women who leave such an iconic resonance as America’s most famous First Lady, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis. Having a pair of Ray Ban frames named after her is only the beginning in explaining how Jackie is a true icon . Jackie O was of course known for her impeccable ’60s style of oversize shades, Chanel suits and matching pill box hats however after her husband US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Onassis showed great bravery, dignified silence and true integrity as she withdrew her family from the public eye. After her second marriage to Aristotle Onassis, Jackie began a career in publishing at what some might consider the mature age of 40. Jackie O worked incredibly hard to preserve American cultural history and even equipped the White House with over 1500 significant works as well as supporting, editing and publishing 100 works she held dear to her. Jackie O was the epitome of the all American woman with both brains, beauty and incredible style and her image as well as her legacy lives on long after her death in 1994.
The 1970s look is returning in a big way, and whilst Debbie Harry flies the flag for the punk sensibility, Bianca Jagger echoes the glamorous Studio 54 crowd of supermodels and style icons. Born in Nicaragua, Bianca studied political science at the Paris Insititute of Political Studies before she had a chance meeting with Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jaggerin 1970. She soon became pregnant with their daughter Jade and married Jagger in St. Tropez. Whilst her divorce from Jagger, her partying reputation and jet-set lifestyle grabbed headlines, Bianca’s career as an activist served as a wake up call and she went on to found the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation as well as working with the Red Cross, the Amazon Charitable Trust and Amnesty International USA. Bianca’s politics have involved supporting the rights of women and children, indiginous peoples and protecting rain forest ecosystems from the effects of climate change. Fiercely passionate and sharp, Bianca has the look and makings of a fashion icon but her status as a Human Rights Advocate is how she intends to truly change the world.
Where do we start with Angelina Jolie? Jolie was once the wild child of Hollywood with a gothic punk rock style, tattoos and unusual past-times; not to mention incredible acting abilities which earned her countless Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. However, as her fame peaked Angelina Jolie’s public persona transformed from that of an eccentric Hollywood rising star to an established business woman who was a serious advocate of human rights, a charitable figure and a humanitarian spirit. As an Ambassador for the UN, Jolie traveled the world visiting refugee camps and donating to the cause as well as adopting her three non-biological children. Since then Jolie has spoken out for women’s rights confronting sexual violence in war zones, has publicly appealed for human rights across various nations and heavily advocates education and aid to child immigrants in developing nations. Her work as a conservationist, developing communities in the third world has won her much recognition and many awards for her efforts. As clever and compassionate as she is beautiful, Angelina Jolie is truly a unique and inspirational woman in the world of today.
Which women inspire you? Tell us in the comments below…