9 boss ladies behind the world’s biggest fashion houses
Girl power FTW
They’re fierce, they’re brilliant, they’re unstoppable. Meet the 9 boss ladies who have created a name for themselves in the fashion industry — a name that did not necessarily come from money, in Coco Chanel’s example; or, a name that did not come from fashion design, in Elsa Schiaparelli’s instance. All of these women prove that it requires grit, determination and strong willpower to get to where you want to be — and nothing can come in your way. Look at Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal, who went bankrupt, but did not give up in the face of adversity. Or, learn from Victoria Beckham, once a pop-singer with pop group Spice Girls, who took to fashion design like a fish takes to water.
And none of them has compromised on their ideals in the race to the top — fashion designer Stella McCartney, who is a vegetarian, is a pioneer in vegan and cruelty-free fashion. Meanwhile, Rei Kawakubo has stayed true to her fashion sensibilities — or shall we say anti-fashion sensibilities?
Watch, learn, take notes — these are the women who have created history and are continuing to do so. And if you read between the lines, you will see that they faced their fair share of obstacles, too.
9 powerful women who’ve helmed the world’s biggest fashion houses:
Born Maria Bianchi, Miuccia is the youngest grand-daughter of Mario Prada, the founder of the Italian label, who took over the eponymous family business back in 1978. Today, the fashion designer and businesswoman is at the helm of the design house, and the founder of its subsidiary, Miu Miu. As of 2017, the 68-year-old has an estimated net worth of Rs 260 crore.
Image courtesy: @miucciapradaarchive
Gabrielle Chanel, fondly called Coco, founded one of the most iconic French fashion houses of today. A rebel at heart, Coco heralded a new era for women back in the '20s when she banned the corset and adopted a menswear-inspired clothing style. Her signature perfume Chanel No. 5 is still in demand today. Coco didn't come from a rich background — in fact, she would sing at a cabaret to earn some income when she was not working as a seamstress. Today, however, Chanel — which has Karl Lagerfeld as its creative director — is one of the influential brands of all time.
One of Coco Chanel's biggest rivals, Elsa was an accidental fashion designer who founded her company in her own apartment in 1927. The Italian designer's first idea was of a hand-knit pullover with a black and white trompe-l’œil motif that led her down the path of success. The 1930s saw her most famous collaboration with surrealist artist Salvador Dali with whom she created the lobster-printed dress that is legendary today. In 1954, Elsa realised that the demands of haute couture had changed, and she closed down her couture shop to dedicate her time to her autobiography Shocking Life. The brand Schiaparelli was recently revived under the stewardship of Christian Lacroix.
There are few labels in the fashion world that evoke the kind of fevered reverence as Dior. But since its inception, the custodians of the brand have all been male. In 2016, Maria was appointed as the artistic director of the luxury brand Christian Dior — the first woman in 70 years to hold the position. She was hired based on her successful co-direction of the brand Valentino, which she took over in 2008 after its founder Valentino Garavani retired.
Daughter of former Beatles member Paul McCartney, Stella was born and raised in the English countryside, which fueled her interest in designing vegan and cruelty-free clothing. A staunch believer of vegetarianism, Stella refuses to use leather, fur or any animal by-products in her collections. Her brand touts its commitment to sustainability and promises to be honest and responsible in its designs.
At the age of 23, Sophia founded one of the most popular online stores on eBay that sold vintage products — Nasty Gal. In no time, the American businesswoman's brand catapulted to success, and she was called one of the richest self-made woman in the world. Soon, however, she filed for bankruptcy, and in 2017, Boohoo Group purchased Nasty Gal for Rs 2 crore. Sophia has also authored her own autobiography #girlboss, which Netflix adapted into a TV series called Girlboss.
Image courtesy: @sophiaamoruso
The designer launched her fashion label in 2004, but it was only when Oprah Winfrey endorsed Tory on her show in 2005 that she gained popularity worldwide. Since then, the busineswoman has spread her wings and expanded her brand to include ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, accessories, watches, home decor, and a fragrance and beauty collection sold in over 200 stores all over the globe. Which explains why in 2013, she became the second youngest self-made female billionaire in the US.
Image courtesy: @toryburch
With no formal training in fashion design, Rei launched Comme Des Garçons in 1973 that has become a champion and inspiration for designers around the world for its anti-fashion and deconstructed garments. The Japanese designer also founded Dover Street Market, a multi-brand retail store in London. This year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art chose Rei and her work as the theme of their Costume exhibit and prestigious Met Gala, the first time the honour was bestowed on a living designer since 1983.
Image courtesy: @kawakubosan
The former pop-star rose to fame in the '90s with her pop group Spice Girls. After the group split, the singer-cum-model dabbled in some reality shows before turning to fashion design. Victoria launched her label in 2008, and has since taken a permanent spot at New York Fashion Week. Originally known for its dresses, Victoria has expanded her label into luxury handbags, eyewear and fragrance lines. She also launched a diffusion label in 2011. This year, her New York Fashion Week presentation was the most talked-about show online.
Image courtesy: @victoriabeckham