Despite the fashion industry being catered towards women and portrayed as a female-oriented industry, it is actually still largely run by men. The fashion industry has been forced to address size and diversity issues but gender is often not mentioned. Statistics show that, “Only 14 percent of major brands are run by a female executive,” and “Women make up more than 70 percent of the total workforce, yet hold less than 25 percent of leadership positions in top fashion companies.” The fashion industry is substantially upheld by female dollars, but a woman's voice is many times not reflected in the business decisions. Why wouldn’t there be a woman’s point of view behind a female empowerment fashion campaign? Reasons for this are stereotypical and findings include having a family, lack of confidence, sexism and a less aggressive pursuit of promotion. However, there are extraordinary women in fashion who have helped define the industry or are continuing to be an inspiration. In order to address this inequality issue, the primary solution given is to, “Raise awareness and put HR departments on notice.” It’s about time we start holding fashion brands accountable and instead put our dollars where it matters. That’s why I decided to put together a collective list of women who are breaking barriers and owning the fashion industry right now:
Known for her iconic crescent moon print and futuristic style, Marine Serre has gained a cult following for her luxury sportswear with influences of athleisure. The 30-year-old was born in a small village in France and worked her way up to winning the LVMH Prize in 2017 that gained her international attention. Her work consists of futuristic apparel and accessories mixed with upcycling material in at least 50% of her collections.
Making Forbes’ under 30 list in ‘Art & Style’ in 2019, Kim Shui is a young designer making a name for herself with provocative designs inspired by her Chinese ethnicity. She even described one of her collections as “Ming Dynasty meets Eurotrash.” Shui has been criticized for non-Chinese wearing her designs, as some see it as cultural appropriation, but her response is, “It’s not making fun of anyone. It’s more appreciation than anything else. One of the most important things for me has been bringing people of different backgrounds together.”
Iris Van Herpen
Iris Van Herpen is an avant-garde fashion designer, known for her innovative designs and haute couture quality. Van Herpen introduced 3D printing into the fashion industry and is famous for pushing the boundaries. Her inspiration comes from organic sources and tries to connect science and fashion.
The Chinese-Australian is now the youngest editor-in-chief at Vogue at only 27 years old. Margaret Zhang is a photographer, stylist, writer, creative director and consultant, but throughout her career she has worked with high-profile brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. She has now taken over the role of editor-in-chief at Vogue China and plans on showcasing people with purpose and opinions.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner
From an intern in the fashion closets at Teen Vogue to becoming the youngest editor-in-chief at a Condé Nast magazine, Lindsay Peoples Wagner recently rejoined the style and culture magazine, The Cut as their editor-in-chief. Her previous experience at The Cut includes writing an examination of being Black in the fashion industry. This helped her make inclusion her top priority as editor-in-chief.
Known for revolutionizing punk fashion in the 70’s, Vivienne Westwood still continues to emulate her BDSM inspired designs that have garnered a cult following. Being a long-standing activist, her collections consist of her political stances with the recent focusing on climate change, nuclear disarmament and civil rights.
Aurora James is the founder and creative director of her own independent brand, Brother Vellies. The brand gained momentum for their artisanal footwear and handbags. James is an activist in real life and showcases this in her business as well. Her focus is on sustainability and uplifting Black-owned businesses. In the past year, James started the 15 Percent Pledge, which calls upon retailers to devote 15% of their shelf space for Black-owned businesses.