The fashion industry has been shaped by countless influential women over the years, from designers and models to entrepreneurs and activists. Here at Jeetly, to celebrate International Womens Day, we're taking a look at some of the most influential women in the fashion industry. These 10 inspiring women have all in their own way changed the sector for the better, paving the way for women to be seen and heard, increasing inclusivity, calling out injustice and bringing sustainability to the forefront of the fashion revolution.
1. Diane von Furstenberg - A Belgian-born fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg is best known for her iconic wrap dress, which was first introduced in the 1970s. The shape is the perfect silhouette for all shapes and sizes and is as relevant now as it was 50 years ago! Not only did she create one of the most timeless dress shapes - perfect for a petite capsule wardrobe, Diane von Furstenberg has been a vocal advocate for women's rights and empowerment, creating the DVF awards, a platform used to recognise women empowering other women within the industry.
2. Bethann Hardison - Starting her career as a model in the 1960s, Bethann became one of the first Black models to work in Paris, modelling for several top fashion houses and designers, including Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, and Halston. Shifting focus in the 80's to co-found the Black Girls Coalition and later founded the Bethann Management modelling agency, which aimed to promote diversity in the industry. In 2013, Hardison launched the highly effective 'Balance Diversity' campaign, which called out designers and brands for their lack of diversity in runway shows.
3. Sophia Amoruso -An American entrepreneur, best known as the founder of Nasty Gal. A high school drop out who built a multi million dollar company from her small apartment all before the age of 30 is now a New York Times best selling author with her book '#GIRLBOSS' inspiring a whole generation of young female entrepreneurs. Sophia now pledges to invest $1 million into small businesses and founded Business Class a platform to mentor female entrepreneurs. Amoruso has been recognised as one of the most influential people in fashion by Forbes and one of the richest self-made women in America by Forbes' List of America's Richest Self-Made Women, now looking to pass on her wealth and knowledge to a new generation of business owners.
4. Stella McCartney - A British fashion designer and animal rights activist, launched her eponymous label in 2001. The brand is known for its sustainable and ethical approach to fashion, using eco-friendly materials and production methods. This conscious approach to design and manufacture has resulted in the designer receiving numerous awards for her contributions to sustainable fashion, including the OBE in 2013. Her dedication to sustainability and ethical fashion has earned her a reputation as a leader in the industry, and her brand continues to be celebrated for its innovative and responsible approach to fashion.
5. Aja Barber - An American writer, stylist, and consultant, now living in London, known for her advocacy of sustainable and ethical fashion. Known for her insightful and thought-provoking writing on fashion and sustainability, Barber has worked in the fashion industry for over a decade and has seen firsthand the negative impact of fast fashion on both people and the environment. As a result, she has become a vocal advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion practices, promoting the use of eco-friendly materials, fair labor practices, and the rejection of the throwaway culture associated with fast fashion.
6. Orsola De Castro - A sustainable fashion pioneer, designer, and activist who has made significant contributions to the ethical fashion movement. De Castro co-founded the upcycling label "From Somewhere" with Filippo Ricci in 1997, which produced high-end fashion pieces using leftover fabrics from large fashion houses. In 2016, in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013,De Castro co-founded Fashion Revolution, a global movement campaigning for fair pay and workers rights for garment workers, seeking to promote change in the fashion industry's ethics and sustainability.
7. Vera Wang - An American fashion designer best known for her bridal gowns and haute couture designs. Wang started her career in fashion as an editor at Vogue magazine before moving on to Ralph Lauren as their womenswear design director. In 1990, at the age of 40 after thinking to herself "I thought maybe it’s just too late for me," Wang started her own fashion line specialising in her signature bridal wear styles which have been worn by celebrities and high fashion lovers all over the world. After 2 decades in the business, Wang expanded her range of wedding dresses to include plus size styles ranging from a size 16-26. Wang's perseverance of her career in an ageist society and inclusion of different body shapes shows that fashion is for everyone, no matter age or size.
8. Livia Firth - A British-Italian film producer, sustainability advocate, and founder of Eco-Age, a consultancy company that helps businesses and brands become more sustainable. Firth is known for her work promoting sustainable fashion and ethical manufacturing practices. She is a member of the Sustainability Committee of the British Fashion Council and has collaborated with numerous fashion brands, including Chopard and Gucci, to promote sustainability and social responsibility. Firth has received numerous awards for her advocacy work, including the UN Leader of Change Award and the Rainforest Alliance Award. She continues to be a leading voice in the sustainability movement, working to create a more ethical and environmentally conscious fashion industry.
9. Comet Chukura - Founder of ath-leisure brand Glow, a company that combines fashion and functionality creating reflective knitwear using natural, renewable and biodegradable fibers. Combining her passions as a designer, women's advocate and cyclist into one venture. Comet employs women from marginalised backgrounds in her local area to hand-make each piece, providing a stable work environment and empowering lives that many may overlook. The very nature of the light reflective properties of the yarn allows the company to champion road safety at night allowing more commuters to choose greener modes of transport and thus decreasing their environmental impact. Chukura really is leading the way for the fashion industry to look good and do good.
10. Heidi Kaluza - Once a fast fashion influencer, Heidi is now an advocate for the slow fashion movement. Also known as @the_rogue_essentails Heidi aims to break the cycle that trendy brands are pushing. She wants to prove that re-wearing clothing is rewarding in multiple ways — it’s eco-friendly, comfortable, cost-effective, and cruelty-free. Helping people with her content to change their habits to help our planet.
This list is by no means extensive, there are so many women past and present who have helped shape the fashion industry for the better. There is still a long way to go but if these women are anything to go by, where there is a woman, there is magic!