Due to Women’s History Month 2021. Influential Women Designers Who Left the Mark on Fashion History
Let’s start with a Brief History of Women’s History Month. Before we get into the history of female fashion designers we should discuss what women’s history month is all about and how it came to be. Women’s history month started out as international women’s day in the early 1900s, which later became international women’s month. National women’s day was originally at the end of February and signified a day when suffragettes and socialists met. The day became international women’s day when it was moved to March 8th in order to line up with an international conference for women. This then snowballed into the month of March being declared a month to commemorate women’s history.
Why Do We Celebrate Women’s History Month?
We celebrate women’s history month to pay tribute to all who fought and continue to fight for equal rights for women globally. Whether this means remembering the women who fought for the right to vote, the right to choose, the right to own land, or the right to fair pay. It is also a time to consider what still remains unequal in this world. If we take a look at women’s fashion history, we can see that it’s been a long journey to get to the place it is today. Despite how far we’ve come in the fashion world, female designers are not at equal footing with male designers, even in the designing of clothing for women. At any given fashion week, the percentage of female designers ranges from around 30% at the lowest and around 47% at the highest. Fashion weeks that have more traditional and old school shows are more likely to be skewed closer to 70% male fashion designers, and even the more new age fashion weeks with the highest number of female designers like the New York City Fashion week still have men at a majority with 53% of the designers in show being male. While this number is not yet even in a field where the audience and market is predominantly women, there is something to be said about how close to even the fashion weeks with more emerging and younger designers have come. Marvelously talented and iconic women in fashion like Stella McCartney and Vera Wang have made huge names for themselves despite the challenging atmosphere of the fashion world.
Famous Women in Fashion Design
During this women’s history month of 2021, let’s take some time to recognize the stunning female fashion designers who have brought women and women designers to record highs. These famous female fashion designers are some of the most influential to the fashion industry.
The first female fashion designer is unknown, but women have been in the world of fashion since the beginning of time. Some people would say Madeline Chéruit, who designed dresses masterfully in the 1880s was the first, but this would be disregarding the countless designers of clothing and creative apparel since the beginning of civilization. Famous fashion designers female and male alike, are well known for their ability to make something influential, creative, new, and high quality. Here are some of the most influential female fashion designers and famous women’s clothing designers who happen to be female!
Vera Wang is a household name and one of the most inspiring and successful famous female clothing designers in the fashion cannon. She has a corner of the bridal wear market, making her a top womens dress designer that is a must for every bride to be to look into for their wedding day. When it comes to giving advice to women in any industry, she says to uplift other women, not intimidate them, and to go into a field that you are passionate about so that it helps you through the difficulties of life. It is easy to see how passionate Vera Wang is about fashion design, as she has made a huge success for herself in her life.
Coco Chanel, born in 1883 as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, is one of the most pivotal and successful female fashion designers in history. This famous female designer from France spearheaded the brand Chanel which is still a wildly successful brand name to this day. The CC trademark which has been in fashion since the 1920s can be seen on handbags, earrings, shoes, dresses and sunglasses to signify the quality and fashion sense of the Chanel brand. Chanel no.5 is an extremely popular fragrance and Coco Chanel has been credited for the “little black dress,” a timeless trend. While Chanel is still a popular luxury brand and top womens designer, there is controversy over Coco Chanel herself. Coco Chanel is most famous for being one of the most famous women designers and was also a Nazi sympathizer, leading many people to boycott or avoid purchasing her designs and merchandize. While Coco Chanel has died and is no longer part of the Chanel brand, her name is still the emblem of the company, so many still protest the success of a known antisemite.
Famous womens designers like Vivenne Westwood have made a huge impact on the fashion world. Known as an important figurehead of the punk era, and a prolific designer of many fashion lines, she is of the famous women fashion designer cannon. Quotes by her surrounding feminism and femininity read “I think feminists are unaware of the tremendous extent of the role of women in history.” and “It is not possible for a man to be elegant without a touch of femininity.”
Stella McCartney of the United Kingdom is only 49 years old, but has made a huge name for herself as one of the most famous female clothing designers of this era. She is the child of Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Musician, photographer and animal rights activist Linda McCartney. Stella McCartney is known for her avid animal rights activism which she channels in her fashion design work. As one of the top women’s designers McCartney has recently worked in collaboration with Adidas and PETA.
For more inspiration, the number of outstanding and successful female designers is high, so check out these important names.
- Jeanne Lanvin
- Madeleine Vionnet
- Claire McCardell
- Jeanne Paquin
- Elsa Schiaparelli
- Mary Quant
- Sonia Rykiel
- Elsa Peretti
- Carolina Herrera
- Betsey Johnson
- Donna Karan
- Sarah Burton
- Alberta Ferretti
- Phoebe Philo
- Diane von Furstenberg
- Chitose Abe of Sacai
- Vivenne Westwood
- Jil Sander
- Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte
- Consuelo Castiglioni of Marni
- Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row
- Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons
- Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior
- Donatella Versace
- Miuccia Prada
- Yoon Ahn
- Isabel Marant
The Difficulty of the Fashion Industry for Female Designers
When many people think of fashion, thoughts of women’s designer brands and women’s designer clothing comes to mind. When you think of famous fashion designers names, how many female designer names come to mind? Despite fashion being an industry that is propped up by women, it is not an industry in which women have equal footing with men in leadership or higher up roles. There are far fewer top women fashion designers than there are top men fashion designers, but those in the industry find it difficult to decipher how to make positive change. While an astounding 100% of women interviewed responded that sexism prevents women from making progress in the fashion industry, only 50% of men see sexism as a problem. This could be due to the amount of women working in fashion generally, but few of those women make the same strides to the top of the industry as men do. There are also issues of advertisements and optics without true representation. People see how many women and women’s designer names are holding up the fashion industry and assume that these women are integrated in all of the sectors of the fashion industry. Women are the face of fashion, they spend up to three times more on fashion than men, and they are the target audience of most fashion advertisements, however the majority of people at the top are men. There are a few reasons for this. Some people look at the gender wage gap or the fact that there are more men than women in higher paying positions and assume it is at least partly due to differences in interest, lifestyle, and ambition. However a recent study of the “glass runway” in the fashion industry shows stats that point to the fact that sexism resulting in gender inequality in the industry is the biggest culprit. Women in fashion school reported an equal amount of ambition to their male counterparts and are more likely to, however looking at the people at the top of the industry, men are twice as likely to get a promotion to a higher up position when they ask for one and three times more likely to get a promotion without asking. The Glass Runway report has preliminary planning on how to make progress towards eliminating barriers for women to succeed in fashion, pointing towards first steps to revamping the way the industry runs at the top to make it in better accordance with equality.
How do Fashion Corporations Support Women?
As difficult as the process of progression in the name of women’s equality can be, there are initiatives fashion labels and corporations are taking to support women and their careers in the fashion industry.
Maria Grazia Chiuri started the [email protected] initiative for women in fashion in 2017. This program is a year long mentorship opportunity for young women who are studying business, marketing, fashion and art. Women who have been awarded the mentorship like Camilla Bani have praised the program for how much real life experience and knowledge they gained from the program. Whether this experience be working with top women clothing designers and famous women in fashion or going into warehouses to understand the true details and work that goes into making the products created in fashion houses like Dior, the experience to be gained is priceless. Bani stated in an interview that these initiatives are what has made a real impact on gender equality in the fashion world, noting that until very recently only 20% of managerial positions were filled by women in fashion, and that these sorts of initiatives by top female designers have really made a difference.
The Cartier women’s initiative award is an extremely generous granting program for women by the luxury maison Cartier. This award grants seven designer women with $100,000 to follow through with innovative creative endeavors. The grant also awards 14 finalists with grants of 30,000. While the women who are awarded these grants are typically not women’s fashion designers, they are women in their respective fields who are entrepreneurs of innovative ideas which will benefit all of humanity including top women designers and feminine fashions consignment. Women who were awarded the prize in 2021 include women from all over the globe who are entrepreneurs of projects that benefit the environment through sustainable technology, global access to healthcare and education for women. In addition to notoriety and funds for their projects, this award also provides a community and networking connections to applicants, even those who are not awarded grant money. To read more about the Cartier Women’s Initiative check out this Forbes article on the project and the way the pandemic shaped this year’s awards.
L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards
The L’Oréal-UNESCO program for the pioneering of women in science is a program created in collaboration with female designer brands L’Oréal partnered with UNESCO. This program awards outstanding women in the field of science and research as laureates of the program, having awarded 117 women since the project’s inception, five of whom went on to win Nobel prizes. This award is internationally applied to and internationally recognized as doing important work to give opportunity and recognition to women who have a passion for scientific research in a world where only 30% of the research field is female. On the website for the program, the quote “We cannot afford to deprive ourselves of the talents of half of humanity: women advance science, and science advances the world.” gives us all some important food for thought.
Max Mara Art Prize for Women
Max Mara is a fashion label that employs some of the top women’s designers in the world. Their initiative called the Max Mara Art Prize for Women was started in 2005 and awards one female artist biannually with their prize. The winning artist will be given a residency for 6 months in Italy to realize a new creation and will be able to show their work in the Whitechapel Gallery in the United Kingdom as well as the Collezione Maramotti in Italy.