Behind some of the oldest luxury fashion houses, there have been some of the most influential female leaders. This month we highlight three women and their unique ways they have shaped, and continue to shape, the typically male dominated fashion industry.
1. PHOEBE PHILO
You would be hard pressed to find anyone that didn’t recognize the name or her contributions to women’s fashion. During her time at Chloé and Céline, she not only resuscitated the brands themselves, but also inadvertently created a movement for women who were struggling to find their voice within an ostensibly homogeneous aesthetic. So powerful was her effect that during her stint at Céline, the term “Céline-ification” had even been coined; strong, sophisticated, impeccable, unconventional, cool, and (gasp) easy-to-wear.
But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Recent news of Philo’s decision to take a breather from the fashion world stung, but we should be reminded that this move actually demonstrates why we’d always been so captivated by her and, well, low key obsessed. The sum of it is simply this: she came, she conquered, and now she is unapologetically moving on to the next chapter in her life (in this case, meaning spending some much-needed time with her family). Her values, her goals, and her integrity were not to be compromised. Never intentionally trying to be disruptive, yet having such an unforgettable effect on the industry, Philo inadvertently led by example, leaving behind a legacy and passing on a remarkable torch.
2. MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI
Debuting her first collection at Paris Fashion Week in 2016, Chiuri’s opening look for SS17 consisted of a white fencing jacket paired with knickerbockers; a perfect introduction to this seasoned designer’s translation of modern femininity. However, what surely got everyone’s attention - and what was soon to become one of the most popular pieces to be taken straight off the runway that year - was the slogan emblazoned on all of her t-shirts: “We should all be feminists”. And for SS18, it was the question: “Why have there been no great female artists?”.
She is Dior’s first female creative director since the fashion house was founded in 1946, and after her 17-year tenure at Valentino, there was a flurry of buzz and focused curiosity on what changes, if any, Chiuri was going to bring to the brand. And not only has she opened up the Dior runway as a forum for conversation of women and the arts, she is actively pushing for change behind the runway as well - most recently, announcing a new mentorship program for female students and pledging to fight for the ban of underweight and underaged models. Asking the difficult questions and continuing to push for change, this is likely just the beginning of the profound effect Chiuri will have on this industry.
3. MIUCCIA PRADA
Miuccia Prada has remained at the helm of this fashion house for 40 years. Yes, 4 decades... just let that sink in for a moment. Whether you knew about her or not, current, past, and many future generations will have at least heard and/or coveted the brand itself. Commonly coined the “intellectual designer”, this doctorate-touting designer (with, by the way, training in mime), is also famously known to be a bit of an enigma. Old, new, beautiful, ugly, classical, modern, passionate, unaffected...she somehow embraces all of these things. Oh, and the term “Ugly Chic”? We have her to thank for adding this to the fashion vernacular.
In her youth, Prada once felt the pangs of guilt of being a part of world she had considered “bourgeois”. But her love for the craft and her desire to make beautiful things could not be ignored. This might explain the unrelenting dedication to creating only what she wants, and apologetically so. And after so many years of continued authenticity and success, and never straying from her own vision, she has remained an inspiration to her peers and her audience. Which is why it should come as no surprise that she is one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women of 2017 (and the only one of this list in fashion & retail).