In an industry fueled by female consumption, there have been a surprisingly small number of women behind many of fashion’s top brands. However, a few notable women have risen to the top of the industry’s most well-known houses, influencing brands’ visions and inspiring other women to join the business of fashion.
1. Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garçons, since 1973
Known as the anti-fashionista, Kawakubo’s designs have changed the industry’s ideas of what it means to look strong and beautiful. First popularized among Japanese consumers, the designer has grown the brand into $220 million a year business as the founder and creative director. Kawakubo told Interview magazine, “In terms of creation, I have never thought of suiting any system or abiding by any rules—either a long time ago or right now…” After 42 years, she continues to surprise and impress her followers.
2. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, Hermes, since 2014
Cybulski caught the attention of Hermes as a former designer for Céline and the Olsen twins’ line, The Row. A graduate of the distinguished Antwerp’s Royal Academy and sporting an impressive resumé, she worked under the direction of Phoebe Philo at Céline from 2008-2011 and Maison Martin Margiela’s Parisian atelier prior to that. Cybulski is increasingly becoming a household name, so keep her on your radar!
3. Phoebe Philo, Céline, since 2008
Named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2014, Philo has been one of fashion’s most distinguished influencers as the creative director of Céline. She started as the design assistant to fellow Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London graduate, Stella McCartney, at Chloé in 1997. From there, she broke ground in the fashion industry and was eventually offered the role of creative director and board member of Céline by LVMH in 2008.
4. Natasa Cagalj, Ports 1961, since 2015
Also an alumni of Central Saint Martins, Caralj worked with Parisian fashion house, Cerruti, before moving to Lanvin to be Alber Elbaz’s chief designer, and then to Stella McCartney as head of design from 2005 to 2012. Ports 1961 appointed Cagalj to replace Fiona Cibani as creative director. “Natasa is an incredibly talented individual and creative force. Her vision is perfectly in line with the Ports 1961 woman,” said Cibani in an interview with Vogue UK.
5. Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen, since 2010
Following the tragic death of Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton, his colleague of 14 years was entrusted with continuing the iconic designer’s legacy. She has worked with the fashion house since completing her placement year there in 1996. Upon graduation, she was named head women’s wear design in just two years. Burton has received the Walpole Award for British Luxury Design Talent , Harper’s Bazaar Woman of the Year Award and the Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Awards.
6. Bouchra Jarrar, Lanvin, since 2016
A former designer for Balenciaga with her own label and 15 years of experience under her belt, Jarrar was confirmed as the new creative director of Womenswear at Lanvin just last month. A connoisseur in French couture, Jarrar has been continually noted for her clean, minimalist taste. “Her timeless style is in keeping with the style and values of our company,” Lanvin CEO Michèle Huiban told Vogue UK. We are excited to see what this new role holds for Jarrar!
7. Maria Grazia Chiuri, Valentino, since 2008
One-half of the dynamic duo that produces the inspiration behind Valentino, Maria Grazia Chiuri has served as creative director of the famed fashion house since 2008. Trained by Valentino Garavani himself, Chiuri along with her partner Pierpaolo Piccioli, were chosen to carry on his legacy. They have since designed looks for names such as Cate Blanchett and Zoe Saldaña that carry an unmistakeable sense of beauty. Chiuri continues to remain a household name among the most notable couturiers.
8. Miuccia Prada, Miu Miu, since 1978
The heiress to her grandfather’s vision, Miuccia Prada has not only continued the esteemed house’s legacy, she’s also created her own. As the Co-CEO of Prada and the creative director for her namesake line, Miu Miu, Miuccia has grown the house into a conglomerate that includes labels such as Jil Sander and Fendi, now producing fragrances, shoes, and both men’s and women’s apparel. Prada has received the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s International Award, as well as the first International Designer of the Year at the 2013 British Fashion Awards in 2013.
9. Donatella Versace, Versace Group, since 1997
Sister to founder Gianni Versace, Donatella has served as creative director as well as vice-president and chief designer for the house. She launched her own line, Versus, under the Versace label. Since her brother’s passing in 1997, she has continued his legacy, including his iconic runway shows for the Versace Atelier at the Hôtel Ritz Paris. She now oversees the production of a dozen collections each year along with the company’s real estate ventures and public relations.