Women Leaders in Fashion: How Their Roles Are Evolving

Launchmetrics Content Team

Looking from the outside in, we may be inclined to assume the fashion industry has always been predominantly female dominated. Yet, the fashion industry is still largely considered an all boys club, dominated by men. In fact, women leaders only make up 25% of the senior level positions within the industry.

While this number may be unsettling, rest assured the tides are starting to shift. And this past International Women's Day, we celebrated 50 visionary female leaders at the forefront of this shift with our report, Women Powering Fashion 2018.

Let’s explore ways in which women leaders are rising up and the positive impact they’re having:

How Women Leaders In Fashion Are Rising Up

You don’t simply get to the top by wishing and hoping for it. You get there through hard work, determination, and an unwillingness to settle. Undoubtedly, plenty of women possess these characteristics.  

Why, then, do we have such a disparity when it comes to women in positions of leadership within the fashion industry?

Well, most likely it has to do with societal norms, gender expectations, and the language we use to talk about women leaders in fashion. For example, in a study conducted by Allyson Stokes of the University of Waterloo, language as it pertains to male and female fashion designers was examined. Upon analyzing numerous large publications, such as Vogue, she discovered there was a gender disparity in how we talk about male and female designers. She found that women are praised for their practicality and appeal to mainstream consumers, while men are praised for their “craft” and creative genius.

Now, having said all that, how are women breaking outside this glass ceiling? How are we redefining women leaders in fashion?

Well, it really boils down to continued conversation. It may seem like a simple solution, but as evidenced by Stokes’s study, language is an extremely powerful tool. How we talk about women leaders in fashion impacts – not only how society views women in fashion – but also how women view themselves.

Some ways in which we’re seeing women lead the change in this regard comes in the form of offering resources to other up-and-coming women leaders. For example, In 2009, Tory Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation, where she offers entrepreneurial training and networking opportunities to aspiring women leaders. Also, fellow female designer, Diane Von Furstenberg, runs the DVF Awards each year, where she honors women who are helping support the efforts of other women.

We can also look to Mara Hoffman’s Fall ‘17 runway show, where she had the four co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington speak about women’s issues prior to showing the collection.

It’s acts like this that place this necessary conversation centre stage, giving women the confidence to rise up into roles of leadership. In fact, in this past year alone, we’ve seen four women become creative directors at major fashion houses: Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy, Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloe, and Bouchra Jarrar at Lanvin.

While there still is a long way to go to, these four women are just some examples we see of women stepping into leadership roles at major fashion houses. 

But first, let us give you a preview!

How Women Leaders in Fashion Are Spreading Positivity

Let’s look at a specific example of a woman in fashion who is making a positive impact through her leadership role.

Eva Chen

No doubt about it: when it comes to women leaders who are making a positive impact, Eva Chen is leading the charge. Not only has this powerhouse of a women gone from the Editor-In-Chief at Lucky Magazine, to now the Head of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram, she’s also using her platform to contribute to charity.

You may recall in Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2018 show, Alessandro Michele sending models down the runway carrying fake severed heads that were identical copies of the models' faces, which expectantly created quite a buzz within the industry. However, rather than contributing to the noise by merely commenting on the show herself, Chen did something so much more. She took the liberty to create an Instagram campaign, urging fellow Instagram users to recreate Gucci’s vision of the severed head, using Instagram filters (shown below). For each recreation, she pledged to donate $1 to Everytown (a charitable organization that aims to help end gun violence in America).


Image via Elle Magazine

Women Leaders Going Forward

As evidenced by the examples provided above, not only are women simply rising to the top within the fashion industry for their creativity, intelligence, and hard work, they’re also having a strong, positive impact on the world, in general.

Whether it be contributing to charity, starting a campaign or organization, supporting other women, ethically sourcing materials, or creating a brand with a charitable company culture, the sheer number of women who are contributing positivity to – not only the fashion industry – but also to society is too great to count.

It’s through this continued conversation that even more women will rise to the top, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do!

To learn more about women leaders in fashion and educate yourself about all the positive contributions they’re are having in the fashion industry and beyond, don’t forget to download Women Powering Fashion 2018. You don’t want to miss it.


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