It's ironic that an industry so catered to women would be run mostly by men, isn't it? Though females make up 70% of the fashion workforce, they hold less than 25% of senior-level positions. But like some of the most influential names in style history — from Jeanne Lanvin to Coco Chanel — the 44 women ahead used this disparity as motivation to fight their way to the top, disrupting the status quo by all starting companies with the mission of creating clothing for and by women. Because if the fashion industry isn't going to put women in positions of power, we're going to put ourselves there.
Though we — and the designers featured here — celebrate and champion women every day of the year, for International Women's Day, we asked an array of industry leaders with brands both big and small to share the strong female muse(s) who has most influenced their work. If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that building each other up gets us way farther that knocking each other down. And until fashion agrees with that sentiment, well, we'll just make it happen on our own.
In honor of International Women’s Day, Refinery29 is asking women to pay-it-forward by endorsing a female colleague or expert in their field. Head here to discover inspiring women across all of the categories R29 covers.