When you think about what goes on behind the scenes of the women’s fashion industry, what do you imagine? Perhaps you’d picture a large open-air office filled to the brim with women of all kinds, designing clothes, writing copy, and analyzing exactly what it is that women want to buy. And in some ways, that’s exactly right. Many of the most highly respected editors in the business are women, as are the buyers, including Elizabeth von der Goltz at Net-A-Porter, Lisa Aiken at Moda Operandi, Brigitte Chartrand at SSENSE, and Olivia Kim at Nordstrom.
We’re also in the majority on the other side of fashion: the consumer side. According to a report titled “Shattering The Glass Runway” put on by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Glamour, and McKinsey & Company, women spend three times more than men on apparel, accounting for $159 billion in sales in 2017. Any way you look at it, we’re propping up the industry.
And yet, when it comes to designing, men continue to hold the majority of creative director roles at major brands. According to BOF’s spring ‘17 fashion week study, only 40.2% of the 371 designers surveyed were female. Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Raf Simons now at Prada, Riccardo Tisci at Burberry, Hedi Slimane (who, in 2018, replaced a female as creative director) at Celine, Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton, and Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta — and that’s just the Cliff Notes version. All that being said, though, the less-than 50% of brands led by female designers are consistently some of our favorites — a fact that shouldn’t take anyone by surprise.
Heritage brands like Givenchy, Chanel, Prada, and Dior are all helmed by women. Splashy newcomers like Fenty, Bode, Simone Rocha, Brother Vellies, Stella McCartney, and Cushnie are run by women, too. In fact, The New York Times reported in 2018 that 85% of graduating fashion majors are female, 86% at FIT and 93% at Pratt.
Ahead, the low-down on some of the designers who are pushing back on the data and paving the way for a fashion industry that’s truly for women, by women.