Think about some of the most iconic names in fashion: Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent. Each of these groundbreaking brands delivers stunning pieces of couture that have redefined the fashion industry. They also share a common thread that may seem so obvious you've never given it a second thought: Each is named after its male founder. Although it might seem that an industry that creates products tailored for women would be abundant in female leaders, the number of female heads of renowned brands has historically been lacking. However, the male-dominated fashion industry has rapidly changed in the 2000s. Thanks to the groundwork laid by trailblazers like Coco Chanel, female heads are becoming more common, and with their ascendance, the top women in fashion are building brands of their own.
Keep reading to learn about seven of the top women in fashion who are changing the industry with their revolutionary work.
Stella McCartney began her career in fashion as an intern for Christian Lacroix before rapidly landing the role of fashion director for Chloé, where she succeeded Karl Lagerfeld. In 2001, McCartney debuted her own eponymously named brand to critical acclaim. The Stella McCartney line is now revered for its colorful, boisterous designs that prove fashion is, above all, a means to experiment and express yourself. The brand also separates itself by maintaining a cruelty-free policy that doesn't utilize animal products in its designs.
Rachel Comey's career in fashion began not with womenswear, but with menswear in 2001. However, Comey had built a loyal following by 2004 and soon expanded her line to include womenswear and footwear. Since then, cult favorites like the Mars Bootie and Legion jeans have come to define the brand's chic, laid-back style that is at once practical and daring. Manufactured and helmed in New York, Comey's brand perfectly typifies the no-nonsense glamour New York fashion is known for.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen began their fashion careers in 2006 with couture fashion label The Row. After the brand's success, the sisters established Elizabeth and James, a more moderately priced ready-to-wear line in 2007. In 2012, the sisters took home the coveted top prize at the CFDA Awards, cementing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in fashion.
Maria Grazia Chiuri
Italian fashion designer Maria Grazia Chiuri currently has one of the most illustrious careers in the fashion industry, with a hand in some of the most legendary names in design. Chiuri, along with designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, headed Valentino from 1999 to 2016. In the fall of 2016, Chiuri took up the mantle as Dior's fashion director, her first time alone as head of a brand. The historical appointment made Chiuri the first woman ever appointed as a director in Dior's history.
American designer Jenna Lyons has been working for J.Crew since she was 21 as an assistant designer for its menswear division. Since then, her career at the brand skyrocketed at a tremendous pace. She was appointed vice president of women's design in 2003, executive creative director in 2008, and, finally, president in 2010. After 26 years with the company, she stepped down from J.Crew this past April, but her impact will be everlasting. Lyons is an inspiration not only to female designers but to young people in every industry who strive to turn their wildest dreams into reality.
Alessandra Facchinetti has worked with some of the biggest names in fashion. She began at Prada, working mainly with Prada's sister line, Miu Miu. She then worked with designer Tom Ford at Gucci for four years before being appointed creative director of Valentino in 2007. In 2013, Facchinetti became creative director for Tod's, which she was the head of until May 2016. Having forged a blazing path in the world of fashion, Facchinetti's keen eye for pushing trends is sure to lead her to continued success.
After studying at Central Saint Martins just a year behind Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo graduated and began working for Chloé as McCartney's assistant. Philo eventually succeeded her as creative director in 2001, a position she held until 2006 when she took a break from the industry. In 2008 she resumed her career as the creative director of Céline, after being hand-selected by LVMH, and has remained there since. In addition to her success at the French house since her well-received debut collection, she earned the distinction of International Designer of the Year by the CFDA in 2011 and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014.
Now that you've got a little history down, learn more about a few designers whose personal style we absolutely adore.
Opening Image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Image
This story was originally published on December 21, 2016, and has been updated.