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Women’s HERstory Month: Inspiring and Powerful Women in the Fashion Industry

Representation has always been one of the core pillars within waves of feminism alongside economic empowerment, gender equality, the pay wage gap between the sexes, and discrimination. The month of March is the time when we tune into the magnifying glass a little more to honor how far we have come and acknowledge how much there is still left to do. Women’s History Month was born to commemorate women’s contribution to society, history, and culture within American history. It has been celebrated annually since 1987 and holds a focus on encouraging continuous strides forward for women

Fashion today would not be as we know it without women like Gabrielle Bonheur or Hanna Golofski, which you may know as Coco Chanel and Anne Klien. Both fashion designers began by taking the world by storm with their unorthodox attitudes on what a woman should be and represent. In this article, I will delve into the successful women in fashion who have helped create the fashion industry we live in today. From designers to runway icons to editorial features, this month we celebrate and create an homage as young women – like myself and so many others – continue to cultivate their own voices in a world that muses us.

Historically Influential Women Designers

Bonnie Cashin

  1. Neiman Marcus Award Winner
  2. Known as an American Sportswear Pioneer

Madame Gres

  1. Sculptor turned designer
  2. Influenced by multicultural costumes

Coco Chanel

  1. Queen of the ‘Little Black Dress’
  2. Always wore her own designs

Liz Claiborne

  1. First female CEO & Chairwoman of a Fortune 500 company
  2. Left fashion for philanthropic efforts

Carolina Herrera

  1. Intergenerational designer as a mother of four
  2. Forward-thinker – “Fashion must be for today” (WWD, 2016)

Anne Klein

  1. Introduced coordinate separates
  2. Created ‘Anne Klein Studios’ to mentor and encourage young designers

Women-Focused Fashion

Though fashion today is still considered a male-dominated industry, the consumer focus has always been on women and womenswear. Trends, colors, and movements of any sort can usually be trickled down and pinpointed to the origin of a female muse. Another successful woman in the fashion industry is the late Vivienne Westwood who began pioneering designs in the punk and romanticism scenes in the 70s with inspiration that came from London and traveled across the pond to New York City. She shifted the fashion industry to begin to look at design in a more sustainable way and was always outspoken about capitalism and its role in society

What made Vivienne so special was that she constantly fought for human rights and civil liberties. A trailblazer in more ways than one. As we move further into Women’s History Month and past International Women’s Day, I think we can all take key notes from Ms. Westwood’s gull and drive, not only from the beginning of her career but throughout her entire legacy. Another theme to take away from the influential women in fashion is how intersectional their efforts have been through fashion, music, interior design, and other artistic mediums, which all communicate with and through one another. Similarly, women within the US and internationally, have made their mark through representation and by using their voices to challenge the status quo.

Representation holds significant weight as a means of importance and celebration today, throughout history, and for the future. In the effort to continue to highlight successful women in the fashion industry, the following are names of ethnic representations via fashion runways and editorials.

Successful Women in Fashion Runway & Editorial

  1. Donyale Luna – First Black model for Harper’s Bazaar (1965) & British Vogue (1966)
  2. Beverly Johnson – First Black model for Glamour Magazine (1971) & Vogue (1974)
  3. Talisa Soto – First Hispanic model for Vogue (1989)
  4. Brandi Quinones – First Biracial model for Elle France (1994)
  5. Helena Christensen – First Peruvian-Danish model for Vogue Italia (1994)
  6. Gisele Bündchen – First Brazilian model for Vogue (1999)
  7. Caroline Trentin – First Brazilian model for Vogue Russia (2004)
  8. Arlenis Sosa – First Dominican model for Vogue Italia (2011)
  9. Joan-Smalls Rodriguez – First Afro-Latina model for Vogue (2017)

 

International Women’s Day is an annual date when US History highlights the women-led labor strike of 1857 at a textile factory in New York City. Several workwomen stormed the streets to protest against poor working conditions and unequal rights for women. Their goal was to bring a change in pay wages and shorter work days. These efforts sparked uproar across the country as there were so many women of different descent protesting for one common goal. International Women’s Day was officially recognized by the United States in 1975.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, I asked a few of our students what the day meant to them. The answers I received and the conversations we explored fell into categories of the celebration of historic efforts, pride in being a woman, and appreciation of our acknowledgment of the art world as a whole. As a first-generation Dominican-American aspiring designer, I couldn’t agree more and take pride in being able to celebrate integral women in history and deeply encourage any efforts that aid us in foraging for a better future!

 

Written by: Uma Peña-Cabrera, Student Writer

Date: March 10, 2023

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