The modern industry, based around firms or fashion houses run by individual designers, started in the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth. Worth was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments that he created. A lot has changed since the days of Charles Frederick Worth, today there are several fashion firms and fashion houses that continue to revolutionise the world of fashion. However, for me, ten women from the modern era that stand out for their contributions made to the fashion industry.
(Please note that the list is not in any particular order)
1. Madeleine Chéruit: Madame Madeleine Chéruit was among the foremost couturiers of her generation, and one of the first women to control a major French fashion house. She paved the way for the several fashion houses owned by women today.
2. Jeanne Paquin was a leading French fashion designer, known for her resolutely modern and innovative designs. The Maison Paquin quickly became known for its eighteenth century-inspired pastel evening dresses and tailored day dresses, as well as for its numerous publicity stunts, including organising fashion parades to promote her new models and sending her models to operas and races in order to show off her designs.
3. Coco Chanel: Obviously, Coco Chanel needs no introduction – but heres one – Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. She is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Along with Paul Poiret, Chanel was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularising the acceptance of a casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-World War I era. Chanel’s influence extends beyond couture clothing – her design aesthetic was realized in jewellery, handbags, and fragrance. Chanel’s influence today is as strong as ever, as the house she founded remains one of the most coveted and respected labels in the world.
4. Jeanne Lanvin: Lanvin was born as a children’s wear label. Lanvin designed clothing for her daughter, which later led to mothers requesting similar designs that they themselves could wear. Within years the business had grown to include womenswear, perfume and home design. Lanvin was the first designer to see the potential of a lifestyle brand . Lanvin is still a prominent fashion house till date.
5. Madeleine Vionnet: The “Queen of the bias cut” and “the architect among dressmakers”, Vionnet is best known for her elegant Grecian-style dresses and for introducing the bias cut to the fashion world. When I saw one of the original Vionnet designs at an Art Deco exhibit, I squealed. Vionnet is still one of the most relevant designer labels today.
6. Claire McCardell: Claire McCardell is on this list for her democratic and casual approach to fashion. She designed functional, affordable and stylish women’s sportswear within the constraints of mass-production. Thanks to her paving the way for the globalisation of fashion, you and I can afford the same clothes but live on the opposite sides of the world.
7. Katharine Hamnett combines two of my essential elements – a politics student and a fashion lover – through her chic slogan t-shirts. Hamnett’s slogan t-shirts may seem run-of-the-mill now, but at the time they were revolutionary. They are copied by companies and designers till date.
8. Vivienne Westwood: Dame Vivienne Westwood is one of my favourite English designers. She is largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream. Her continual exploration and reinterpretation of history, combined with a tireless individualism, has cemented her reputation as one of the most culturally significant fashion designer.
9. Miuccia Prada: The breadth of Prada’s designs is truly inspiring. Every woman either wants a Prada or owns a Prada. She is one of the most significant fashion designers of today.
10. Diane von Furstenberg: Her iconic wrap dress, and her tireless efforts for the rights of designers and models as the president of the CFDA makes Diane von Furstenberg an influential woman in the fashion industry. Through it all she remains professional and inspirational–her dedication to the empowerment of women in design, fashion and even fashion law is inspiring.