Women in Fashion

  • Male designers are well known for their visions of female sexuality and glamour, but for decades the behind-the-seams story of fashion has been the influence of women not as models, but as makers and marketers of clothes. Designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and, later, Donna Karan and Jil Sander conjured entire fashion universes and great fortunes with ideas that revolutionized the way women dressed. Madeleine Vionnet reshaped the silhouette with her bias cut one seam coiling around the body and enhanced 1930s screen stars' sex appeal. Claire McCardell's Popover dress answered the sartorial prayers of '50s housewives all across America. And with the simple invocation to "feel like a woman, wear a dress," Diane von Furstenberg sent 300,000 women rushing to stores in the 1970s. More recently, Gela Taylor and Pam Skaist-Levy found the Holy Grail of comfort and sex appeal in a velour sweat suit they called Juicy Couture.

    Today, in many aspects of corporate life, there are more female moguls than ever, and women-owned businesses are growing at a rate of 11% a year, double the growth rate of all business. In the U.S., women account for or influence 80% of buying decisions. Of course, talent is not a gender issue, as Karan points out, in spite of so much of the innovation in fashion in the past century having come from women. So why is it that when you look at those ubiquitous lists of most recognized global brands, the names at the top inevitably are those of men? And why is it that when big creative jobs open up in fashion like Tom Ford's position at Gucci Group women need not apply?

    On these 12 pages, TIME STYLE & DESIGN profiles the 10 most powerful women in the fashion and beauty industries and also takes note of some of the rising stars who are carving out reputations for themselves and influencing bigger corporations. From Burberry CEO Rose Marie Bravo to avant-garde avatar Rei Kawakubo, the female voice in fashion is undeniable.