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Fashion’s Power Players: Successful Women in the Fashion Industry

Fashion has long been an outlet of expression for women all over the world. However, it takes a certain kind of woman to become an active force in the industry. Though many seem to think fashion and feminism can’t go hand-in-hand, it takes a true feminist to become a success in this cut-throat world. It takes a woman who is strong-willed, fearless, a risk taker. 

Franca“I like to be risky everyday. Changing minds everyday…But I never change the content of who I am. So my everyday challenge is to change and take risks.” –Franca Sozzani 

Vogue Italia’s Editor-in-Chief, Franca Sozzani originally never saw herself as a career woman. However, after getting married at the age of 20, and leaving her husband after only three months, she decided that it was time to something with her life. Sozzani started off in an assistant position at Vogue Bambini in 1976, became the Editor-in-Chief of LEI (one of Italy’s top fashion magazines at the time) in 1980, by 1988 she had been chosen for the top spot at Vogue Italia (Franca Sozzani: Fashion’s Rebel with a Cause).  Since her installment as Editor-in-Chief, she has pushed the envelope becoming a sort of fashion activist, using fashion and its imagery to address social, political, and even environmental issues. 

Sozzani has even taken the time to tackle some of the issues within the fashion industry itself. Challenging the standard perception of beauty within the fashion world, she published an all black issue of Vogue Italia in 2008 featuring only black women and articles related to black lifestyle. In June of 2011, she featured three plus sized models on the cover, with a feature entitled “Dream Woman”, a 20-page spread highlighting the beauty of a more curvaceous woman, rather than showcasing the usual rail-thin models. Sozzani has even launched a site called “Vogue Curvy” staffed by plus-size bloggers who offer style tips and advice for the full figured. 

Complimenting her efforts in creating a more diverse vision of beauty within the fashion industry, Franca Sozzani has also invested time in her position as a U.N. Ambassador for Fashion for Development. A global campaign, which through fashion based initiatives, is designed to support United Nations work in areas like poverty, and gender equality. (Interview Magazine) What keeps her going is her genuine enthusiasm and passion for everything that she becomes involved in.

Anna“I am very driven by what I do. I am certainly very competitive…and if that makes you a perfectionist then maybe I am.” –Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour’s success and impact on the fashion world can only be described as insurmountable.  

Starting out in the fashion department of Harper’s and Queen in London, Anna Wintour bounced around from publication to publication (including Harper’s Bazaar U.S., New York Magazine and British Vogue) until 1988 when she was named Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue (Voguepedia)

Most people know exactly who Anna Wintour is, or have at least heard of her, thanks to The Devil Wears Prada (2006) - based on a novel written by one of Wintour’s former assistants. In the movie she is portrayed as cold, demanding, and an overall nightmare to work for. However, mainly focused on the perception of her personality rather than her accomplishments, this film is just a narrow representation of her career as a whole. 

Throughout her career, which spans over two decades, Anna Wintour has become one of the most powerful and influential figures in fashion. She called an end to the “Supermodel Era” by electing to use celebrity figures rather than models on the cover. Was the first to truly mix high and low fashions with her debut Vogue cover, featuring a model wearing 50 dollar jeans with a 10,000 dollar jewel encrusted jacket by Christian Lacroix. And she helped in launching the careers of many designers including Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen 

In addition to her accomplishments as an Editor, Wintour has been sitting as a co-chair at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala since 1995 and has helped raise over 85 million dollars for The Costume Institute (The Metropolitan Museum of Art). She also established the Vogue Fashion Fund, in partnership with the CFDA to provide financial backing and business mentorship to new designers. On another collaboration with the CFDA, in 2009 Anna Wintour proposed the idea of Fashion’s Night Out, an event with the focus of celebrating fashion, restoring consumer confidence and boosting the industry’s economy (Council of Fashion Designers America) Fashion’s Night Out now occurs in over 500 cities within the United States and 30 countries around the world.  

Diane“I want to empower every woman. And I do it through my clothes. I do it through my words. I do it through my money. I do it through everything.” 

If there were ever a beacon for female empowerment within the industry, it would be Diane von Furstenberg. With a career that dates back to the late 1970’s Diane von Furstenberg has proven herself to be an unstoppable force in what she does. 

Being the daughter of a Nazi concentration camp survivor (her mother was sent to Auschwitz in 1944), von Furstenberg was always instilled with a sense of fearlessness and self-worth that she wanted to pass on to others. Her iconic designs of the 1970’s that focused on the needs of career driven women but were also comfortable and elegant brought her an immense amount of success. However, the buzz over her designs soon phased out during the 1980’s forcing von Furstenberg to take a break, until resurfacing in 1997. Since then, she has gained a stronger presence than ever before.  

In 2005 she received the lifetime achievement award from the CFDA, and one year later was elected president of the council - a position she is to hold until at least 2014. Just last year, she was named the most powerful woman in fashion by Forbes Magazine. Von Furstenberg attributes much of her success to starting very young and her natural confidence. Even through setbacks, she is able to process obstacles and make them work for her. She has stated, “I have very little memory for pain or things like that.”  (Harper’s Bazaar).  

In addition to her endeavors as a designer, Diane von Furstenberg is an active member of Vital Voices, a non-profit organization that supports female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. In 2010, she created the DVF Awards, which presents five women each year with financial awards for displaying leadership, strength, and courage in their commitment to women’s causes. 

It takes a certain amount of drive, ambition, and sense of self in order to make it in the world of fashion, which is known to be one of the most critical, filled with judgment and ridicule from many different sources. There is no doubt that the efforts of these women and many more are what hold the fashion industry together. 

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