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The Most Influential Women in Fashion Business Today

By Talia Tacchia

June 2024


From the iconic Miuccia Prada, head designer of Prada S.p.A. and founder of Miu Miu, to Donatella Versace, Sarah Burton and Phoebe Philo, women have been dominating the fashion scene. This is greatly impressive in a scene so frequently dominated by men. From CEOs to creative directors, the fashion industry holds strong roots among men, and the women mentioned above are some of the most influential in the business of fashion today.


 

Miuccia Prada (Provided by SpazioNapoli.it)

Miuccia Prada is greatly impressive when considering the growth she oversaw in Prada from 1978 and her taking on the family business, whereby she became responsible for growing it from an almost purely leather goods business to a top fashion competitor. During her time at Prada, she reigned in what is known today as the 'Miuccia Prada effect'. This 'effect' began the incoming of a (slightly controversial)  selection of thin, 'bland', tall models, selected so to remove the 'stardom' impact of the 90s supermodel on her runway.


Miuccia Prada and the models of a 90s Prada runway (Provided by Spazionapoli.it)

Designers such as Karl Lagerfeld instead leaned into the star factor of the 90s models, with regard to his numerous muses from Claudia Schiffer to the most recent Lily-Rose Depp, whereby the star power garnered further attention for the brand. Miuccia's avoidance of this exhibits aspects of her genius - she enabled the clothes to be the sole focus of her runways, which is reflected in Prada's growth as a brand under her reign. In her own words, she states, "You need to be curious and never stop studying. You have to challenge yourself to think every day to understand and react to what is happening." The immense growth she brought to Prada is reinforced in her creation of the 'off-shoot' brand Miu Miu in 1993. Miu Miu has been exceptionally successful among younger generations and has been said to have driven up the sales of its 'mother' brand, Prada, by 17%, as reported by Vogue Business. With Miu Miu topping the charts of this year's most successful brands on Forbes, it is clear to see the impact of Miuccia's genius. From my perspective, this is achieved by her ability to articulately fashion-forecast and create perfectly conversational pieces, ever so necessary in today's photo-considerate generation. Miu Miu is arguably responsible for a variety of last year's most sought-after pieces - be it the ballerina flat or the deconstructed suit, Miu Miu is the catalyst for a new era of fashion that effortlessly blends nostalgia with contemporary trends.



Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2023 Advertising Campaign (Provided by LuxFerity.com)


In both Miu Miu and Prada, Miuccia's influence is felt in the very heart of the brands and both establish her as a force in fashion. Miuccia's influence enabled both Prada and Miu Miu to top the fashion market and explain the expansive economic growth seen in the companies over the past few years and on, in turn, evidencing her impactful position in the fashion business of today.

 

Similarly, Donatella Versace exhibits a female success story in the continuation of her brother Gianni Versace's masterful fashion house. Her incredible effort at both continuing and reinvigorating an already transcending brand is evident. Today, she has worked alongside pop stars such as Dua Lipa and movie stars such as Margot Robbie, allowing Versace to top social media commentary.


Dua Lipa and Donatella Versace (Provided by VanityFair.it)
Summer 2023 'La Vacanza' Versace X Dua Lipa part co-created collection (Provided by Versace.it)

Versace, today, represents a young, vibrant, and ever-present image, a brand for the youth that is sought after by masses of young people - this is evident in the number of copyright cases over Versace and low-range, fast fashion markets. Most recently, the copyright case of Versace vs. Fashion Nova was passed, in which Versace accused the fast fashion brand of infringing upon three of its dresses, including the well-known Jennifer Lopez 'jungle print dress,' worn at the Grammy Awards. This evidences the recurring want of Versace in the market, reflecting the 'knock off' market which caters to this lower budget audience, all the more nodding to the popularity of this brand today. It is currently reported that 21% of luxury fashion purchasers in the US are repeat customers of the brand, further reflective of Donatella's 2022 success whereby she saw the net profits of Versace increase to $185 million from 2021's much lower figure of $21 million, reinforcing Dontella's incredible and undeniable genius.

 

Sarah Burton (Provided by NY Times Magazine)

In Sarah Burton, we see a creative individual who represents her own brand. Burton is a truly feminine-focused designer. After two decades at Alexander McQueen as creative director, Burton stepped down, rather secretively, feeling that her time there had come to an end. Burton finalised her time with an ode to Lee Alexander McQueen's original McQueen and an expected focus on the female form. Her final body of work was entrenched with feminine features, from flowers to frills, cut with slashes of red and pink throughout.




The work was bold and eccentrically beautiful. In Burton's final collection for the brand, her consistent concentration on women as the focus of all of her stories remained, and served a final goodbye to the deeply feminine house of McQueen that wouldn't be what it is today, without her. It is not only in such consistently guided fashion creation that Burton powered McQueen; she served as a leader in continuing England's entrenched position in the fashion world. This is evident from designing Kate Middleton's 2011 royal wedding gown to the constant odes to Britain and British culture in her creations. In this way her impact was felt deeply, and served a continuation of Lee's establishing of McQueen's 'Britishness'. Moreover, Burton was able to navigate the market swiftly and served as the brand's smooth-sailing captain after Lee's untimely death and departure from the fashion world. The company's sales soared after his death and continued in this way, perhaps in sheer respect to the talent of Lee or simply as a result of the talent of his right hand, Sarah Burton. Today, Alexander McQueen is a brand at its height, evident in its continuing to make waves in the fashion landscape - greatly thanks to the genius of Burton and her undeniably impactful 26 years at the fore of the brand.

 

Finally, to discuss the talents of Phoebe Philo. Previously creative director of Celine under a transcendent period of success, Philo is now beginning a personally driven creative journey for her own brand. Whilst at Celine, Philo hailed in a series of iconic pieces, most notably the Celine luggage bag, which ruled the 2010s in the hands of fashion icons from Victoria Beckham and the Olsen twins to iconic artists such as Celine Dion and Rihanna.


Shay Mitchell (2014), Celine Dion (2012), and Rihanna (2012) spotted with their Celine Luggage Totes (Provided by PurseBlog.com)

These bags in particular grew a resale price of 30%, indicative of the success overseen by Philo in her years at Celine. Recently, she boldly began her own brand, 'Phoebe Philo', with a shock introduction, opening the brand (to quote much criticism) at 'disgustingly' high prices. Philo received some criticism for the height of these prices. Having no recommendation to afford this value, however, the continued popularity of this brand, seen frequently on the likes of Kendall Jenner today, suggests Philo knew exactly what she was doing. To quote CULTED magazine, 'Philo had the 2010s in a chokehold', and I personally wouldn't be surprised if her brand found a similar authority in the 2020s.


Photoshoot of Phoebe Philo for her brand (Provided by NSSmag.com)

The brand encapsulates the recently sought-after phenomena of 'quiet luxury' most effectively in its sleek, feminine styles. Philo's brand takes on the ideals of brands such as The Row and underpins this classic minimalism that is 'in' today. Furthermore, LVMH supports Philo's new venture in exchange for a minority stake in the brand, the brand hence boasting support from the world's largest fashion-owning and luxury goods conglomerate. As has been stated by almost every fashion magazine on this topic, Phoebe Philo is back, and with the almost guaranteed success expected of phoebephilo.com, she isn't going anywhere any time soon.


 

The unwavering, persistent works of these female visionaries have shaped these formidable brands into what they are today. Beyond that, these women have redefined a predominantly male-run industry. They have confronted stereotypes, broken barriers, and established themselves as forces in the field of fashion, all while keeping their femininity and the fashion business a focus, finding harmony in this luxury sector most impressively. As a result, these women serve as principal examples of flourishing businesswomen in fashion today.


Edited by Leila Bianco


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