Now more than ever, we need women in power. It’s no secret that the world today is more divided and chaotic than ever, and the concept of a wholly equal society seems far off. But still there are glimmers of hope, glimpses of how things should be. And when it comes to those who shape what women in power wear and look like, no one is doing it better than women themselves — female designers with vision, creativity and a progressive nature.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting women of style and substance who inspire us, create the clothes we live in (or aspire to live in) and make us think with their artistry and outlook. Read on and learn about the female designers you should invest in now.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, Creative Director of Christian Dior
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s appointment at Dior was an unprecedented moment for the French maison. As the first female creative director ever to grace its studios, Chiuri completely re-envisioned how the home of the nipped-waist-full-skirted “New Look” did femininity. Her Dior woman emerged as a modern feminist who wasn’t afraid to wear her heart on her T-shirt while simultaneously embracing corsets and tulle. Much like Chiuri herself, her Dior woman is an unapologetic, outspoken trailblazer.
“When you are a woman making clothes for women, then fashion is not just about how you look. It is about how you feel and how you think. I don’t think there is one way to be a feminist.”
—Maria Grazia Chiuri
Dior 2018 Suede Earth Book Tote; Dior 2018 Baby-D Ballet Pumps; Dior 2018 Striped Graphic Top
The Italian designer has implemented a host of changes since her tenure began. Aside from injecting Dior’s ready-to-wear with a fresh new feel for the 21st century, she has revamped the Saddle bag, transformed the Diorissimo motif into the coveted Oblique logo and churned out It items like the J’adior slingback pumps and the Book tote. Much to the fashion world’s delight, Chiuri can do this in her sleep — she helped work on the original Fendi Baguette and designed the popular aughts-era Valentino Rockstud. At Dior, Chiuri empowers women with a shield of sartorial strength, so that they can handle anything the world throws at them without batting an eye.
Gabriela Hearst, Founder & Creative Director of Gabriela Hearst
Simply put, Gabriela Hearst is after the hearts, minds and wardrobes of women who give a damn. The Uruguay-born designer’s eponymous line is one that could be considered slow and honest luxury — conscientiously made and never mass-produced. Since launching her brand in 2015, Hearst’s dedication to sustainability and craftsmanship has been present in every aspect of her collections, from responsibly sourcing materials to employing artisans who create pieces by hand.
“I just want to give [women] uniforms for their lives so they feel comfortable in their power.”
Gabriela Hearst Diana Bag; Gabriela Hearst Boots; Gabriela Hearst Nina Bag
The designer, philanthropist, self-described feminist and environmentalist effortlessly channels her credo into fashion that speaks directly to the woman of today. And while you could hardly say Hearst specializes in anything — her offerings are all exquisite in equal measure — suiting and star handbags seem to be her power pieces of choice.
Hearst does not skimp on the details either. The sensual Nina bag, which spawned a wait list rumored to be hundreds of names long, was inspired by the one and only Nina Simone. The Angela jacket and Diana bag were also named after notable women — Angela Davis and Diana Ross, respectively. Hearst has designed pieces to benefit Planned Parenthood, outfitted congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and converted all of the brand’s packaging to biodegradable material. For Hearst and the well-rounded women she dresses, everything from the political to the environmental to the sartorial warrants attention.
Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen, Founders & Creative Directors of The Row
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have been hitting the luxury sector with The Row’s decadent fur coats, ethereal dresses, supple leather goods and refined suiting since 2006. The brand’s name is a nod to London’s Savile Row — known for its bespoke men’s tailoring — and though the duo uses traditional menswear techniques for their womenswear, to call their aesthetic “borrowed from the boys” in total would be a disservice to them and the impeccable pieces they craft for women.
“We always say that the definition of luxury, at least our version of it, is to make a woman’s life easier. And that’s what we aspire to.”
The Row Market Bag; The Row Silk Addy Coat; The Row 2017 Coco Mules
The Olsens are all about fit and fabrication, and how their clothing transitions easily into women’s lives. Though they have no formal design training, this has helped more than hindered them if anything, allowing the two to go by intuition and think like the entrepreneurs they are. An easy minimalism permeates everything they touch, evocative of Phoebe Philo-era Céline yet uniquely theirs. They eschew logos and any kind of conspicuous branding, instead opting for sumptuous fabrics, clean silhouettes and polished accessories to tell their story. The Olsens are masters at saying so much with so little, and extend that power and mystique to those who wear their pieces.
Miuccia Prada, CEO & Creative Director of Prada
These days it’s hard to conceive of a world without Prada. Founded in 1913 by Mario Prada, Miuccia Prada’s grandfather, the eponymous store began as a purveyor of leather goods, trunks and travel accessories. It has since evolved to become one of the biggest brands to date, largely due to the off-kilter way Miuccia Prada does fashion — approaching it in an artistic and intellectual way. She thinks far past the surface, to what a garment or a bag can represent — and the innate sense of self-worth it can bring to a woman.
“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.”
Prada 2017 City Calf Plex Ribbon Bag; Prada 2017 Poster Girl Dress; Prada Satin Flatform Sandals
Prada’s calling card is her ability to create pieces that reject female stereotypes and what is expected of women. Hall-of-fame-worthy icons range from unfussy tessuto nylon backpacks, paillete-cascading dresses and otherworldly prints to in-your-face flame sandals, elongated Sidonie bags and bulbous Cloudbust sneakers. As a designer, Prada dictates her own norm instead of adhering to everyone else’s, and has created her own lane. The ultimate goal of her work? Allowing the women she designs for to control their own narrative.
Stella McCartney, Founder & Creative Director of Stella McCartney
If there is anything Stella McCartney is well-known for, it’s responsible luxury. For this industry leader, sustainability is not just a buzzword — it’s the foundation of her brand. McCartney has been leather and fur-free from the beginning, and while this may not overtly spell out feminism in the more traditional sense, thinking about the planet is, ultimately, thinking about each other. What’s more, McCartney recently empowered herself by buying back the 50% stake in her company that was previously owned by the Kering group, reclaiming the brand’s direction. This is evidence of a female designer remaining steadfast in her vision for a better future.
“I think personal style starts from within because it’s a philosophy and an attitude. If you’re honest and true to yourself, you will have the best sense of personal style.”
Stella McCartney Runway Sneakers; Stella McCartney 2017 Cardigan; Stella McCartney Cavendish Boston Tote
Luxe tailoring, layers of texture, daring dresses and futuristic touches are all commonplace in McCartney’s designs. Her uncompromising ethics have never interfered with the beauty of her work, and while McCartney does not expect her customers to be 100% leather and fur-free too, her Falabella bags, Elyse oxfords, Eclypse sneakers and other vegan leather products make a good case for it. The supple texture of the brand’s “shaggy deer” material, for example, imitates suede to the point where many wearers have no idea it’s not leather. This subtlety is not meant to be deceiving, but instead shows how easy it can be for women to embrace sustainable fashion. Because all along, Stella McCartney has been designing for the women of today, and tomorrow.