Gender equality has historically been somewhat of a contentious issue in the fashion industry. Women might make up the majority of the haute couture consumer base but undeniably, it’s the men who take the creative reins.
According to The Zoe Report, Karl Lagerfeld, for instance, has helmed the renowned French design house Chanel since 1983 and its Italian counterpart Fendi since 1965. Christopher Bailey has led Burberry since 2001, Olivier Rousteing at Balmain since 2011 and Alessandro Michele at Gucci since 2015. And until recently, Riccardo Tisci led Givenchy for 12 years.
But as the fashions change from season to season, gender disparity in the world of glitz and glam is trying to keep up, albeit slowly. Women are not falling behind, not entirely. In a recent Instagram post, Givenchy revealed that Clare Waight Keller, formerly of Chloé, would be the label’s new artistic director, taking over the post from Tisci. This makes Clare the first woman to hold the lead design spot at the French house.
In fact, many female creatives have steadily been making their mark. We can’t forget Natacha Ramsay-Levi, who previously worked under Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton and was recently named artistic director at Chloé — succeeding Waight Keller after six years. Maria Grazia Chiuri follows Raf Simons at Dior, becoming the first female creative lead in the label’s 70-year history. And Sarah Burton, who designed Kate Middleton’s iconic wedding gown, has spearheaded Alexander McQueen since his death in 2010.
Then, there are also the veterans. In 1978, Miuccia Prada took over from her grandfather Mario Prada, leading the Italian house to international acclaim. And Rei Kawakubo is widely considered one of the most influential fashion designers of all time, with her nearly 45-year tenure at Comme des Garçons, which she actually founded.
Many of these brands were originally started by men — from Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior to Lee McQueen. It’s high time this multibillion-dollar industry became more aware of its predominantly female following. With more women leading luxury houses, it seems we’re taking a big step toward better influence and representation in the fashion industry.
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