The 15 most influential women in the fashion industry 

March 7, 2023

Although fashion has been aimed at women since its beginning, the main big players in the industry have been men. Nevertheless, women have played an important role in the fashion industry throughout the ages, with influential designers and powerful entrepreneurs. Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, Coco Chanel, and Mary Quant, for example, revolutionised the way women dress. As female fashion designers creating clothes for women, they gave their clients more comfort and freedom to move and express themselves, hence contributing to important social changes. So, on the eve of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at the list of the most influential women in fashion shaping the industry today.

1 – Annie Leibovitz

Let’s begin with Annie Leibovitz. She is one of America’s best portrait photographers whose often provocative images with surprising poses have changed fashion photography. She started her career in the ’70s at Rolling Stone magazine. And, by creating the most fabulous covers of Vanity Fair and Vogue, Leibovitz is among the most influential women in fashion. A naked John Lennon in bed with Yoko Ono and a nude and very pregnant Demi Moore are photos that we can’t forget. Nevertheless, I especially like her photos for the 2016 Pirelli Calendar. The famous calendar is known for presenting sensual naked models. But Leibovitz, in a truly woman-empowering move, chose to feature clothed women from various ages and backgrounds.

2 – Anna Wintour

Magazine editor, Anna Wintour is one the most influential women in fashion ever. To sum up, 11.4 million women read each print of Vogue America. Not to mention the 1.2 million monthly online readers. Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief is also the Artistic Director of Conde Nast, overseeing other magazines like Glamour, for example. Over the years, Wintour has had a powerful influence on the fashion industry. She’s championed new designers through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and raised millions for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. With her signature perfect bob with bangs and dark sunglasses, Wintour says she doesn’t think of herself as a boss but as someone giving directions.

3 – Pat McGrath

This British makeup artist, who uses her hands instead of makeup brushes, is a seriously influential woman in the fashion industry. She’s created beauty looks for all the major fashion labels presenting during Fashion Weeks and editorial shoots. Additionally, she designed Giorgio Armani’s beauty line and is the creative design director of Procter & Gamble beauty. In 2015, she launched Pat McGrath Labs, valued at $1 billion after only four years. As a result, in 2021, Pat became the first makeup artist to be awarded a Damehood by Queen Elizabeth II. 

4 – Miuccia Prada

Miuccia Prada took over her grandfather’s leather goods company in 1978 and began designing bags in 1985. Since then, the Italian anti-fashion queen has been setting trends. As a result, the talented and powerful woman transformed the modest company into a fashion empire. Miuccia Prada is co-CEO of Prada and creative director of Miu Miu. She’s so influential her collections lead the fashion industry and women’s styles season after season. Over the years, Miuccia Prada has shown that women can be sexy without being vulgar, and she states, “It’s what I say all the time to my girls in the office here: The more they dress for sex, the less they will have love or sex.”

5 – Phoebe Philo

Time Magazine named the former Creative Director of Chloé and Céline one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2014. When Hedi Slimane replaced Phoebe Philo at Céline in 2018, her legion of fans was devastated. Up to this day, the Philophilos still look for second-hand old Céline pieces. Philo’s influential role in the industry is such that she changed the face of luxury fashion, giving women sophisticated and minimalist clothes that were also easy to wear. In January 2022, Philo will finally launch her eponymous label that will certainly fill the void she left for intellectual and professional women eager to see their iconic designer and style reference back.

6 – Stella McCartney

Paul McCartney’s daughter is certainly a power of her own. After working at Christian Lacroix and Chloé, Stella McCartney launched her own label. She was one of the first to advocate for cruelty-free fashion, and her influential sustainable brand inspires women of all ages.

7 – Kate Moss

Of course, we couldn’t forget the iconic model Kate Moss. The British model’s been one of the most influential women in the fashion industry for over 25 years. She became famous as the muse of John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and the heroin-chic trend in the early ‘90s. Nevertheless, Moss left her wild partying days behind. Thanks to her cool style, she is a powerful fashion influencer to this day. The mother of Lila Moss, who’s also a model, has designed two collections for Topshop and bags for Longchamps. Additionally, she launched her fashion label, a perfume line, in collaboration with Coty. She’s also been part of several music videos and received numerous awards for her modelling career. One of the highest-paid models in the world, Moss has a net worth of $70 million.

8 – Marta Ortega

The story of this influential woman is the stuff that dreams are made of in the fashion industry. Although the Spanish Marta Ortega is the heiress of the giant fashion group Inditex, she started her career as a shop assistant at Zara. The youngest daughter of the fashion tycoon had to work her way up in the past 15 years, and she assumed the presidency of Inditex in April 2022. With a keen eye for street style, and besties like Charlotte Casiraghi, Queen Letizia, and Lauren Santo Domingo, the fashion-savvy Marta Ortega will certainly breathe life and coolness into Zara, Pull&Bear, and Massimo Dutti.

9 – Delphine Arnault

Louis Vuitton’s Executive Vice President and chair of Dior, Delphine Arnault was the first female director in the luxury conglomerate LVMH almost twenty years ago. And in all these years, Delphine has proven she’s more than just the daughter of Bernard Arnault, the company’s CEO and the third richest person in the world. In fact, many in the fashion industry believe this influential woman will take the lead once her father retires.

10 – Sara Blakely

According to Forbes, Sara Blakely is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. The entrepreneur began her career selling fax machines door-to-door. Fast forward a few years, and she’s become an influential businesswoman after creating Spanx, which specializes in foundation garments intended to make people appear thinner. Her undergarment company is a hit among women and nowadays, has expanded to jeans and menswear.

11 – Linda Fargo

Linda Fargo has been Bergdorf Goodman’s Senior Vice President since 2006. With her position, she is undoubtedly one of the most influential women in the American fashion industry. You’ll see her always in the front row at Fashion Week. She’s responsible for spotting the future trends that women will buy in the luxury department store. And, consequently, in the rest of the USA.

12 – Chiara Ferragni

The Italian influencepreneur is well known in the industry and ranked on Forbes’s Top Fashion Influencers list in 2017. This happened only 8 years after creating her fashion blog, The Blond Salad. In fact, the success of this businesswoman and ambassador for fashion houses is impressive. No wonder the mother-of-two became a case study at Harvard Business School. Ferragni has a footwear and women’s fashion label and 24.7m followers on Instagram. This powerful woman is so influential; she raised 3 million Euros in 24 hours to support a hospital during the pandemic!

13 – Tory Burch

The American Tory Burch created her namesake brand in her own kitchen to become a multi-billion fashion empire. In fact, her fashion brand is so influential that Burch made the Forbes Most Powerful Women list in 2014. Since 2009, the Tory Burch Foundation has been offering access to capital, education and mentoring for women seeking to grow and scale their enterprises.

14 – Diane von Fürstenberg

Diane von Fürstenberg has been shaping the fashion industry since the ’70s when she created her iconic wrap dresses, a must-have for powerful and influential women worldwide. Besides her namesake luxury brand, the fashion designer has also served as the CFDA chairman for 13 years. Tom Ford replaced her at the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2019.

15 – Rihanna

The famous singer is an amazing businesswoman and one of the most influential powers in the fashion industry. Thanks to her cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty, the fashion label Fenty and Savage x Fenty lingerie line, and several other business ventures. Rihanna is today one of the few female billionaires in the world, with a net worth of around $1.7 billion. So, the Barbados native has proven that she is much more than the over-sexualized image she presents to the world.

After having come such a long way, I hope that Rihanna and other influential personalities in the industry realize it’s about time to change the overly-sexy Kardashians mantra to a more relaxed and cool fashion that empowers women without objectifying them.