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A Collection of Fashions Most Influential Women

Here we take a look at some of the most influential and iconic women in fashion. We are looking at the designers, the pioneers, the self-made and the risk takers. These women have helped pave the way for a new, empowering form of style.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress throughout the 1900-1980s. Throughout her career as an actress and performer, Marlene constantly re-invented herself. She was one of the highest paid performers of her time and used her “exotic looks” and classy persona to wow all that knew her. She was awarded for her humanitarian efforts during world war 2, where she housed German and French exiles and provided them with financial support.

Marlene was a huge influence on fashion designers but said to herself that her favourite garment to wear was men’s jeans from a public store. She was known for her androgynous style and her influence still reigns today with her signature classic but slightly masculine style being adopted by many designers today. Musician Janelle Monet has credited her signature black tux as being inspired by Marlene.

Muiccia Prada

Born in Milan in 1949, Muiccia turned working for a family business into a worldwide brand. She studied for her PhD in Medical Science at the University of Milan before training and performing as a mime for 5 years! She was also involved in the women’s rights movement in the seventies in Milan. Her love for designing came from her Grandfathers luxury leather bag business, in which she started working in 1978.

Here she met her husband and the two founded Prada. She released her first collection of bags in 1985 and quickly went on to create collections for both men and women. Her bags have been shown at New York, London and Milan fashion week and her brand is now a household name – who hasn’t heard of Prada? Her powerhouse brand now includes MuiMui, Fendi and Jill Sander – amongst others.

Betsey Johnson

Betsey Johnson is known for her quirky personality, fun designs and her iconic end to all of her fashion shows. Betsey’s career catapulted when she won the Guest Editor Contest for Mademoiselle magazine. Within a year she was the in-house designer for Manhattan boutique Paraphernalia. In the 1970’s she took control of popular rock n roll brand Alley Cat. Her first collection sold $5 million in volume.

She became part of the Youthquake fashion movement and Andy Warhol’s underground scene. In 1969 she opened a boutique in the Upper East side called Betsey Bunky Nini with Edie Sedgwick being her in-house model. She has held many fashion shows to showcase her designs and ends each one with a cartwheel into the splits – in heels!

Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso is the definition of a self-made woman! Growing up in California, Sophia would often dumpster dive and shoplift. While studying at a community college, she began selling second-hand vintage clothes on eBay under the name Nasty Gal Vintage to make some money. This quickly took off and she began to earn a noticeable following among young girls on social media.

She launched Nasty Gal as its own website in 2008. Her revenue quickly went from $223,000 in 2008 to $23 million in 2011. She has been named a “Cinderella in tech” due to her rags to riches story. She has since stepped down as CEO of Nasty Gal and sold the company to Boohoo for $20,000,000.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was not always the luxurious and glamorous woman we know her as. She was born in a poor house in Paris in 1883 and got her sewing experience from a convent after being moved there when her father could no longer care for her. These skills armed her with the tools necessary to create her empire. She was responsible for taking women out of restricting corsets and into sporty, casual and comfortable clothes after World War 1.

She ran meticulous tests on her garments to make sure women could complete day to day tasks with ease. She would make models test the garments by climbing the stairs (as if getting on the bus) and bending down (as if opening a low car door). This was to make sure her signature Chanel suit would preserve modesty and still be stylish and on trend. The brand is still a leading name in luxury design today and she will forever live on as a fashion icon.

Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour is a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. The editor of Vogue is a tough, hands-on and often times difficult boss but the results she produces are second to none. Anna made her debut working for Harpers & Queen in 1970. When she started, she told her co-workers that she wanted to edit Vogue. From here she had a number of jobs within the magazine world, working for Harper’s Bazaar, Savvy and Viva. In 1988 she became the editor of US Vogue and made her first major change.

Gone were the days of pristine and highly edited cover shots. Her first cover featured a pregnant model in jeans and an embellished jumper. Jeans had never been worn on a Vogue cover before. She is credited as being the inspiration for the character of Maranda Priestly in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. She still continues to work today, refusing to retire stating that “it would be in a way irresponsible to not put my best foot forward and lead us into a different time”.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne is largely responsible for bringing punk fashion into the mainstream. She allows her definitive clothes to speak for themselves and presents them as independent designs. She wanted to see if she could put a spoke in the system and enjoyed the rebellious aspect of punk fashion. Her collections have been shown across the world and her line has branched out from clothes to accessories such as jewellery, handbags and shoes.

Her iconic orb logo is widely recognisable. Some of her most notable work is the designing of the Virgin Media cabin crew uniforms. The perfectly tailored red suits with strategically placed pins in the iconic red are seen daily by passengers flying all over the world. Both Vivienne and Richard Branson (Virgin CEO and founder) are passionate about using sustainable materials so the uniforms were designed using Closed Loop recycling and maximum sustainability in recycled polyester.

Frida Kahlo

Although not a fashion designer or model, Frida Kahlo is a worldwide inspiration for all industries. Her outlook on appearance, gender and love have made her a global icon. Her distinctive unibrow and braids have been the source of inspiration for many different looks.

Brands such as Roland Mouret and Cushnie et Ochs are taking inspiration from her long cotton skirts, bold prints and textures. Frida graced the pages of American Vogue in 1937 in a minimalistic yet powerful shot of her holding a scarf to the wind. A film titled Frida was released in 2002 and is a look into her bold and controversial life.


Twiggy broke the mould of beauty when she rose to fame in the 1960s. Her short pixie hair and big doe eyes were a world apart from previous models. She notes her greatest influences as Jean Shrimpton and Pattie Boyd. She was known for 3 things, her thin figure, her short hair and her eyelashes.

She has been quoted saying that she wore 3 pairs of eyelashes on top and one on the bottom. This created her iconic doe-eyed look. Twiggy’s iconic look still serves to inspire brands today – from inspired photoshoots to Twiggy style eyelashes, she has had a huge influence over the fashion and beauty industries.


Being a fashion inspiration doesn’t always mean you have to be a designer, stylist or model. The people working behind the scenes, making the faces and creating the illusions you see on the pages of your favourite magazines have just as much influence as the people designing the clothes. One of the most influential makeup artists of her time is Pat McGrath.

She has no formal training as a makeup artist and applies no boundaries to her art – allowing her to create the infamous catwalk looks we see today. Her experimentation with colour and texture have influenced and inspired other artists to think outside the box. She is responsible for some of our biggest makeup trends, from thick, full eyebrows to coloured eyelashes. Every look is different and unique. Her brand – Pat McGrath Labs – is widely successful and her launches are highly anticipated.