10 Women That Changed the Fashion Industry


March is Women’s History Month, making this the perfect time to celebrate the incredible impact that women have had in the fashion industry. From defying gender barriers to promoting healthy body image, these 10 women have changed the fashion industry for the better.

  1. Diane von Fürstenberg : After introducing her iconic wrap dress in 1972, Diane von Fürstenberg revolutionized the fashion industry by creating designs with the working woman in mind.  Fürstenberg carries her belief in female empowerment into her philanthropy. As a board member of Vital Voices, she supports female leaders and entrepreneurs.
  2. Donna Karan: Donna Karan’s promotes conscious consumerism and the preservation of global cultures through her brand Urban Zen. The accessories and clothing sold by Urban Zen are handmade by artisans in the developing world, and a portion of profits goes to important causes. Karan has proved that the fashion industry can merge the interests of business and philanthropy.
  3. Bethann Hardison: Former model agent Bethann Hardison has tirelessly worked to call attention to the lack of diversity in the modeling industry. She helped develop the “All Black Issue” of Vogue Italia in 2008, and writes letters to criticize designers for excluding models of color. She has received the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Founder’s Award for her activism.
  4. Amy Lemons: As a mid-size model, Amy Lemons consistently speaks out against the industry’s size zero standard of beauty.  Lemons works with the NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body campaign to promote girls’ self-esteem and a healthy body image.
  5. Coco Chanel: Coco Chanel forever changed the fashion industry by incorporating elements of menswear into her designs.  Chanel freed women from tight-fitting corsets and instead emphasized comfort and practicality. She liberated women by challenging gender roles through her designs.
  6. Anna Wintour: Anna Wintour has fostered the careers of countless young designers, including that of Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs in their early days. Wintour continues to open doors for new talent through her fund that supports up-and-coming designers.
  7. Tyra Banks: Tyra Banks was one of the first African American models to appear on the cover of multiple major fashion publications. Her career has helped break racial barriers in the modeling industry, and continues to inspire generations of non-white models and young girls.
  8. Jennifer Hyman: Co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Hyman has made luxury brands widely more accessible and affordable. Rent the Runway allows customers to rent couture dresses and accessories at a fraction of the cost of owning these items. Hyman has made a luxury fashion experience accessible to a wider audience.
  9. Stella McCartney: Stella McCartney is a pioneer in the arena of sustainable fashion design. Her stores, offices, and studios are powered by alternative energy, and she uses eco-friendly materials in her designs whenever possible. Her company participates in the Clean by Design Program, which aims to reduce the use of energy and harmful chemicals in clothing manufacturing.
  10. Carol Shaw: Make-up artist and founder of Lorac Cosmetics created one of the first foundations that offered complete coverage while still looking natural. She revolutionized the fashion industry by creating long-lasting makeup with only the gentlest of ingredients.

Though these ten women worked on varying causes, they all stood by their beliefs, perpetually changing the fashion industry. Their creativity, dedication, and courage have made the fashion world more eco-friendly, diverse, and sustainable. These women and their legacies are an inspiration to young girls and women all over the world.

Jessica Tien is a contributing writer. Email her at bstyle@nyunews.com.


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