Gender equality has always been a contentious issue in the fashion industry. After all, women make up a majority of the haute couture consumer base, yet men overwhelmingly take the creative reins. Karl Lagerfeld, for instance, has helmed famed French house Chanel since 1983 and Italian house 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 that’s not to say women are wholly falling behind. In a recent Instagram post, Givenchy revealed the news that Clare Waight Keller, formerly of Chloé, would be the label’s new artistic director, taking over the post from Tisci. This marks the first time a woman has held the lead design spot at the French house.
Clare Waight Keller. Photo: @givenchyofficial
In fact, a surge of female creatives are steadily 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. Not to mention the veterans. In 1978, Miuccia Prada took over from her grandfather Mario Prada, leading the Italian house to international critical 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 founded.
Many of these brands were originally started by men—from Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior to Lee McQueen—and it’s high time this multibillion-dollar business 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.