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IWD Special: Five female pioneers shaping the future of fashion

Sadiyah Ismailjee
06 March 2020

In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, has rounded up five females who are making their mark in the fashion industry.

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action - whatever that looks like globally at a local level. International Women's Day has been occurring for well over a century a continues to grow.

Maria Grazia Chiuri Creative Director, Dior

Maria Grazia Chiuri is re-defining femininity in fashion through her position as Creative Director of Dior. The Italian designer is a self-proclaimed feminist who, since joining Dior, has gone from strength to strength, designing collections with the intention of upholding the heritage of the brand whilst also embodying her own principles and values.

She is the first woman in the label’s 69-year history to take the creative lead, an achievement which has been commended and recognised globally by the fashion world. Before joining the House of Dior in 2016, Chiuri came from a rich and impressive background in the luxury fashion industry, in which she rapidly worked her way up to senior and executive design positions.

Prior to her appointment as Dior’s first female artistic director, Chiuri worked from 1989 to 1999 at Fendi, where she, along with long-time friend and design partner Pierpaolo Piccioli, was responsible for the launch of the iconic and successful Baguette bag, in collaboration with Silvia Venturini Fendi.

Chiuri then spent seventeen years of her admirable career at Valentino, eight of which were at the brand’s creative helm alongside creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. Initially she joined Valentino as an accessory designer, quickly bringing on board her creative partner. After transforming the luxury brand’s handbag and eyewear collections, Chiuri and Piccioli were selected to design the Red Valentino diffusion line in 2003, and later given responsibility over the brand’s entire accessories range.

Following Valentino Garavani’s retirement, and the short lived tenure of the Alessandra Facchinetti, they were named co-creative directors in 2008. The duo successfully redefined Valentino's brand image and grew the business to a revenue of $1 billion by 2015.

The designer’s strong feminine designs and trend-setting skills were recognised in 2019 when she was awarded with the Legion of Honour hours after Dior’s Couture Fall 2019 fashion show. Chiuri was presented with the award at Dior’s Avenue Montaigne headquarters.

Ashley Graham – Plus-Size Model, Body Activist and Entrepreneur

Ashley Graham is one of world’s most successful plus-size models, known globally as a devout body activist and entrepreneur. In the last few years, she has become one of the most influential faces to represent body positivity and inclusion.

In 2016, Graham made history by becoming the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and has since used her influential position in the media to spread lesson of self-love and body positivity. The model has rapidly gained widespread recognition – just a month prior, Forbes had featured her on their annual “30 Under 30” list.

The IMG model has appeared in covers for leading fashion publications, including American Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Arabia, Glamour and Elle, as well as advertising campaigns for leading retailers such as H&M, Bloomingdale’s, Calvin Klein and Marina Rinaldi.

Graham has also been commended for her entrepreneurial qualities, after creating her own lingerie line. The model reached out to plus-size distributor Addition Elle to bring her line to stores, with bra sizes going up to 44DDD.

Most recently, the American model collaborated with Spanish bridalwear label, Pronovias on an all-inclusive bridal range “Ashley Graham x Pronovias”. Graham’s own challenging bridal shopping experience inspired the collaboration, which caters to a diverse range of brides.

The new collection is on sale from April 2020 and has been designed to fit UK sizes 4 to 38. All dresses are designed with built-in shapewear and a bra, saving brides from buying internal shapewear to accompany the dress.

Ghizlan Guenez - Founder and CEO at The Modist

Ghizlan Guenez is a pioneering figure in the modest fashion market. She is the Chief Executive and founder of The Modist - the very first international e-commerce platform providing luxury modest fashion. The Modist has set out to become the Net-a-Porter of modest fashion.

The London School of Economics graduate built a successful career in private equity, having spent over 10 years working for The Abraaj Group, during which time she focused on emerging markets and sustainability. Guenez cleverly identified a gap in the market for modest luxury ready-to-wear fashion, from which she established The Modist.

The luxury modest brand first launched in 2017 on International Women’s Day and started with 77 high-end and premium brands including Marni, Mary Katranzou, and Peter Piloyyo. Since its inception, The Modist has grown to now offer over 150 brands, with some collections designed in collaboration with fashion brands exclusively for its platform. The online retailer aims to provide stylish and on trend products for conservatively dressed consumers seeking luxury modest apparel.

With locations in both Dubai and London, and shipping services to more than 120 countries. The Modist caters to a relatively neglected demographic of female consumers who look for conservative – but fashionable – clothing styles. Guenez recognised this market of women and has become a leading figure of the luxury modest fashion sector, as the very first female to venture into the market through an e-commerce platform.

Her involvement in sustainability, enterprise, and art has resulted in strong and long-term partnerships with the World Economic Forum, Venice Biennale, and Art Dubai. Guenez has established and directed a programme implementing over $100 million in sustainability schemes over a number of evolving markets.

Maria Raga – CEO of Depop

Maria Raga is the creative mind behind Gen Z’s favourite shopping app, Depop. Raga was promoted to CEO from VP of Operations in 2016, having led every element of the business to its current success – from finance and engineering to marketing and product.

The incredibly popular and tech-savvy app operates on a peer-to-peer (P2P) commerce platform, combining selling methods modelled from eBay with an aesthetic designed for Instagram lovers. Depop has 15 million plus users across the globe, of which around 90 per cent are under 25.

Prior to joining Depop in 2014 as VP of Operations and Social Shopping, Raga worked as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Realising that academia was not her favoured career path, she went on to work as a management consultant at Bain & Co. She gained an MBA from INSEAD in 2007 before joining private sales company Privalia, which has offices in Spain, Italy, Mexico and Brazil.

In 2010, Raga moved from Boston to London to join the founding team of MyCityDeal, which was later acquired by Groupon. Four years later, she worked for fashion start-up Brand Alley, before joining Depop.

Depop counts around a third of British 15-24-year-olds as users and is especially favoured by the millennial consumer. The platform is becoming the new eBay for fashion-savvy young shoppers– offering sellers a unique and accessible way to gain financial skills and business acumen through building mini fashion empires from their bedrooms. Since it was founded in 2011, it has now amassed more than 15 million users.

Depop currently has more than 200 employees, sells tens of millions of clothes, accessories, and homewares for sale. Depop raised $62 million in Series C funding led by General Atlantic in June 2019.

Lucy Yeomans – Founder and co-CEO of Drest

Lucy Yeomans is revolutionising the fashion industry through merging gaming and fashion. In October 2019, Yeomans launched Drestthe world’s first interactive luxury styling game.

The game allows users to style and create their own content, share it across their social channels or with other users in the DREST app, and shop on its selling platform. Players are provided with a diverse line-up of avatars and the latest styles from its partner brands, along with hair, make-up, locations and backdrops.

Prior to launching Drest in 2012, Yeomans was appointed as Global Content Director of luxury online retailer, NET-A-PORTER.COM. She began her tenure by launching the company's weekly digital magazine, The Edit, in 2013 followed by the acclaimed global fashion print magazine, PORTER, in the spring of 2014. She was the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief and oversaw its highly-successful Incredible Women franchise.

Before joining NET-A-PORTER.COM in 2006, Yeomans spearheaded the successful transition of Harpers & Queen to Harper's BAZAAR. Following this, the publication was named “Consumer Magazine of the Year” at the PPA Awards in May 2007 beating Vogue, Grazia, Heat, and other major print magazines. Yeomans was also recognised as one of The Independent’s Media 50: Newsmakers of 2007.

In February 2019, Yeomans set up her own fashion and technology business DREST - a game-changing ecosystem within both the mobile gaming and fashion industries. DREST provides brands with a new frontier through which to connect with consumers and currently features over 160 of the world’s leading fashion brands including Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Off-White, Loewe, Chloé, Thom Browne, Burberry, and Stella McCartney.

Farfetch and other brands directly provide the platform with its assortment of digital fashion, enabling users to seamlessly shop for the styles they have virtually created and competed with in real life. The platform also spearheads philanthropic initiatives, as well as donating five per cent of every micro-transaction generated in-game to causes that support digital responsibility, mental health awareness, body positivity, and female empowerment.

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