No matter the field of work, it’s always great when you see someone being amazing at what they do. It leaves us with the potential to feel inspired knowing that there’s someone out there, at the height of their career, as well as having the thought that perhaps one day (or maybe even now) we will be the ones inspiring others. So, in honour of Women’s History month, I’ve collated a list of female fashion designers from the past and present that, after hearing their story, will leave you feeling empowered.
One such designer is Grace Wales Bonner, and her design company WALES BONNER, who currently has a line with the sports company Adidas, as well as her own fashion collection. Her label encompasses a mixture of European and Afro-Atlantic approaches. Bonner also uses her projects to address identity politics, sexuality, and race. Bonner, who only launched her label in 2014, has already made waves in the fashion industry, being nominated for and winning many different awards. This included the L’Oréal Professional Talent award in 2014 with her graduate collection, AFRIQUE. More recently, in 2020, Grace Wales Bonner was recognised to be one of the most influential people of African or African Caribbean heritage in the United Kingdom. These two accolades alone show how this female fashion designer is at the top of her game.
Another designer who has been an inspiration for decades is Miuccia Prada who, as the head designer of the company Prada, has faced being a female designer in a time when being a woman in fashion was rare and a career that needed fighting for. This time being the 1970s in Italy, when female entrepreneurs were sparse. For this reason, amongst many others, is why Miuccia Prada is listed as an empowering designer. Her fight and persistence has led to what is now a multi-billion dollar business. For me, she is a motivation to persist and become great in whatever I choose to do.
Rei Kawakubo, the Japanese fashion designer who is the founder of the brand Comme des Garcons, is the third designer that will leave you feeling empowered. Her debut fashion show of Comme des Garcons in 1981 was panned by critics. This was due to the garments having a heavy use of black, as well as distressed fabrics and seams that were unfinished. Her clothes were shown to be anti-fashion; Kawakubo was using dark fabrics and unusual shapes as opposed to the bright colours and patterns that were trending in the 1980s. Nonetheless, Rei Kawakubo continued with designing clothes that were often associated with punk style, despite being regularly criticised for her clothes. This perseverance is, arguably, one of the many reasons why Kawakubo and her Comme des Garcons line is so successful today. It is also the reason why, not only as a female, but as a young person who finds knockbacks sometimes disheartening, I am so motivated by Kawakubo’s story. Despite her work being viewed negatively, her persistence shows that if you work hard and keep trying, you will eventually get to where you want to be.
Graces Wales Bonner, Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo are just three of the female fashion designers that will leave you feeling empowered. It’s always nice to see a woman breaking the glass ceiling and being at the top of their career, and the stories and clothes of these three women are a reflection of female empowerment and a way for all of us to feel inspired.