Although the fashion industry is built on creating clothing and accessories for women, it is somewhat surprising that there are relatively only a few female designers. Diane Von Furstenberg, and recently Carolina Herrera have handed over the reins to male designers to oversee their namesake collections. While these venerable brands maintain the vision of creating beautiful looks for powerful and confident women, there is a noticeable absence of female driven labels on the runways. At Sarah Alexandra, we believe in the power of female owned and operated businesses. Our goal is to create the most beautiful shirting for every women and occasion. It has been said that in order to understand the present, you must look to the past. With that in mind, we wanted to share some of our favorite fashion heroines who helped create the industry as we know it. We firmly believe that the future is female, and these incredible women have helped pave the way.
Mademoiselle Jeanne Lanvin began her career as an apprentice before opening up her very own millinery shop in Paris. After her daughter and biggest inspiration was born, Lanvin focused her attention on creating beautiful pieces for her. In time this attracted her clients into dressmaking for themselves, their children, and some of the most famous names in Europe. These creations caught the eye of the Parisian elite, and Lanvin opened her namesake house featuring her signature embroidered and embellished gowns. Lanvin was the first designer to create a lifestyle brand including women and men’s clothing, swimwear, accessories, and home décor. Her first perfume L’Arpege, is one of the most well-known perfumes in the world with the iconic logo designed by Paul Iribe. The logo was inspired by a picture of Jeanne and her daughter Marguerite, as well as her passion for robe de style. Her visions are a testament to her talent and ingenuity, along with being an inspiration to women taking power in the workplace.
I say Coco, you say, Chanel! The legendary designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, started an evolution that transformed women’s fashion and women’s lives in the 20th century. After opening her first store in Paris in 1913 she wanted to minimize fabric costs and purchased Jersey regularly. In time, she found that Jersey fit well with her designs which were seen as simple, and frequently inspired by men’s wear. Some of her classic pieces including a cropped jacket, LBD (Little Black Dress), and statement cocktail necklaces are as relevant today as they have ever been. Chanel is credited in seeking to free women of discomfort from their corsets and stiff skirts by creating styles that were both classic and comfortable. This was noticed by many women, which led her to own on one of the most prominent fashion houses in the world.
Elsa Schiaparelli, also known as the Queen of Fashion, felt that fashion was as much about making art as it was about making clothes. Her debut collection of sweaters featured surrealist trompe l’oeil, also known as “fool of the eye” designs that became an instant success. Astrology, tattoos, the circus, along with surrealist art are some of the few varied themes in her collections. She then began to create collections including ski wear, swimwear, and eventually evening gowns. Schiaparelli designed clothes for theatre and film which appeared in many movies over the course of her career. Schiaparelli has relentlessly been remembered in the fashion world and has been featured in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with Italian designer Miuccia Prada in major exhibitions.
Claire McCardell is known to be the founder of American fashion. Her designs abandoned the fussy French notions of the times. She created functional, chic, and easy to wear designs including shift dresses, wrap dresses, and pleated details. She designed her sundresses in cotton, gingham, twill, denim and jersey that were to be worn both during the day or night. Similar to designer Coco Chanel, McCardell created designs for her own lifestyle and often created pieces out of necessity. For example, when faced with too much luggage for travel, she designed dresses in parts with interchangeable tops and skirts that revolutionized the way women dressed.
“Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wears them will” (Anne Klein). Anne Klein began her fashion design career in the juniors market. With her husband, the company Junior Sophisticates was founded and specialized in designs for petite women, who at the time often had to shop in the children’s department. In 1968, she began her own line that featured chic menswear including jackets, skirts, blouses and pants that could be worn together in various combinations. This mix and match concept was revolutionary at the time and took the country by storm. Klein was also the mentor to Donna Karan, who took over after her death and went on to become another power player in the fashion industry.