March 22, 2012

Designing Women

stella mccartney

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Certainly there's an advantage to the artist and muse being one: Women designers don't need to research what their clients might want to wear; they simply ask, "What would I want to wear?" But today's most groundbreaking artist-muse relationships are true creative collaborations: Nicki Minaj and Betsey Johnson, Lady Gaga and Donatella Versace, Patti Smith and Ann Demeulemeester. And who but Donna Karan could Barbra Streisand have worn for her multiple farewell tours? When it comes to fashion statements, these women finish each other's sentences.

Of course, wondering What would my sister or daughter want to wear? also works. It's no accident that there are so many dynamic design dynasties. Between the female-dominated Fendi and Missoni families and newer creative clans like The Row's Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen and Rodarte's Mulleavy sisters, male designers must envy their female competitors being able to swap clothes and ideas with each other — like, "Can you actually sit down in that skirt?" — all before breakfast. Carolina Herrera, Karan, and Versace have each designed collections with their daughters in mind. Sonia Rykiel actually started her knitwear empire because she couldn't find a thing to wear in all of Paris (really, Sonia?) when pregnant with her daughter, Nathalie — the very same daughter who now oversees the line and its major relaunch in America.

From the runway to the highest rungs of business, politics, and beyond, alphas abound. There are currently 19 female prime ministers and a record 18 female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. Can fashion save the world? Perhaps not. But women just might, and we know who's sharpening their scissors, ready to dress them.


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