Women with the WOW factor

Saturday the 8th of March marks International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the successes of women kind. If you’re not showering your wives, girlfriends, colleagues or mothers with gifts then another way to celebrate could be by getting yourself down to the WOW festival (Women of the World) at the Southbank Centre in London running from 5 – 9th of March.

Now some of you may or may not have been aware that International Women’s Day was actually a thing, perhaps considering it a ploy to be coaxed into treating the females of your life. However in actual fact it is a public holiday in 27 different countries (the UK clearly needs to clock onto this idea), where women from all areas of society are doted upon, kind of like Mother’s Day, just picture lot’s of chocolates and flowers.

However beyond the gifts and adoration women from around the globe will receive on this day, International Women’s Day is about something much bigger (yes, there is something out there that is bigger than receiving gifts ladies). It is a celebration of the amazing progression women have made with their standing in society, what used to be a ‘Man’s World’ (cue James Brown…) and highlighting the struggles and prejudices we are still fighting today.

This doesn’t mean to say that men can’t jump on board the celebrations, just take a leaf out of Pharrell’s book fella’s. He has dedicated his most recent album ‘GIRL’ to the female gender, Pharrell himself said that “Women are a phenomenal force in my life and my career, and are the cornerstone of my existence” and his new album celebrates this, cleverly marketed to be released a week prior to the global festival (coincidence?).

As a gender we have come a long way from the marches of 1908, where 1500 woman marched through the streets of New York demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. Now here we are, running companies, countries, and apparently Pharrell Williams’ life. There’s still a lot to fight for, it’s sad to see that still in the 21st Century gender discrimination is rife, the recent struggle in India is one example to look at. After a recent trip there the huge billboards screaming ‘stop raping’ that plagued the city were only one of many reminders that some of the world have a way to go when it comes to their attitude towards women.

However, back onto a lighter note, this seems a very fitting time to merge fashion and this day to bring you 5 inspiring women within the industry; these 5 ladies certainly have a lot to be looked up to for…

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney

After graduating from Central Saint Martin’s, Stella quickly began her climb up the ladder of success within the fashion realm. In 1997, only two years after graduating in 1995, she was named Creative Director of Chloe, following the footsteps of none other than fashion tycoon Karl Lagerfeld. Proving to be not only creatively charged but business minded, McCartney went onto launch her own fashion house in 2001 and now operates 17 free standing stores, having her collection distributed over 50 countries through 600 wholesale accounts. The success doesn’t stop there, in 2003 she launched her own perfume, 2007 her own skincare range, 2008 a new lingerie line and then in 2010 her own children’s collection. The house of McCartney has grown vaster and vaster and in February 2013 she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by BBC Radio 4. As well as being a foundation within fashion, she is also a lifelong veggie and campaigns for animal rights, supporting PETA and making a point of including no leather or fur in her designs. Flying the moral high ground flag for fashion as well as becoming one of the most dominating personas within fashion.

Natalie MassenetNatalie Massenet

Natalie Massenet

Founder and executive chairman of the NET-A-PORTER group limited, this business wonder is an aspiration to fashion and business woman alike. As well as this role she was also former fashion editor of high profile international publications such as W, WWD and Tatler. NET-A-PORTER blossomed from her idea of creating an online magazine that allowed women to buy the latest designer labels from the page they were on. The Financial Times described it as “the barometer of fashion” and was named as one of the top ten women to watch in the Wall Street Journal. On top of all this she was given an MBE for her services to the fashion industry, all in a day’s work.

Alek Wek

South Sudanese Supermodel is also on our list of inspiring fashionista’s. Born in Wau (now South Sudan) she is the seventh of nine children, and if anyone’s got a story to tell, she’s one of them. Having had to flee her home country in 1985 from government and rebel forces, and then coping with the loss of her father, life threw Alek a line in 1995 where at a outdoor market in Crystal Palace she was discovered by Models 1. From there on her life took a turn; in 1997 MTV awarded her with model of the year, she walked an abundance of Catwalks for high profile designers such as Chanel, Galliano and Calvin Klein to name but a few, she’s also appeared in countless editorials for magazines such as American and British Vogue. However, on top of her glittering modelling career she is also a prolific campaigner. Helping raise awareness of the plight of refugees worldwide, combat AIDS, and is an ambassador for doctors without borders. Wek has created a name for herself in the humanitarian aid world as well as the fashion one.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

A name most will have heard of, however did you know that Westwood actually begun her working life as a primary school teacher, whilst selling bits of handmade jewellery at a stall on Portobello Road? We apologise for the cliché, but Westwood is proof that if you have a dream, work hard enough and it can come true. It was in 1971 that she gave up teaching and started selling her designs in the shop her husband Malcolm bought on the Kings Road, named ‘Let It Rock’. From there on Vivienne became a household name within fashion, not just for her collections but also for her part in political activism. In 1989 she appeared on the cover of Tatler as Margaret Thatcher, dressed in a suit that was ordered for Thatcher but had not yet been delivered, with the title ‘this woman was once a punk’. The cover enraged Thatcher but made its mark in history, and defines Westwood’s outspoken nature when it comes to the games of politics. Westwood has also campaigned against nuclear weapons, defended Habeas Corpus and dedicated one of her collections in 2013 to Bradley Manning, having all the models wear massive badges picturing Manning with the word ‘truth’ underneath. This creative, candid and accomplished woman will be one that females will always look to emulate for years to come.

Clare Waight Keller

Clare Waight Keller

This may be someone not as well known as some of the names on this list; however this does not mean she is any less undeserving of being on it. The mother of three is head designer at Chloe and has certainly proved her worth, going from working at Pringle to taking leadership of one of the biggest designer fashion labels currently out there. Keller was scouted not only for her creativity, having trained with Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Calvin Klein, but was also picked up for her business acumen. In 2012 Vogue.com declared her to be the “actual embodiment” of the brand, brining a boyish twist to the feminine house and marking her mark on the fashion realm.

These ladies are the tip of the iceberg however when it comes to inspirational women that you can find within fashion, being a predominantly female lead industry it is thriving with figures that you can seek encouragement and incentive in. Of course, there are plenty of men in the industry you can gain the same from (seeing as we are all about non gender discrimination here) but these few empresses are ones to get you started with. So however you will be celebrating International Woman’s Day, whether it’s by appreciating those females nearest dearest to you, or just by thinking ‘yeah, well done us’, it’s a good time to delve into those we have to thank for gender equality and those who are still fighting for it. Also, if someone could get the ball rolling by putting a note to Mr Cameron to consider following in the footsteps of those 27 countries that have it as a bank holiday…