When you talk about the fashion industry, people mostly picture fancy, thin models walking down the runway in clothes that could never be worn on a normal day by regular people. It’s either that, or people immediately picture that fashionista friend they have who always needs to have the newest “it” accessory or “hot” item of the season. The bottom line is this: to the layperson, fashion just seems like a bunch of grown-ups playing dress-up with colorful fabrics. However the truth is way more tangible and numbers-based than people realize. The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry driven strictly by the bottom line like anything else. If a designer makes clothes that don’t sell, he/she is out the door. There is no fantasy here – it’s all about cold, green cash. In every industry, there are a few select people who hold the top spots and wield the most influence. When it comes to the fashion industry, these are the women who garner the most respect and have the most power.
6. Anna Wintour
If there was any such thing as the Gate Keeper of the fashion industry, then Anna Wintour would be just that. The chic, British-born, New York based doyenne has held the top editor-in-chief position of Vogue Magazine – wildly considered the bible of fashion – since 1988. In the world of style, what Anna Wintour says is considered as the gospel truth. As a designer, if your collection is given the thumbs up by Anna Wintour and her editorial team at Vogue, you are most likely going to see a substantial uptick in sales and your business has a great chance of surviving the cut-throat world of fashion.
But if the opposite happens, a designer will probably have a difficult time securing any major orders for their creations. The hugely successful movie, “The Devil Wears Prada” starring Meryl Streep is based on Anna Wintour, and it actually gives a pretty accurate description of just how much influence and power she has. Her last reported salary for being Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Magazine was $2 million a year, but she was recently made the overall creative director of Condé Nast, the mega publishing home of Vogue, so she probably received a substantial raise for that as well. Anna Wintour is never hard to spot – the 64-yr-old has had the same pageboy haircut for over 25 years and her omnipresent sunglasses prevent her from making eye contact with common people of lesser style. All Hail the Queen.
5. Diane Von Furstenberg
Similar to Anna Wintour, Diane Von Furstenberg can also be described as royalty in the fashion industry. In her case, she was actually married to Prince Egon of Furstenberg, Germany. She originally launched her eponymous brand in 1972, and was an immediate sensation with her chic wrap dresses. She ultimately divorced her Prince, took a break from fashion and re-launched in 1992 as a complete luxury lifestyle brand consisting of clothing, handbags, accessories, eyewear and more. Again her successful knit dress rose to the top as her bestselling item, and her highly coveted luxury brand is now sold in over 55 countries worldwide. Her net worth is estimated at 1.2 Billion dollars and she is also the president of the highly influential Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Diane is presently married to successful NYC-based internet mogul Barry Diller, making them the ultimate power couple.
4. Miuccia Prada
In the world of fashion, the Italians hold a special place. Whether you’re in Rome, Milan or Sicily, everywhere you go, you’ll see men, women and even kids with a truly impeccable sense of style. It seems like its innately in their genes, and it’s no wonder that so many global top-tier fashion brands like Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino all hail from Italy. One Italian brand that has been leading the way for several decades now is Prada. The extremely successful brand is helmed by the one-woman powerhouse, Miuccia Prada. In the world of style, she’s a distinct rarity, because she serves as creative director and head designer for the brand’s men’s and women’s divisions. She also designs another respected luxury brand underneath the Prada umbrella called Miu Miu. The amount of work required to design a minimum of four collections each year is mind-boggling, considering that Prada is a full-lifestyle brand churning out shoes, bags, eyewear and a full clothing range. Her husband Patrizio Bertelli handles the business end of their global empire and Miuccia’s net worth is estimated to be a cool $12.4 billion. She is definitely a living example of the common saying, “Hard Work Pays Off.”
3. Tory Burch
The Upper East side of Manhattan in NYC is one of the most well-heeled and affluent areas in the country. Penthouse apartments cost millions of dollars, its cultured residents spend millions each year on art and charities, it’s the location of some most prestigious clubs and restaurants in the world, and most of the women there most likely own 3 or 4 pieces of clothing from American designer Tory Burch. Tory Burch could well be considered as the younger, female equivalent to the Ralph Lauren empire of American fashion. The brand was started in 2004 as a complete lifestyle collection with several different categories offered. One of her earliest designs, a tailored tunic, quickly became a fashion favorite and her comfortable leather ballet flats and leather handbags emblazoned with her ‘T” logo took off too. She has received several accolades from her peers including the 2008 CFDA award for Accessory Designer award and big name celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah are all loyal wearers of her clothes. In 2013, her company was valued at an impressive $3.25 billion – and that’s what makes this 47-yr-old Penn graduate one of the most powerful women in fashion.
2. Sara Blakely
One unique aspect about the business of fashion is that once you venture outside the luxury tier of fashion, there are several different segments that are extremely lucrative and reliable. One of those segments is underwear. Let’s face it, unless some major edict is enforced outlawing underwear, we can pretty much be assured that people will keep wearing undergarments. It’s in this specific lane that Sara Blakely, the youngest self-made female billionaire ever, made her money. She is the inventor of Spanx, the leading maker of slimming intimates, comfortable body shapers, and shaping hosiery and tights. In 1998, Sarah came upon the idea for creating comfortable body slimming intimates for women, and using a textbook from Barnes and Noble, she crafted a patent for her new idea. She eventually found a hosiery factory in North Carolina that was willing to create her product, and successfully pitched her product to Nieman Marcus, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales. Her product was an instant hit and the roof was totally blown off the building when the almighty Oprah Winfrey named Spanx as one of her favorite things in 2000. The Spanx brand made $4 million in its first year, $10 million in its second year and the hockey stick growth has never ceased. The persistence and expert execution of her brilliant idea made Sara Blakely the youngest ever self-made billionaire, and still in her very early 40s – there is no end to her success in sight.
1. Gisele Bundchen
No doubt about it, the world of fashion revolves around selling a fantasy. That’s why high-end brands pay top dollar for the best photographers, art directors and models when it’s time to create campaigns to show their designs to the consuming masses. When it comes to the most coveted female models in the industry, there’s no one with more clout and pull than Brazilian beauty, Gisele Bundchen. The 33-yr-old stunner has been the top paid model in the world since 2004, and still only in her early thirties, it doesn’t seem like that streak will end anytime soon. She has starred in lucrative campaigns for luxury brands like Dior, Versace, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and is also a very popular face for lingerie giant, Victoria’s Secret. Her net worth is estimated to be over $500 million (not bad for getting dressed up and taking pictures), and she has also done an excellent job of diversifying her income by starting several businesses. She owns a skincare brand and a popular line of casual sandals and flip-flops called Ipanema. And as if her life wasn’t charmed enough, she’s also married to Tom Brady, the handsome quarterback of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady. The dashing couple has two beautiful kids together.