It’s no secret that in the past decade fashion has gotten a pretty bad rep. From designers suffering from word vomit and saying that there can be no overweight models (I’m looking at you, Karl Largefeld and Ralph Lauren) to the idea that everyone in fashion is dumb as a rock, things haven’t been so pretty lately. But that’s not a clear picture of what everyone in fashion is like as a whole.
The idea for this list came after weeks of inspiration for me because of the following people’s work and mission. While I’ve always found entertainers in music and movies to be influential, there is something about people in the art and fashion world that really speaks to me. I was never even interested in fashion until one of my best friends, Meghan (who also has an amazing blog you can read here) showed me what an art it really is, and I realized how much hard work is involved in making a piece. Now, I have the utmost respect for designers, models, and critics because as I’ve come to learn, fashion is so much more than standing still, and looking pretty. It’s also not just something for girls or gay guys–if you can appreciate art, you can appreciate fashion because they go hand in hand.
So, please come inside for who I believe, are some of the most inspirational people in this industry. And maybe they’ll change your mind that not all fashion is bad or stupid, like they did mine.
In no specific order….
Occupation: Creative Director of Vogue
Why her: There’s something about Grace that is so vibrant, so full of life. The passion and joy she brings to her job as creative director of Vogue is so noticeable in almost all of her pictures (the one you see at the top is from one of her shoots), and she wears her struggles on her face like every wrinkle and line tells a story. Grace began her career as a model, but after a serious car accident she ended up becoming an editor at a Vogue oversees until the 80s when she was hired at American Vogue. Grace has always been advocate for models not being so rail then and most importantly, wanting to depict glamour mixed with reality. In the documentary “The September Issue” Grace talks about why she loves what she does, and what inspires her. It has to be one of the most touching and relateable scenes in a documentary of late. The whole clip is brilliant, but be sure to watch the first two minutes.
Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler)
Why Them: Lazaro and Jack have to be two of the hardest-working designers in fashion. The two met at Parsons (where they studied under Tim Gunn) and after having one of the most successful senior year runway shows, their designs were bought by almost every major upscale clothing store in New York, including Barneys. That’s right, this happened straight out of college. Since then the Jack and Lazaro have still remained as down to earth and dedicated as they were when they first debuted. What I find most inspiring about the two is the passion they bring to their job. If anyone ever saw the documentary “The Day Before” detailing the stressful twenty four hour time crunch before their next huge runway show, you noticed how hands on they are with all their clothes, and their desire for everything to be perfect. If this meant staying up all night in their studio putting the finishing touches on clothes with their team, so be it. During the actual show, it was as if they were blessing the clothes and models before they went out and once it was over, it was hard not to see the pure sense of happiness on their faces.
Diane Von Furstenberg
Occupation: Designer and activist for women
Why her: The real question should be, “Why not her?” Diane is much more than just a fashion designer. She’s a mother, an activist, and an encouragement to all women wanting to be independent. Something I find so inspiring about Diane is her fight to empower women, and make them aware of how strong they are. Diane’s mother was held in a concentration camp and after being releaesed was told she would never be able to have children. A year later Diane was born. It has been her mission to show women you can be your own best friend, and have anything you want in life if you work hard enough for it. I think this interview on Good Morning America sums up her mission perfectly:
Occupation: Editor in Chief of Vogue
Why her: So many things have been said about Anna calling her the Ice Queen, Nuclear Wintour, she’s the devil in Prada, she’s Satan… But none of that is even close to who Anna really is as a person, and a woman. Anna has single handedly made Vogue the most influental magazine in America and in doing so, become one of the most powerful women in entertainment. Yes, she has a reputation for being hard and difficult, but she is also running one of the largest magazines in America. Anna can’t afford to be sweet and cuddly. She gets the job done, and does it right. There’s something I find very influential about a woman who has broken barriers and has done so much to show anything a man can do, a woman can do better. And if you saw “the September Issue” you didn’t see a cold-hearted woman, but a woman with a vision and the drive to make it happen. Who can’t respect that?
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Occupation: Designers, actresses, and head CEOs of The Row, Elizabeth and James
Why Them: For a moment, forget everything you know about the Olsen twins. In an industry where image is everything and celebrity lines are a dime a dozen, the Olsens have managed to become successful, respected designers. Beginning with a line in Wal-Mart when they were thirteen, the Olsens’ life has been a brand. But after dropping out of the public eye for four years to attend college, intern, and figure out what to do with their lives, the girls came back with one of the most surprisingly sophisticated and elegant lines at Fashion Week winning them rave reviews from critics. The girls also managed to write a book, “Influence”, that actually features quite a few people on this list and has been a huge inspiration to me when I’m feeling not so creative. Ashley has since quit acting to become a designer full-time, while Mary-Kate continues to do both. Kudos to the twins for following their heart, and doing what they love–and doing it well.
Occupation: model, actress, CEO, talk show host
Why her: Laugh at her and me all you want for putting Tyra on this list, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Tyra is paving the way for black women looking for a younger Oprah and proving that not all models are dumb. It began with a little show called “America’s Next Top Model” which has now expanded to one of TV’s longest running competition shows (next to “American Idol” and “Survivor”) and has now come full circle with a talk show that is unafraid to push a few buttons and raise some eyebrows. Tyra has also become a role model for young women with curves, once famously telling a live studio audience that they can kiss “my fat, black a**” after photos of her in a swimsuit were published that drew criticisms from the blogging world. Sure, Tyra’s a little crazy at times and she has to relate to EVERYTHING people are talking about on her show, but she’s a pioneer and is a woman creating a successful brand and name. Haters to the left.
Occupation: Model, architect, film producer, PR rep
Why him: Ambrose is a model I came across while reading an issue of VMAN, and I was instantly taken by how driven he is. Not content to just be a model, Ambrose recently bought hundreds of acres of land to start an architecture company because he says it has always been a passion of his, and he is also a PR rep who does work for celebrity clients like Kim Kardashian. Along with all of this, Ambrose is still interested in film production and is beginning to produce films. Of course, Ambrose is also an amazing model who’s photos have this rugged edge that honestly make them pop. Ambrose looks like a real man, and he’s also proving to not be the typical braindead, pretty model. Not bad for a guy from Alaska.
Why her: Lauren is an interesting one because she’s defying what it means to be a female model in the twenty-first century. At the age of sixty, Lauren posed nude for Big magazine saying, “I want them (women) to not be ashamed of who they are when they’re in bed.” In the seventies and eighties, Lauren was the go-to models for fashion designers and was with one of the top agencies at the time. Lauren also became an actress and starred in movies like “The Gambler” and “Once Bitten.” But aside from all of her accomplishments, what struck me about Lauren is an interview she did for the Olsens’s book “Influence.” At the beginning of the interview they asked her how she began her career and who discovered her. Lauren answered that question perfectly by stating, “I think you find yourself.” Kudos for that answer, and to Lauren.
Occupation: Model, CEO, host of “Project Runway”
Why her: Following in the footsteps of Tyra Banks, Heidi has created one of the most successful shows for designers to get their big break. After establishing herself as one of Victoria’s Secret’s hottest models, Heidi turned to TV and created “Project Runway.” And has since jump-started some very successful fashion careers. Never one to mince words or hold back criticism, Heidi is known for her constructive, if not a little cold critiques on the show. As a result, Heidi has given many designers a chance many would kill for while also being a wife and mother. Obviously, you can have your cake and eat it too if you work as hard as this woman.