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International Women’s Day

Written by
Anna Castleton
Published date
07 March 2014

International Women's Day 2014 logo

On Saturday 8 March University of the Arts London is celebrating International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is ‘inspiring change’ and UAL is proud of the many creative students, staff and alumni inspiring and creating change around the globe. Read more about 2014’s global programme.

To mark the day, we asked Professor Frances Corner, Head of London College of Fashion and Pro Vice-Chancellor of UAL, to name her most inspiring woman. She said:

“When someone asks me who my favourite style icon is, I always initially think of fashion legends such as Diana Vreeland and Coco Chanel or a more contemporary woman, perhaps, such as the actresses Tilda Swinton or Chloë Sevigny. But Frida Kahlo has been my inspiration throughout my professional career. Her vibrant uncompromising imagery, her political commitment and sense of who she was have been a constant source of inspiration to me and encouraged my lifelong commitment to feminism. She is my style icon.


“Why, you ask? In part, because of her vibrant uncompromising imagery, political commitment and strong sense of self, which have made her a constant source of inspiration for me and encouraged my lifelong commitment to feminism. The physical trauma that Kahlo endured so early on in her life shaped her. She did not consider becoming an artist until a near-fatal bus accident; thereafter she found in art a conduit through which to channel her pain and physical restrictions.

“There is an intense and searing perception to a Frida Kahlo painting that I feel other artists fail to achieve. And, to me, Kahlo’s unique sense of style has always been extraordinary and appealing. She used clothes, jewellery and the rituals of dress as an integral part of her imagery – in paintings and in life. How she chose to dress reflects how fashion and clothing connect us not only to our inner selves but also to the world around us. Her decision to style her hair in traditional plaits, her sartorial references to historical Mexican dress and her use of corsets to help manage her physical pain all became symbols of her determination and inner strength. Through her personal style, Frida Kahlo extended her artistic influence beyond art and into the theatre of life.

“The exhibition Smoke and Mirrors: Frida Kahlo’s Dresses. An Exhibition at Museo Frida Kahlo, is curated by Circe Henestrosa, a fashion curator who holds an MA in Fashion Curation from London College of Fashion. Circe was awarded a Distinction for her research thesis and exhibition: “Frida’s White Cabinet”, an exhibition of artist Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe which was presented at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City in November 2012, and is available to view until September 2014.”

See more about the exhibition here.

The Museo Frida Kahlo has interviewed LCF’s Judith Clark, Professor of Fashion and Museology, about the exhibition. Watch it here.

Hear more from Frances by following her on Twitter.

You can also revisit some of our interviews with influential and inspiring women from UAL’s archive: