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LCF celebrate International Women's Day 2022

A procession of women supporting women rights
  • Written byJ Tilley
  • Published date 08 March 2022
A procession of women supporting women rights
Photography by Michelle Marshall 2018 processions

To celebrate International Women's Day 2022, we asked the women of LCF to share who inspires them in the world of fashion. Who are the women that are the backbone of the industry? Who are the women that have often been overlooked or forgotten? Who are the women that have changed the course of the industry in their particular field? Who deserves a place in the top spot for our celebration of women?

Sachan Popo-Williams - Student Activities Coordinator

Iman Abdulmajid - the woman who paved the way for a more inclusive fashion industry. Through her modelling career and make-up line, Iman broke barriers and has become a great advocate for diversity - not just for models and make-up artists but for fashion designers alike. Additionally, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, potentially the most influential fashion designer of all time, transformed the way women wore clothes laying out a new way for the fashion brand and capitalising on the evolving times she lived in, as well as her status as a fashion icon.

Elite fashion designer Ana Lowe was responsible for generations of New York City socialite fashion and the iconic wedding dress of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy in 1953. Dubbed 'society's best-kept secret' Ana never received recognition for her exquisite sartorial skills and eventually was trumped by the other Haute Couture up and coming brands (at the time) such as Balmain, Chanel and Dior. Lowe's pieces were worn by many famous icons during the 1930s and 1980s however, she was underpaid and undervalued and therefore could not sustain her business. Preserved collections of her work are currently held at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History as a reminder of her hard work, perseverance, iconic looks and sheer talent.

As an advocate for diversity and a driving force of inclusivity, Rihanna is laying the foundations in the most influential ways. From her groundbreaking cosmetics collection to her Savage x Fenty line, she is making phenomenal moves in the fashion and beauty industry. Fenty Beauty gives us a range of 50+ shades of foundation catering to a Pantone range of skin tones and through her lingerie line, she's a heavy-hitting contender to her competitors serving — and casting — people of various skin tones, sizes, heights, and shapes.

Another woman anchoring the industry is writer, actor and executive producer Issa Rae. The shoulder she lends to the fashion industry goes above and beyond her hit show Insecure. Together with costume designer Shiona Turini, they have put a variety of designers, artists and actors in the spotlight - creating opportunities for people of colour within and out of their industry.

Helen Norman - LCF Library Assistant

For me, personally, I would say that members of design teams probably get overlooked terribly. And they're the ones that make the contributions to the designs that we eventually all wear! The pattern cutters, the surface designers, the sample machinists, they all make a vital contribution. I couldn't give you an exact ratio but I'm pretty sure these are all predominantly female roles, headed up no doubt by male investors of the brand/label. Garment makers in factories also get terribly overlooked. For me the women who should be celebrated are the 'everywoman' who plays some part in the creation or production process of the clothes we wear.

I'm reminded of this monologue from Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada when I think of what goes into the creation of our everyday wardrobe;

"This… “stuff”? Oh, okay. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet, and you select… I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back, but what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean.

However, that blue represents millions of dollars of countless jobs, and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry, when in fact, you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room… from a pile of “stuff.”

I'm not sure about women who have changed the industry but for me, female musicians who have quashed gender roles with their dress and performance, such as Suzi Quatro and Annie Lennox are trailblazers. They appropriated traditional male 'looks', paving the way for future generations to experiment with their own.

Tamsin Ace - Head of Cultural Programming

As a 14 year old studying GCSE textiles, I was fascinated by the anarchic style and design of Vivienne Westwood. I trawled magazines looking for pictures of her clothes I could cut out and copy, made the pilgrimage to her Worlds End shop on the Kings Road with my mum and designed and made my own (budget) version of her iconic corset!  What I loved about her was that she was naughty, outspoken, and brave. I didn’t know it at the time but she influenced my belief that you should dress for how you feel not for an occasion or what society dictates, rules are meant to be broken! I love that she was 51 when I was 14, and that she held such power and influence and that her brand is still so relevant and strong today.

Michele Buchanan - Senior Outreach Manager

I grew up in a small town and right in the middle we had a factory full of women manufacturing underwear - long since gone but I will always remember lunch times when the factory closed for a Friday the sea of women in blue overcoats flooded the market streets and the men in suits went to the pub. Globally, women continue to do the grafting but the top of the industry the wealth and power is governed by men.

There are so many women doing amazing work but for me, Aja Barber should be highlighted. After reading 'Consumed,' it changed me. I love her style of writing, it is so accessible and the fact she loves fashion so much - we can put social justice first, we are all accountable.

Julie Derozario - LCF Library Assistant

One of my 'new' favourite textile designers is Althea McNish. I think UAL can claim this extraordinary designer as an alumni, as Althea studied at what is now LCC and is where she became interested in textiles. Her designs are inspired by her love of nature (which I can totally identify with!). When I look at her prints, they bring me happiness because they are so bold, colourful, and joyful. They remind me of the brightest of summers days, when the sky is as blue as a cornflower and the sun is warm on my face!

Her first big client was Liberty in the late 1950s and then Heals in the 1960s. I think she mainly designed for interiors and furnishing but her prints were used by Zika Ascher for Christian Dior. Sadly, I only came to learn about Althea and her life when she died in 2020. I read her obituary in the Guardian, and I was shocked that I was only learning about this wonderful designer then. She was friends with and connected to well-known artists like Edward Bawden, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi and Zika Ascher.

We would love to know who inspires you! Join the conversation on LCF's Instagram.