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The women who have changed the fashion world


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March 8th is International Women's Day, the one day a year dedicated to celebrating women. Women in the fashion industry have often faced adversity and have fought to be where they are today. It's not an easy industry to get into and it's an even harder industry to stay in.

Image Credit:  Renan Katayama, via Wikimedia Commons

We're taking you through five women who have changed the course of fashion history. Whether it be through trailblazing, educating or being an activist, these women have all faced serious hurdles in their careers but have gone on to conquer all and become fashion legends.

Beverly Johnson


Image Credit: (Left) The Heart Truth (Right) Christopher Peterson, both via Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1974, model Beverly Johnson made history when she became the first African American model ever to grace the cover of American Vogue. The following year she made fashion history again, after becoming the first black woman to ever be on the cover of the French edition of Vogue. 

Before she became a model she strived to be a lawyer, studying criminal justice at the prestigious North Eastern University in Boston. She has since gone on to use her platform for activism - she was one of the first public figures to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault in a piece for Vanity Fair. Speaking out against sexual assault has always been taboo, but Johnson has used her platform for good since the very start of her career. "Not by choice, but by circumstance," she told The Guardian who referred to Johnson as the 'proto-model activist'. 

Naomi Campbell


Image Credit: (Left) Patrick Whitaker (Right) Georges Biard, both via Wikimedia Commons

Naomi Campbell is one of the most successful supermodels of all time. She was just 15 years old when she got her first cover for British Elle, and her achievements are second to none - in 1987 she became the second black model ever (the first was in 1966) to appear on the cover of British Vogue. In 1988 she became the first black model to be on the cover of French Vogue and the first ever to appear on the cover of the American Vogue September issue - the magazine's most iconic and commercial issue.

Naomi's career hasn't been without its controversies, but she's also a very outspoken activist. In 1991 she talked to TIME about how despite her incredible success she was still paid much less than her white counterparts: "I may be considered one of the top models in the world, but in no way do I make the same money as any of them." She campaigns and speaks out regularly about racial discrimination in the industry, and in 2013 she joined the 'Diversity Coalition' alongside Iman and Bethan Hardison. 

Hari Nef

Image Credit: Martin Kraft ( License: CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Model Hari Nef was the first-ever openly transgender woman to appear on the cover of a major British magazine - British Elle. She has since appeared in a major campaign for Gucci alongside Dakota Johnson.

It's not just modelling that has helped Nef change fashion history; she's also a writer and activist talking openly about her experience as a transgender woman living in 2019. Her writing has helped educate a generation of people about being trans, but she does not let her gender define her, telling Dazed: “I don’t want the same trans story to be told over and over again. I don’t want people to get stuck on this very western idea of what it means to be transgender. What we really need to look at is gender fluidity, and the idea that gender can be customised however you want.” 

Ashley Graham

Image Credit: Ashley Graham, via Wikimedia Commons

Plus size women are a seriously under-represented group within the fashion industry, and until Ashley Graham came along a model of her size had never appeared on the cover of a major fashion magazine. She has now starred in many different campaigns, for huge brands such as Levi's, Calvin Klein, and Revlon, and was one of the iconic Sports Illustrated models.

Graham is very vocal about body positivity, using her platform on social media to speak out about the issue often. She berates the term 'plus size' and has done a Ted Talk about the topic entitled 'Plus size? My size.' She often posts unfiltered images on her Instagram account - telling Vogue: "The point is to make women feel better, not shittier about themselves”

The Duchess of Sussex

Image Credit: Genevieve  via Wikimedia Commons

Few women are as influential in the fashion industry as Meghan Markle - The Duchess of Sussex has transformed the industry since marrying Prince Harry last year. Her style has become a serious source of inspiration for women across the globe, with 22,000 internet searches of 'Meghan Markle style' being recorded monthly. 

It's not just Meghan's style that has had a profound effect on the public either; her activism and commitment to not staying quiet about issues close to her heart have cemented her to icon status.

Zendaya Coleman

Image Credit: Disney ABC Television Group, via Flickr

Actress Zendaya has made it her mission to educate the world on the issue of cultural appropriation. In 2015, Zendaya was victim to racially offensive comments after Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic said that her Oscar's look (Zendaya wore her hair in locs) made her look like "she smells of patchouli oil...and maybe weed."

Zendaya has since spoken out about the issue, telling Hunger Magazine: "Cultural appropriation is something that I can understand, and something that I can appreciate people being concerned about. You witness it all the time, and for me at least, being someone who's very proud of where I'm from, I think it's important to be vocal."

She has since gone to launch her own fashion collection with Tommy Hilfiger, using a diverse selection of black models to model the clothing.

These are just five of the incredible women who are changing the face of the fashion industry. With more trailblazers coming up each year we can't wait to see who is making history this time next year!

 Lead Image Credit: Disney ABC Television Group, via Flickr

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