10 women who changed fashion for ever


Imagine a world without jackets, heels, trousers or make-up.

Boring. Pure and simple.

Women not only obsess about fashion, they define and continue to redefine fashion. This week, The COUNTDOWN crew has carefully curated the top 10 women with the biggest influence on fashion. These women have disrupted entire industries and pioneered head-turning, heart-thumping, jaw-dropping innovations in the world of fashion. Here we go:



Elsa Schiparelli (1890 – 1973)


She was an Italian fashion designer and was one of the prominent figures of fashion between the two world wars. Schiaparelli had no training in the technical skills of pattern making. Her method of designing came from impulse of the moment and inspiration as she progressed in her work. She draped fabric directly on the body, sometimes using herself as a model. She imbibed this technique from her mentor Paul Poiret. In 1931, Schiaparelli’s divided skirt – a fore runner of shorts shocked the tennis world. In 1930, She introduced a swimsuit design which incorporated an interior bra with an alluring low cut back by using hidden straps that crossed in the back and closed around the waist. She also produced the first evening dress with a matching jacket. She was also credited to be one of the designers that offered the first clothes with visible zippers. Her fanciful imaginative powers and her instinctive sensibilities distinguished her creations.


Tyra Banks (1973)


Tyra Lynne Banks is an American model. Tyra began her career as a model at age 15. She became the first African American woman to grace the cover of GQ. She is one of the original Victoria Secret Angels. By early 2000s, she was one of the top earning models in the world. Tyra Bank’s determination and confidence made her a great model. She pioneered the smash hit show ‘ America’s Next Top Model’, which changed the way fashion was viewed and redefined beauty. Her career helped break racial barriers in the modeling industry. She continues to inspire generations of black models and young ladies.


Diane Von Furstenberg (1946)

dianne von

Diane Von Furstenberg, formerly Princess Diane of Furstenberg is a Belgian born American fashion designer. She is best known for her iconic wrap dress. She worked as an apprentice in Italy for a textile manufacturer Angelo Ferretti, where she learnt cut, fabric and color. She excelled at tailoring and was influential in the development of structured jackets for women.


Barbara Mary Quant (1934)


Mary Quant is a Welsh fashion designer and British fashion icon famous for creating the mini- skirt and hot pants.  She realized she couldn’t dance in below the knee skirts and dresses, so she created the mini skirt and it soared in popularity. Although it was a rebellious move at that time, it played a big part in changing how women approached fashion. Her short printed dresses came in vibrant colors and it defined the fun of 60s era. She encouraged young people to dress to please themselves and treat fashion as a game. We owe much of today’s skin baring styles and outfits to Quant.


Gabrielle Bonheur Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Gabrielle Bonheur Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer and founder of Chanel brand. Chanel was known for her lifelong determination, energy and ambition. In 1913, Chanel opened a boutique in Deauville where she introduced casual clothes suitable for leisure and pleasure. She had the ability to borrow from menswear and still make it look chic and feminine. She borrowed from the menswear to create her iconic Chanel suits. She was the first female designer to use Jersey material. This material was practical, comfortable and simple. Chanel freed women from their constricting corsets and convinced the world that the ability to move freely in clothes can be fashionable. She also introduced the ‘ Little Black Dress’ LBB, a dress that every modern lady must have in her wardrobe. She also wore trousers purely out of modesty which was rare as at that time and she played a huge part in making them popular. In 1929, Chanel offered a handbag inspired by soldier’s bags – The Chanel bag. Its thin shoulder strap allows the user free hand. The bags design was informed by Chanel’s convent days and her love of the sporting world. Details of the classic bag have been reworked and the design updated.

Her work is still as relevant today as it was in the 1920s.


Jeanne Paquin (1869-1936)

Jeanne Paquin

Jeanne was a French fashion designer known for her modern and innovative designs. She was the first woman to open a fashion house at Paris. Paquin loved to create elegant and sumptuous gowns, they came out dazzling and shimmering.   She layered, blended and combined various fabrics and decorations that would harmonize color and light. She designed garments for all occasions ranging from luxurious pastel evening gowns, extravagant evening wraps, chic tailored dresses and suits for day wear.

She introduced an improved hobble skirt by adding hidden pleats to allow for ease of movement. She sent mannequins or beautiful young actresses to the opera or elite events in order to display and promote her newest creations.  She set a precedent for future fashion icons by wearing her own design in public. She was well known for her publicity stunts which in early 20th century Paris meant organizing fashion parades – The runway show predecessor.


Katharine Hamnett (1947)


Katharine is an English fashion designer. She achieved stardom as a fashion designer in the early 1970s. She invented the block print sloganeering T-shirt. She pioneered organic cotton production in the 1990s. In 1983, she started making protest T-shirts, shouting common sense in huge block letters: “Choose Life”, “Worldwide Nuclear Ban Now”,”Preserve the Rainforest”.  She sent Naomi Campbell down the catwalk wearing a top saying ‘Use a condom’ in 2004. Today’s young designers reinvented this by printing diverse block lettered words on T-shirts. She used fashion to voice out her beliefs. She made fashion political and politics fashionable.


Jeanne-Marie Lanvin (1867 – 1946)

Jeanne-Marie Lanvin

Jeanne Lanvin was a French Haute Couture fashion designer. She founded the Lanvine fashion house and the beauty and perfume company – Lanvin Parfume. In 1909, Lanvine joined the Syndicat de la Couture.

She was trained as a milliner and dressmaker. She began making clothes for her daughter and soon, wealthy people began requesting copies for their own children. She obliged and the rest, as they say, is history.


Dame Vivienne Isabel Westwood (1941)

Dame Vivienne Westwood

She’s a British fashion designer and a businesswoman famous for bringing the modern fashion punk and new waves. Safety pin shirts, sky high platform shoes and plaid pants won’t have looked so chic without her. She’s one of those that introduced the Punk style which includes bondage gear, razor blades, and lavatory chains on clothing, safety pins, outrageous make-up and hair.


Madeleine Vionnet (1876 – 1975)

Madeleine Vionnet

Considered one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, her vision of the female form revolutionized modern clothing. She introduced the bias cut and the popularizing Grecian style dresses. Her innovative techniques were widely studied and used by many great designers.

Madeleine was a French fashion designer who trained in London before returning to France to establish her first fashion house in 1912.


In closing…

We do hope you’ve been inspired by these exceptional women. It’s time to unleash your potentials and make a bold statement with your fashion sense. YES YOU CAN.

See you same time, next week.

Published by Ogunbowale Olugbenga

Ogunbowale Olugbenga is a multiple award winning social entrepreneur & digital skills expert. An alumnus of the Leadership in Business Institute of Kellogg School of Management (USA), He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria). Inspired by the plight of millions of unemployed youths, Olugbenga founded Epower.ng, a digital agency passionately growing businesses & accelerating the application of digital skills for economic prosperity across Africa. To help institutions prevent scandals & promote performance, Gbenga founded Polivoice.Work, an anonymous employee feedback tool that captures & analyses feedback anonymously in real time to detect, predict & improve work place conditions. A Mandela Washington Fellow, Tony Elumelu Fellow, Royal Common wealth society fellow, YALI star of business & YALI network influencer, Olugbenga is the founder of Africa’s biggest orphanage outreach, The Orphan Empowerment Society, with a 5,000 strong volunteer force and a presence in 19 African countries empowering thousands of orphans with free vocational skills, medical care, & food. He is also the co-founder of the communication & leadership organization, Pacesetters Leadership Club.

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