Fierce Female Fashion Executives

These 12 women have used their business savvy to make a name for themselves in the fashion industry

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Tamara Mellon, CCO and Co-founder of Jimmy Choo

After studying under fashion editors at Vogue and Mirabella, Mellon teamed up with London cobbler Jimmy Choo to create a now internationally-known line of luxury shoes and accessories. In 2010, the company reported net sales of $250 million, and Mellon, who owns one fifth of the company, is the 64th richest woman in Britain.

Solarpix / PR Photos

Jenna Lyons, President and Creative Director of J. Crew

Lyons has worked at J. Crew since the mid-90s, and was named president in 2010. As creative director, she brings her own downtown preppy style to the women’s collection, mixing modern and classic styles. The strategy has paid off for both her and the company: In 2009, sales increased by 14 percent—earning Lyons a reported $1 million bonus.

courtesy of J. Crew

Savannah and Sienna Miller, Co-Creative Directors of Twenty8Twelve

Actress Sienna Miller turned her status as a style icon into a lucrative career when she launched a line in collaboration with her sister Savannah in 2007. The line—named for Sienna’s birthday—benefits from Savannah’s fashion design background and Sienna’s eye for detail. Though the pair has said that they want to keep the London-based brand small and “boutique-y,” they hope to open a location in New York in the future.

courtesy of Twenty8Twelve

Wen Zhou, CEO of Phillip Lim

At just 31—with a decade as CEO of a fabric company already under her belt —Zhou took a chance on her down-on-his-luck designer friend, Phillip Lim. She loaned him $750,000 to start his own line, and in just six months they had brought in $2.8 million in sales. Zhou’s fabric industry connections and entrepreneurial outlook has contributed to the financial success of the label today, which currently has men's, kids' and footwear collections. The company expects revenues to hit $60 million this year.

courtesy of 3.1 Phillip Lim

Stella McCartney, Founder of Stella McCartney

It’s already tough to step out of the shadow of your parents. It’s even tougher when your father was a Beatle. But the daughter of Sir Paul has nothing to worry about: After working at Chloé, she started her successful eponymous label in 2002 which became popular with such A-list stars as Madonna, whom she dressed for her 2000 wedding to Guy Ritchie. Since then she’s collaborated on a sportswear line with Adidas, a jewelry collection with Disney, and a best-selling casual wear collection for H&M. Up next? She’s been tapped to design the athletic wear of all the British competitors in the 2012 London Olympics.

Retna Digital

Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry

Ahrendts has been a powerhouse in the fashion industry for over 20 years, working as an executive for companies like Donna Karan, Laundry by Shelli Segal and Liz Claiborne. In 2006, she moved to the front of the pack when she was named CEO of Burberry, the $2 billion international fashion empire. Add this to her brag sheet: She was recently named by Forbes as one of the World’s Most Powerful Women, beating out Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

courtesy of Burberry

Vera Wang, Chairman and CEO at Vera Wang

She’s the go-to designer for bridal wear for the rich and the famous. But Wang was first a long-time fashion editor at Vogue, and only started to design after being turned down for editor-in-chief. Her brand now includes ready-to-wear clothing, fragrances, jewelry and housewares. Most recently she brought her designs to the mass market in a partnership with David’s Bridal, and this fall she’s premiering a collection of engagement rings for Zales.

courtesy: Vera Wang

Angela Missoni, Creative Director of Missoni

As a company, Missoni keeps it in the family. Angela acts as the creative director, her brothers oversee much of the business, and Angela’s daughter, Margherita, works as brand ambassador. The label has developed over 25 sub-lines, including home ware, hotels and more. Look for Missoni’s affordable new line in collaboration with Target on September 13.

courtesy of Missoni

Gela Nash Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, Founders of Juicy Couture

Who knew leisure wear could be so profitable?  Before the two got together to launch Juicy Couture in 1996, Nash Taylor worked as an actress in small TV roles and Skaist-Levy as a window designer for LA boutique Fred Segal. Their line of athletic and casual clothing, based around terry and velour tracksuits, took off with celebrities and the public. The company has expanded to cosmetics, accessories and children’s clothing, and is sold in 60 countries across the world.

Wild1 / PR Photos

Doo-Ri Chung, Founder of Doo Ri

After she worked as head designer at Geoffrey Beene for six years, Chung started her own company in the basement of her parents’ dry cleaning business. Chung’s signature jersey dresses earned her the 2006 Council of Fashion Designers of America award for emerging talent. The brand now includes resort wear, jewelry and accessories, and in 2009 she started a lower-priced line, Under.Ligne.

Wild1 / PR Photos

June Haynes, Senior Vice President for Retail at Valentino

Haynes may be a power player in the industry now, but the current SVP of retail at Valentino comes from modest beginnings. She grew up in Guyana, where she worked in her mother’s haberdashery shop after school, then moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion. Haynes oversees the staffing, merchandizing, buying and sales operations in North America, and is known for wearing the label at all times.

courtesy of Valentino

Kay Krill, President and CEO of Ann Taylor

She was called “one of the most powerful women in New York” by Crain’s for a reason: Krill can take credit as CEO for launching the Ann Taylor LOFT line and making it a $1 billion business. Even during the downturn, the brand has seen a strong growth in online sales and earnings, and has expected sales of $2.18 billion in 2011.

courtesy of ANN INC.

First Published August 29, 2011

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