Designers are bouncing from one label to another. Digital influencers are snapping seats away from the glossy editors. And celebrities are ever more present, as guests at the shows, on the runways and in ad campaigns. Wait – there’s more! Behind the scenes are powerful women shaping the industry. Meet our 10 Fashion Week titans.
She’s the current “coolest stylist in the industry” and the undeniable Czarina of Parisian underground fashion. Originally from a small Siberian town in Russia, Volkova moved to London at 17 and studied at Central Saint Martens where she was a club scene fixture. After a chance run-in with fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, Volkova’s career in Paris took off. As stylist and muse to designer-of-the-moment Demna Gvalisa for Vetements and Balenciaga, Volkova’s post-Soviet 90s subculture references are shaking up Paris Fashion Week.
On the opposite end of the stylist spectrum sits Catherine Baba. She’s a caricature of 1920s Parisian glamour with a closet full of vintage lurex and endless Hermès scarves. She’s a regular fixture at Fashion Week where she can be spotted cycling from show to show in vintage fur, and dazzling costume jewellery. The only thing to rival her avant-garde style is her enviable entourage of modern-day flâneurs
- she hangs with the likes of photographer Ali Mahdavi and burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese. Always the life of the party, you can catch her swilling flutes of champagne and complimenting the room with her fabulous catchphrase “Darling, j’adore”!
Heir-apparent to her father Bernard Arnault ’s role as head of LVMH, she’s a fashion force to be reckoned with. After graduating from a prestigious French business school, she first joined LVMH at John Galliano’s eponymous label, and then took on a decade long tenure at Christian Dior. Her business decisions at Dior were instrumental in growing the brand’s leather goods and accessories and influencing the appointment of Raf Simons as creative director.
She serves on the board of Christian Dior, as well as the individual boards of Pucci, Loewe and Céline. She’s recently been tasked with overseeing Louis Vuitton’s re-positioning in the luxury market in face of declining sales. As the daughter of France’s most powerful (and richest!) businessman, she’s learned from the top. She’s blonde, she’s beautiful, and she’s powerful – the Devil wears Dior!
Newly appointed creative director at Lanvin, Jarrer is taking on a precarious role. Beloved designer Alber Elbaz was unfairly ousted after 14 years at the helm in a battle of egos with Lanvin owner Shaw-Lan Wang. For fans of Elbaz’s ultra-feminine take on womenswear, the future of the house was uncertain. In much anticipation, Jarrar quietly showed her first Cruise collection to rave reviews in June and this season heralds her first big ready-to-wear show. She’s no fashion newcomer – Jarrer’s work in haute couture spans stints at Christain Lacroix and Balenciaga and the launch of her own label. All eyes are on her September 28 show.
Paris’s notoriously strict press agent is a Fashion Week icon, representing designers like Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann, and Anne Demeulmeester plus up-and-comers like Yang Li. But more than just a press agent Montagne is known for supporting her clients in any form: design direction, styling, public relations and business advice. Even if that means getting her hands dirty as she famously pulled models into their boots for Haider Ackermann’s first Paris show.
Montagne is at the epicentre of French fashion, although it wasn’t always so. She dreamed of becoming a journalist and worked for a French political lobbyist, "He had a huge influence in politics and industry," she says. "Everything important in France passed through that office. Yet the average citizen never heard about him. For me it was evident that the power was actually in the hands of those in the background, and that made an impression on me." And so Montagne began her behind-the-scenes domination of the fashion industry and the rest is history.
As chief curator of Fashion and Textile at the Musée Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Pamela Golbin is charged with protecting the most extensive fashion archive in the world. She’s staged retrospectives for living legends like Valentino and Marc Jacobs, and iconic French designers like Madeleine Voinnet. In 1993, when Golbin was appointed head of the museum, she was the youngest curator in the history of France.
On any given day, Golbin can be found lunching with her designer friends from Galliano to Gaultier, tracking down museum-worthy pieces from the estate sales of fashionable grand dames, and meeting with her creative team to design the ‘next big’ exhibit. Put that in your diary: Tenue Correcte Exigée : Quand Le Vêtement Fait Scandale, a look into the history of dress codes and moral values from the 14th century to today.
She’s the wife and muse of Rick Owens with looks that could kill – really kill with a mouthful of gold teeth, and traditional face tattoos of the Berber tribes from her native Algeria. Legend puts her in the seedy Paris underworld from teenage stripper to philosophy protégée. The bewitching bohemian is surrounded by a clique of poets, fashion, and artist friends, like goth designer Gareth Pugh. Lamy’s bewitching style is here to remind us that fashion is life, life is art, and art is meant to be distruptive.
Look up ‘French Woman’ in the dictionary and there is a picture of Emmanuelle Alt. The Editor-in-Chief of French Vogue, Alt’s vision of French chic has set the bar. Her unwavering personal style of effortless jeans and blazers are the defining French uniform. During the shows, where the loudest and brightest outfits often get the most attention, Alt’s cool street style is a stand out. Add to that her no-fuss hair and serious French attitude, and you know she’s the boss.
Paris Fashion Week’s most sought after hairstylist, she’s styled the hair for shows like Chanel, Hermes and Jean-Paul Gaultier for over a decade. Gilbert has also styled campaign looks for Balenciaga, Tod’s, Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani and has worked with renowned photographers from Richard Avedon to Helmut Newton. For the 2005 film Marie Antoinette starring Kristin Dunst, director Sofia Coppola called on Gilbert to replicate the impressive hairstyles of Versailles. In fact, she is so beloved in France she is the only female hair stylist to have received the French honour Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Whatever she’s buying, you’ll want it! She’s the co-founder and creative director of the one-and-only Colette – the chicest Parisian concept store on the Rue Saint Honoré. Named after her mother and business partner – Colette Roussaux – Sarah opened shop in 1997, and has been the beacon of French cool ever since. It’s a favourite address of Karl Lagerfeld, who can be found browsing the book section on Sundays before it opens to the public. She’s known for spotting and supporting new designers and has a knack for mixing affordable high street brands with high fashion.
Colette is also a hot address to be during Paris Fashion Week, where they host celebrity book signings. Next up on the agenda: Hit the store on 18:00-19:00 on September 28th to meet the legendary supermodel Pat Cleveland at the release of her new book Walking with the Muses.
Writer: Erin Stranyak