Last week's NYFW shows emphasized female empowerment, feminism, and a diversity that inspired and delighted us. There were transgender runway appearances, a gorgeous variety of plus sized models, and at every turn a political or social motivator for the show's themes. Defiance was a factor everywhere, and spurred an impressive and inspiringly creative week full of the wow factor synonymous with New York's ready-to-wear.
We were inspired by the collections' focus on strong women, as well as the evolution of the modern businesswoman. Clearly, we've moved from a Mad Men era secretary in a flouncy skirt to a futuristic iconoclast who bravely blends a bold fashion aesthetic with meticulous attention to detail. If her look is anything like her business-style, the woman of today is poised to take over the world (which of course, we already know). Here, in no particular order are 10 of the most noteworthy trends for the fashionable female founders of tomorrow.
Versatile Handbags at Cushnie et Ochs
Cushnie et Ochs
The release of Cushnie's first line of bags meant big things for this female-founded brand and they did not disappoint. The perfect size for your office materials - we'll be seeing a lot structural arm candy this fall.
Alexander Wang's Reworked Blazer
There's no such thing as a tired blazer in Wang's repertoire. Known for his worship of deconstructed, slightly flawed looks, we love that he takes the pressure of perfection off, while amplifying strength of self. This gender-bending power suit gave us a powerful feminine play on classic men's wear.
Alexander Wang RTW Fall 2017
Suffragette Era Silhouettes at Zimmermann
Zimmermann RTW Fall 2017
Driven by the stylistic, socially groundbreaking tendencies of our 1920s heroines, Zimmermann's show provided much to talk about and even more to be excited about. The modern suffragette silhouettes melded with the brand's trademark frills made for an assortment of edgy business-meets-statement pieces. “It was a bit of a Twenties influence for us," creative director Nicky Zimmermann said backstage to WWD. “We wanted to really mix up the masculine with the feminine this time."
Carolina Herrera's Redefinition of the Classic White Blouse
Herrera introduced us to a range of crisp, clean and very pretty white shirts throughout the show and indeed sported one herself when she came out at the show's finish. As any female entrepreneur will tell you, a simple white button-down is a must-have for your wardrobe, and Carolina's unique details--thin bolo tie-inspired bows, starchy capelets, and scalloped edges--took the closet staple to another level.
The "Every Skirt" at Mara Hoffman
Mara Hoffman RTW Fall 2017
Hoffman's introduction to the show read "This show is inspired by the women whose songs are not yet sung, the allies, the names and the nameless. I dedicate this to the women who are constantly creating in the names of change."
While Hoffman displayed rebellious and feminist overtures throughout the show, bringing out the Women's March organizers to begin, reading Maya Angelou during the show, her clothes did most of the talking. These skirts in particular are as diverse as they come, and a great piece for every busy woman's wardrobe. We love that you can be comfortable, look powerful, and be perfectly ready for a night out all thanks to one skirt. Bravo.
The Bob at Everywhere
It's the easiest hairdo to maintain, and it was splayed all over this week's runways. A marked evolution from the not-quite-short-not-quite-long lob that has been literally everywhere the past season, models at shows like Proenza Schouler to Michael Kors, rocked blunt, sharp dos, and no doubt the girlbosses of today will follow. Who has time to get a blow out when there's so much ass kicking to do?
Victoria Beckham's Long Gloves
Victoria Beckham RTW Fall 2017
Who doesn't like an elbow length sleeve in a coat? It's elegant, pretty, and can dress up any outfit. What we don't like, however, is how cold a forearm can become. Victoria Beckham is countering your Winter 2017 bare arm by re-introducing arm-legnth gloves - the long-heralded epitome of sophistication and class in leather for a dash of edge. “It was about offering my woman really beautiful clothes," says Beckham of her collection. "The truth is, there has never been a time when it's been more relevant to empower women."
Tory Burch's Shift Dress
Taking inspiration from Katharine Hepburn's outspoken character Tracy Lord, in The Philadelphia Story, the collection was meant to feel familiar yet push boundaries at the same time. Melding exquisite details with an ease of silhouette, Burch's ultra-feminine shift dress is idyllic and will work seamlessly into your office wardrobe.
This Statement Jacket at Diane Von Furstenburg
An outspoken life-long advocate of women, Diane von Furstenberg just gets it. One of the designers who boldly declares women do not have to choose between feeling sexy and looking powerful, her wrap dress defined generations of business-minded women, offering them the chance to be both. This season her newest collection was an homage to color and shape, as chief creative offer Jonathan Saunders was inspired by Japanese and African culture. “It's about an eclectic mix of materials, clashing colors and a sense of ease," Saunders said about the collection. This cropped leather jacket stood out for its coolness; at once wearable and trendsetting in a camel hue that matches virtually everything.
"I wanted to be an empowered woman, and I became an empowered woman. And now I want to empower every woman. And I do it through my clothes."
-Diane von Furstenberg
Velour Pantsuits at Brooks Brothers by Zac Posen
If there was ever a time for a new type of suit, it's now. Posen's collection for Brooks Brothers was brimming with ensembles for the modern businesswoman, tailored beautifully, and all endowed with a unique sense of power. This forest green velvet suit was a particularly strong one for the designer as it echoed both softness and strength, classicism and a dash of the unexpected.
Brooks Brothers RTW Fall 2017
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."