Coco Chanel once said “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” This list of notable women in fashion and shopping tech highlight individuals who broke new ground, established new modalities, took risks, made unpopular or questionable choices and transformed their industries, thus creating numerous new doors in their trail.
Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay
When Whitman began her post in 1998, eBay had approximately 30 employees and $4million in revenue. As CEO, Whitman reorganized the operation, assumed responsibility for international operations, made strategic acquisitions–among them Skype and PayPal–and took the company public. By the time she resigned in 2007, eBay had grown to 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue.
Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Founders Gilt Groupe
This duo met at Harvard and while Maybank went from HBS to eBay and then AOL, Wilkis Wilson took her business degree to Bulgari and Louis Vuitton. With Gilt Groupe they identified a consumer need in the market, yet still tried to be sensitive to the needs of designers and by doing so these ladies started a shopping phenomenon.
Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss, Founders Rent The Runway
Described by The New York Times as the “Netflix of Fashion,” Hyman really proved that necessity really can be the fairy godmother of invention when she and partner Carter Fleiss launched Rent The Runway. A common fashion emergency on the part of Hyman’s sister inspired the idea for the business, followed by subsequent rounds of fundraising and a launch in 2009. The service, in case you don’t know, let’s you rent apparel and accessories in a variety of sizes.
Jess Lee, Founder and CEO, Polyvore
Before coming to Polyvore, Lee was a Product Manager at Google. She Co-Founded and assumed the VP of Product position at Polyvore from inception until January 2012 when she was named CEO. When Polyvore was established in 2007 it introduced a new way to clip images of fashion items and create thematic boards or “sets” and share them — similar in theory to creative mood boards.
Brandon Holley, Editor in Chief Lucky Magazine
Holley is a magazine and media veteran, having served as Editor in Chief for a number of high-profile brands including Elle Girl and Jane and was Founding Editor of Yahoo Shine!. At Yahoo Holley diversified, so in addition to editrix, she added steering an online women’s network to her impressive resume. This move lay the groundwork for her next move, her return to Conde Nast as Editor in Chief of Lucky. Some initiatives highlighting digital savvy under her leadership: the Lucky Style Collective and the Fabb Conference series.
Tavi Gevinson, Blogger, Editor in Chief Rookie Magazine
Gevinson started her own blog, founded her own magazine, has been a fashion muse, appeared in some of the worlds’ most prestigious fashion magazines and was a guest at the 2009 NY Fashion Week where she now frequents…all before she was 15. In a culture where sometimes the famous roles models young people look to can be questionable, Gevinson’s moxie and trajectory is a necessity.
Lady Gaga, Entertainer
With over 25 million Twitter followers and 51 million likes on Facebook — and those are just her “official” profiles — Lady Gaga has a following that resembles a not-so-small country. What makes her a standout in our minds is not just her popularity or her originality, although both are impressive. By participating in the “It Gets Better” Campaign and creating the Born This Way Foundation she put her social influence and clout to great use and made being different something cool—important for the agonized and the angst-ridden—and helped elevate the consequences of bullying. Although comparisons to another blonde entertainer haven’t been positively received by Gaga, her fierce dedication to this cause does draw some parallels to Madonna and her early support of AIDS related charities.
Natalie Massenet, Founder, Net-A-Porter
Robert Frost wrote about “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” and although Massenet’s may have been more of an amber or citrine she too faced deciding between the two. She began her career in fashion at WWD, but it was after landing a job at Tatler, her editorial aspirations started to wane and in 1999 she started brainstorming an idea about how to purchase clothing online—commerce presented beautifully, and updated frequently… sort of like a magazine. Around this same time, she was offered what would been her editorial “dream job.” Would she accept or take the road less traveled? As fashionistas know, she chose the latter and Net-A-Porter was born in 2000. You can read the longer version of the story here. Net-A-Porter was sold to Richemont in 2010 although Massenet remained as executive chairman.