Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Feminism is of course not a fashion trend in the same way as flamboyant trousers, off-the-shoulder tops, trench coats and nineties streetwear. Still, the fashion world with it’s influential celebrity entourage has recently aligned itself closely with women.

All the fuss over ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ has certainly had a ripple effect, but fashion had already embarked on a remarkable pro-women campaign long before then. Dior’s ‘We should all be feminists’ t-shirt from the debut collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri has become one of the symbols of this trend. The fashion industry’s focus on girl power, diversity, gender and realistic representations of beauty presents a positive message and is a welcome trend for the younger crowd in particular.


Modefabriek is proud to do its share to keep the feminist movement ‘alive and kicking’, starting with the exhibition it is staging this summer on a century of female icons in fashion, from Marlene Dietrich to Beyoncé. As soon as you enter the building, these power women set the tone: if you want to claim your place in the world, do so with style! As Vivienne Westwood would say: ‘When in doubt, overdress!’ Or that other icon of independence and style, Coco Chanel: ‘A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.’

The feminism theme will also feature prominently in Modefabriek’s #LEARN programme. The MF Talk given by Irene van Doesburg from Studio Anne-Irene, Forecasting and Fashion Design, is all about her trend forecast ‘The Future is Female’. She sees the call for equality and diversity as one of the major issues in the world and in fashion alike. At her most recent show, the designer Angela Missoni handed out Pussy Riot hats to wear during the Women’s March. Muslim women wear the hijab on the catwalk, including Somali-American top model Halima Aden, and there is also growing diversity in skin colour, gender and body type across the industry. Influential labels such as Comme des Garçons, Vetements, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Céline use strong, streetwise women as models, while others such as Prada and Gucci kit them out in ultra-feminine styles. Today’s woman is unapologetic: she never needs to say sorry for being herself!

The women’s power theme reveals the most powerful side of fashion; as an ageless global community, a creative force, and a powerful means of communication. Be inspired by ‘More than Fashion’ at Modefabriek: to be held at RAI Amsterdam on 9 and 10 July!

The Powerwomen which are exhibited at Modefabriek:

Katharine Hepburn, 1907 – 2003

She’s known as ‘The First Lady of American Cinema’ and was officially declared ‘the biggest female film legend of all time’ for the record number of Oscars she won. But it is her powerful eccentricity – wearing pants rather than makeup in the notoriously sexist film industry – that wins her a top position on our list of feminist icons!

Grace Jones, 1948 – present

Supermodel, actress and extravagant pop star Grace Jones is one of the most powerful black female icons. More so, this Bond Girl’s androgynous beauty, immortalized by Jean-Paul Goude, has worked miracles in making our fashion vocabulary more diverse in gender, age and race definitions.

Anna Wintour, 1949 – present

‘Nuclear Wintour’ is a title you have to deserve. The Devil Wears Prada and the box office documentary The September Issue made sure everybody outside of the fashion industry also got to know this Britisch-American powerhouse. Vogue may not be particularly feminist, but ‘Dame’ Anna Wintour sure is.

Pussy Riot, 2011 – present

Russian feminist, LGTB-activists and political protest punk rockers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich of Pussy Riot showed the world what fearlessness it takes to stand up to Vladimir Putin. They suffered imprisonment, but continue to take the stage to speak up for freedom.

Marlene Dietrich, 1901 – 1992

German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich ranks in the upper regions of supreme Hollywood divas and she didn’t hesitate to pull her female weight against fascism during WWII. Other than that she made the ‘top hat and tails’ a perfectly acceptable look for women.

Coco Chanel, 1883 – 1971

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel not only made her legendary ‘rags to riches’ career at a time when women of standing weren’t even supposed to work, ‘Coco’ also freed women of the corset. Until this very day ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ is respected for her keen business sense and visionary contribution to our understanding of style.  

Oprah Winfrey, 1954 – present

She is known as the ‘Queen of All Media’, North America’s first and only multi-billionaire person of colour and the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and she did it all on her own. Oprah’s revolutionary talk show broke all taboos and became a symbol of inclusiveness and self-improvement.  

Frida Kahlo, 1907 – 1954

Immortalized by her folk art style self-portraits, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo became an icon for indigenous people, feminists and the LGBTQ movement, alas, post-mortem. During her lifetime she was known as the wife of artist Diego Rivera and an eccentric personality suffering from disabilities due to childhood polio and a severe traffic accident at age 18.

Patti Smith, 1946 – present

She’s called the ‘punk poet laureate’ and is as much a living monument in New York’s cultural landscape as she is in fashion for her iconic androgynous style, as recently revived in her memoir ‘Just Kids’, about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti Smith refuses to be associated with feminism saying ‘I believe in human rights’.

Madonna, 1958 – present

Ever since her first record deal in 1983 she has worked her way up, one iconic transformation or controversy after another, to become the absolute ‘Queen of Pop’. Madonna is the best-selling female pop artist ever and her uncensored girl power has been an undeniable inspiration to generations of girls and men of various gender identities.  

Vivienne Westwood, 1941 – present

She’s responsible for making punk and new wave fashion mainstream, and until this day she is widely admired for upkeeping her iconic fashion house as much as for storming the stage with her civil rights protests and environmental activism. Dame Vivienne proves that women with balls never go out of style.

Miuccia Prada, 1949 – present

She is owner and head designer of her family’s luxury goods company that has also acquired stellar fashion houses Jil Sander, Helmut Lang and Azzedine Alaïa. Apart from her near-untouchable position as a female in the luxury business and in contemporary art, Miuccia Prada’s fashion is dedicated to women’s intelligence.

Angelina Jolie, 1975 – present

Being as famous for playing Lara Croft as for divorcing Brat Pitt (among others), Angelina Jolie is also an awarded humanitarian. Women’s right’s are merely one of her many causes but speaking openly about her preventive mastectomy and removed ovaries made her a heroine in a league of her own.

Beyoncé Knowles, 1981 – present

She sold over 100 million records as a solo artist, and another 60 million with her group Destiny’s Child, she holds the record for female Grammy Award nominations and for winning MTV Video Music Awards, but above all that, Beyoncé is a figurehead for girl power and girl curves.

Emma Watson, 1990 – present

The British actress and model first caught our attention as a junior feminist playing Hermione Granger in Harry Potter films and one of her most recent roles was Belle in Beauty and the Beast. What earns a spot on our list is her role as UN Woman Goodwill Ambassador launching the HeForShe campaign for gender equality.

Dianne von Fürstenberg, 1946 – present

Known by her initials ‘DVF’, the Belgian-American fashion designer has built her femme-friendly fashion enterprise on the early success of her jersey wrap dresses. Diane von Fürstenberg has been the President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) since 2006 and in 2014 Forbes listed her the 68th most powerful woman in the world for her philanthropy and women’s causes.

Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

The black American poet, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou may be most famous for her first autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, and she became one of the first African-American women who were able to publicly discuss their personal lives and freed other female writers to “open themselves up without shame to the eyes of the world”.

Amy Schumer, 1981 – present

Comedy Central superstar Amy Schumer won our hearts playing ‘heightened versions of herself’ in her shows – Inside Amy Schumer, Behind Amy Schumer – and guest starring on Girls. Apart from making us all laugh and think about sex and feminism, she is the champion of embracing a realistic self-image.

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 – 1962

She was the longest serving First Lady of the US but she wasn’t just sitting pretty; President Truman later called her The First Lady of the World, bowing to her human rights achievements. She showed women they too could be in power. In her New York Times obituary, she was called “the object of almost universal respect.”

Hedy d’Ancona, 1937 – present

With her tremendous track record in Dutch politics as a member of the senate, European Parliament, secretary of state and minister for the labour party PvdA, Hedy d’Ancona is just as known for being the founding mother of feminist protest group ‘Man Vrouw Maatschappij’ and feminist glossie Opzij.

Chimamamanda Ngozi Adichie, 1977 – present

The Times described her as ‘the most prominent’ young writer to attract readers to African literature. Chimamamanda Ngozi Adichie reached an even bigger audience with her TEDx talks, like the one in 2012 called ‘We should all be feminists’, which famously echoed in Beyoncé’s 2013 hit song Flawless and in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s openly feminist debut collection for Dior.

Yoko Ono, 1933 – present

The Japanese multimedia and performance artist, singer, songwriter and peace activist Yoko Ono is too many most famous for being the wife and widow of Beatle John Lennon, with whom she did the iconic ‘Bed-Ins for Peace’. She’s also an influential feminist and supporter of same-sex marriage.

Simone de Beauvoir 1908 – 1986

As a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, theorist and political activist, Simone de Beauvoir notoriously lived and worked side by side with Jean-Paul Sartre. Her highly controversial 1949 book Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex), in which she debunks man’s domination of women, is considered the starting point of second-wave feminism.

Gloria Steinem, 1934 – present

She was the face of American feminism in the 60’s and 70’s and the co-founder of Ms. Magazine, a famed liberal feminist title. Articles like ‘If Men Could Menstruate’ (Cosmopolitan) and ‘What Would It Be Like If Women Win’ (Times) are classic feminist reader material.

Hillary Clinton, 1947 – present

The former First Lady and the first serious female candidate for presidency of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the example for women and girls looking to smash that glass ceiling.

Sheryl Sandberg, 1969 – present

As Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and first female on Facebook’s board of directors, Sheryl Sandberg is a feminist icon in the global tech industry and beyond. In 2012, she was named in the ‘Time 100’ list of most influential people in the world and her book ‘Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to lead’ (2013) is the handbook for women fighting sexism and discrimination on their career paths.