Behind every great brand is a great woman. We put the spotlight on some of the most influential women in fashion and share why they inspire us at Collen & Clare.
During a stint living in Barcelona, working as an artist and designer, Penelope Chilvers discovered a love of riding in the Collserola Park. The search for the perfect riding boots was the first step towards building her own footwear brand. Unable to find anything suitable in the local shops and marketplaces, Penelope commissioned a local artisan to make her the perfect pair. In an interview with Vogue, Penelope spoke about the story behind the birth of her brand: “When I came back to London all my friends wanted to order some, so I made them for them and started to work on creating a mini collection of six new equestrian-inspired boot styles with the artisan.” Working from her kitchen table, Penelope sold over 100 pairs of the Long Tassel Boot to Notting Hill boutique, The Cross. Since then, her collection has grown to include a range of iconic staple styles ranging from boots to espadrilles. With every budding designer vying for a coveted spot amongst fashion’s elite, we were inspired by our chosen women’s resolve to succeed and drive to do good. Whether that be striving to protect our environment or helping young people get into one of the world’s most competitive industries — their work spans more than the brands they stand behind.
“As one of Penelope Chilvers’ first stockists, we are fully behind this artisan brand. There is always a buzz in stores and in the office when the latest collection arrives and our staff all have their favourite styles. You will find me in the latest style of Oscar Boots”. – Phoebe, Customer Care at Collen & Clare
Rixo London was born when Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, now best friends and business partners, met at university. The pair bonded over their lifelong love of vintage fashion and worked on their first project together while studying Fashion Management at the London College of Fashion. The label is a labour of love, started on a shoestring budget. Armed with just £3,000 of their savings each, the pair had to be cost-savvy about getting their business off the ground. Working with a student pattern cutter and negotiating with factories for surplus fabric gave them the opportunity to begin to bring their designs to life. Despite spotting a gap in a mostly monochrome fashion market for more colourful, high-quality garments, getting their venture started took a lot of phone calls and pavement pounding. Henrietta and Orlagh’s determination finally paid off when Chelsea independent Baar & Bass agreed to stock their pieces. Now, the brand is sold in 130 shops worldwide and boasts 100 wholesale accounts. Stockists include Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls. The friends’ story will serve as inspiration to aspiring fashion start-ups without a big budget for years to come.
Phoebe says: “Despite being the new kids on the block, Rixo London has quickly become a firm favourite. We love the Camellia Dress and Georgia Skirt! One in every print please… “
Caudalie – Mathilde Thomas
Mathilde Thomas is the driving force behind Caudalie — a French beauty and skincare company renowned for their grape-based products. Products that use natural, sustainable ingredients and as few preservatives as possible are Caudalie’s signature. The company belongs to 1% For the Planet, whose members donate 1% of their of their annual sales to environmental causes. Caudalie’s story started with Mathilde stood in front of a vat of grape seeds at her French family’s vineyard. Dr. Joseph Vercauteren, a professor at the Pharmacy Faculty of Bordeaux, told Mathilde that she was throwing away treasures and taught her about the benefits that grapes hold for the skin. It was with Dr Vercauteren that Mathilde and her husband Bertrand developed their first grape-derived antioxidant skin care product. The formula was a great success and the rest, they say, is history.
“ We can’t get enough of Caudalie Products, the Beauty Elixir is a firm favourite with all our staff, and the Moisturizing Sorbet is perfect for the summer months.” – Phoebe
Diane von Furstenberg
Famed for her form-flattering maxi dresses, Diane von Furstenberg began designing clothes in 1970 — out of passion rather than necessity. While Diane married into aristocracy after meeting her husband, Prince Egon von Fürstenberg at university, retaining independence was of great importance to her. In an interview with the New York Times in 1977, Diane said: “The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts”. Her now iconic wrap dress became a symbol of liberation in the 1970s, and by 1975 she was making 15,000 dresses a week. The figure now stands in the millions. “It’s more than just a dress; it’s a spirit,” she told The Independent in 2008. Diane has served as the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) since 2006. As president, Diane works tirelessly to nurture young talent and strives to set healthier standards within the industry. The CFDA awarded Diane with a lifetime achievement award in 2005 to recognise her significant contribution to the fashion world. In 2015 She was named the 68th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes and Time Magazine listed her in the Time 100 as an icon in 2015. Diane von Furstenberg is a force to be reckoned with.
“Diane Von Furstenberg always offers a fun and elegant collection. Our customers are very brand-loyal and will snap up timeless designs again and again! We can’t wait for the latest edit to drop.”
Dame Margaret Barbour, DBE DL is the Chairman of J. Barbour & Sons. Her rise to the top of Barbour came in the saddest of circumstances after her husband, John Barbour, died suddenly in 1968. At the age of just 29, Dame Margaret found herself raising a toddler alone while taking the reins at Barbour. Rest on her laurels, she did not. Dame Margaret brought radical change to the company, propelling Barbour to international success. Barbour’s headquarters are still located in South Shields, where the famous wax jacket company was originally founded. The company employs over 800 staff and sells products in over 40 countries. Dame Margaret is also a philanthropist. In 1999, she founded the Women’s Fund, which supports women-only projects Tyne & Wear. In memory of her late mother in law, she set up the Nancy Barbour Award. The award recognises organisations that help to support women, particularly those who work with a disability. Dame Margaret has also made a number of donations to Newcastle University. Her bond to her North-East roots shines through her extensive charity work. She catapulted Barbour to worldwide success in the face of tragedy, all with a toddler in tow.
“Hearing Dame Margaret’s story is so inspiring. She has created a truly British brand synonymous with quality and style whilst raising a family and working to improve life for those around her.” – Phoebe