Do Women Really Run the Fashion Industry? Yes and No.

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Photo by Cherise Luter
Front row at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week
When people think about the fashion industry and the individuals at the helm, most immediately imagine veterans like Anna Wintour, Diana Vreeland or Coco Chanel. No one ever thinks of names like Frank A Bennack Jr head of Hearst Corp. parent company of Elle Magazine or Michael J. Dolan head of IMG the producer of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. While women continue to be the face of or the creative behind major brands, men are still holding the purse strings and, in some cases, puppet strings.

Much like other major industries, the number of prominent women in fashion seem to fall off at executive level and those serving in a lead executive capacity as CEOs or presidents are few and far between. Of the 94 names included in Business of Fashion's popular Top 500 List in the Executive Category, only 15 are women, which a stark contrast to the more creative categories of editors and designers. If one does a little bit of digging, you will find male heads behind some of the most iconic female lead brands.

Charles Townsend is the head of a little media group called Condé Nast. As such, he oversees the publishing of women's magazines Allure, Lucky, Vanity Fair, WWD and, of course, Vogue. All of which have a female editor-in-chief and majority female editorial team. This guy is Anna Wintour's boss.

As the chairman & CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Bernard Arnault is responsible for the global expansion of Céline famously headed by Phoebe Philo since 2010 and Donna Karan International. The LVMH portfolio also includes over 15 other accessories and beauty brands, including Sephora.

It would be a miracle to find a dedicated fashionista that does not think Jenna Lyons when they see a J.Crew store. Lyons has turned the brand from humdrum to high fashion and is credited with bringing the brand back from the brink. But, she is not the head honcho at J.Crew. Millard Drexler serves as CEO and chairman of the board. Hmmmm.

The fashion world loves to gloat that modeling is one of the few industries where women are paid more than men....way more...like $40 million more. But much like sports, the real money and power lies with those writing the checks not receiving them. Of the 17 top modeling agencies in the world, four have a woman at the helm. It is crazy that these are the people helping set the standards of female beauty and they aren't even members of the gender.

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