Femme, Fierce, and Flawless: 7 Women who Changed the Face of Fashion and Beauty Forever

International Women’s Day; the day we celebrate women from every corner of the world.
Here at I do, I do, I do magazine, we think it’s only right to commemorate our fellow female entrepreneurs who like us, dedicate their every moment to growing their business from strength to strength. Running a business in today’s world is no mean feat, but if anyone can accomplish it, it’s women who support one another. Ladies, we see you!

Here is some inspiration proving that anything is possible with a sprinkle of self-belief, a dash of hard work, and a spoonful of love.

Sarah Breedlove, AKA Madam CJ Walker

Image source: Wikipedia

Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker was the first female self-made millionaire in the USA. A successful African American entrepreneur, Madam Walker was a philanthropist, political and social activist, and an all round prominent icon in the early 20th century. 

Madam C.J began her hustle by selling hair products for beauty pioneer Annie Turnbo Malone, an African American hair-care entrepreneur. While establishing her own product line, the company grew to include a house, factory, laboratory, and eventually, a beauty school to train her sales agents.

Image source: IMDb

Walker’s business soared, and her brand became more than just a beauty product; it reigned queen of an overall movement for empowering other women, particularly, ‘fempreneurs’.

The extraordinary narrative of Madam C.J. is depicted in the Netflix series ‘Self-made.’ Madam’s CJ’s story is paramount because of its many layers and the fact that her legacy still lives on to this day. 

As America’s first self-made millionaire and woman of colour, Madam CJ deserves a top spot on our list for her ability to thrive and flourish in an environment where she was no doubt challenged on every front.  In the words of Madam C.J.:

I got my start by giving myself a start."

MCJW Madam CJ Walker Dream Come True Deep Moisturizing Masque €48,00

Carmel Snow

Image source: www.dib.ie
Carmel Snow on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Image source: Harper’s Bazaar

Dublin woman Carmel Snow was known as the lavender-haired fashionista who transformed Harper’s Bazaar magazine into the iconic publication that it is today. 

The Dalkey native was raised by a single mother after her father passed away when she was six years old. After finishing her studies in Belgium, she became enthralled by the world of fashion and eventually found herself working for Vogue America. 

Snow became the protégée of publisher Condé Nast until some years later when the tables turned, and she became the mentor. In a bold but brilliant move, Snow took over as Editor-in-Chief for Vogue’s rival; Harper’s Bazaar. Condé Nast reportedly never forgave her, but Carmel did what was right for her and thrived because of it.

Carmel Snow speaking to Diana Vreelan. Image source: www.harpersbazaar.com

From mentoring world renowned creative talents such as Andy Warhol, Christian Dior, Diana Vreeland and Cristóbel Balenciaga, Carmel was recognised as a fashion oracle. This amazing Irish woman was the original founder of the first ever outdoor fashion shoot, changing the landscape of fashion forever.

Snow created her signature look that consisted of a tailored Balenciaga suit, always finishing her outfits with a string of pearls, a nod  to Coco Chanel.

This lady breathed and lived everything to do with fashion, truly living out a fashion fairytale. In the words of Carmel Snow:

Elegance is good taste plus a dash of daring."

Audrey Kathleen Ruston AKA Audrey Hepburn

Image source: The Cut

Audrey Hepburn is the name we associate with elegance, timeless beauty, and of course the infamous Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn’s international reputation is recognised not just for her famous performances, precise eye makeup, and timeless fits that we’re still all admiring. Yes we all wish we had a pair of ‘The Manhattan’ sunglasses.

Audrey flaunting a pair of ‘The Manhattan’ sunglasses while eating a croissant. Image source: www.seen.co.uk
Image source: Vogue

Audrey’s career was so much more than just acting and modelling. After stepping away from all things fashion, beauty and acting, Hepburn spent her time advocating for children’s rights as a UNICEF ambassador.

Travelling to more than 20 countries, reporting and making public appearances while bringing in funds to raise awareness for food aid, Audrey was a true hunger hero. She took joy in assisting others, particularly children in need of a helping hand and a voice. In the words of Audrey Hepburn:

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes because that is the doorway to her heart."

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel AKA Coco Chanel

Image source: Harper’s Bazaar

My life didn't please me, so I created my life." - Coco Chanel

The French Fashion designer we all know and love still lives on through scent, beauty and fashion. Coco Chanel is right here right now breathing and thriving everywhere, an unstoppable brand that will carry on in perpetuity.

Image source: Harper’s Bazaar

"I don't do fashion. I am fashion." - Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel ruled Parisian haute couture for almost six decades, her elegant casual designs inspired women of fashion to abandon uncomfortable clothing and opt for new innovations such as ‘The Chanel Suit, the quilted purse, custom jewellery and the little black dress.’

Source: www.npr.org

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” - Coco Chanel

Coco lived by making fashion comfortable and wanted women to move and breathe in  clothes, just like men did in theirs.

Chanel in many ways, is a form of female emancipation.”

Transformed from a penniless existence, canny Mademoiselle Coco saved her future by teaching herself one skill that shaped her future: how to sew. Chanel’s career began from designing hats, then moving on to clothes, influencing young women around her to embrace comfort but yet chic and elegant style.

Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds."

Sybil Connolly

Image source: Wikipedia

Sybil Connolly was once Ireland’s leading clothes designer and a talented couturier on a global scale. Her designs were worn by Jackie Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth and Liz Taylor; Sybil really did aim for the moon and landed among the stars.

 In fact, style icon Jackie O who was renowned for her elegant and sophisticated looks, declared that Sybil Connolly was her favourite designer.

What makes Sybil’s designs so unique is her use of pleated Irish Linen. Connolly was a romantic designer with a mission to incorporate native materials like Carrickmacross lace and Donegal tweeds, into a feminine silhouette.

Image source: Vogue

A couple of her iconic pieces were donated by her nephew John Connolly, including her haute couture, sketches, scrapbooks, fabric, wallpaper, ceramic, and glass care and are on permanent display within the collections of the National Museum of Ireland.

Image source: The Gloss

Dubbed by the media as “Dublin’s Dior,” Sybil was truly a pioneering designer. Many of Sybil’s designs featured in fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s.

Sybil Connolly 1956 The Monks Habit Wool Dress. Image source: Glamour Daze

Sybil showed that it’s possible to be both Irish and international, and she did so as an independent woman in 1950’s Ireland.

Image source: Vogue

Sybil continued working in Ireland in later years, turning her attention to interior and garden design, creating wallpapers, fabrics, glass and ceramics for companies such as Tipperary Crystal and Tiffany & Co. NYC.

Models at a 1958 Sybil Connolly fashion show in Merrion Square. Irish Photo Archive

Her favorite quote was, “Women should show their curves, not their joints”, which Christian Dior had said to her once, though now it is often attributed to her.

Irene Gilbert

In the early 20th century, Tipperary woman Irene Gilbert was chasing her dream of founding a new culture of high fashion within Ireland. 

Gilbert’s career in the fashion industry began when she secured a job running a dress shop on Wicklow Street in Dublin. 

After working there for some years, Gilbert made the move to England where she trained under a court dressmaker. It was here that Gilbert learned the tricks of the trade while working long hours to create outfits for women of high social rank.

Image source: 1968 Photo by Philippe Le Tellier. Princes and Princesses of Monaco: A European Dynasty (13th-21st Century)
Image source: The Blue Gardenia

The peak of Gilbert’s career came when she was approached by Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, possibly the most famous style-icon of the time, and asked to design a piece. The pair subsequently went on to develop a closely knit friendship and Gilbert went on to design numerous pieces for the glamorous princess.

Featuring among her list of clientele were Mrs Sean T. O’Kelly, the President’s wife, and Anne, Countess of Rosse, from Birr, Co. Offaly. Gilbert also designed one of the Aer Lingus uniform variants, which is regarded as a big accomplishment for any Irish designer.

This wedding dress was designed for a family friend by Irene Gilbert in 1967.

As you can see, these amazing women all came from humble beginnings and changed the face of fashion forever. On International Women’s Day 2023, we want to remind you of these amazing women that came before so that you can be inspired to bring your sparkle, talent and light to the world too. So what are you waiting for? The future is in your hands and maybe someday soon we’ll be writing about you.

Big love and happy IWD,
The I do team xx