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The phrase, "Behind every great man is a great woman," doesn't always ring true, but in the case of today's stylemakers, there are several exceptional standouts deserving of the recognition. We're not referring to Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni, though they certainly merit all the praise delivered unto them for being such fashionably elegant counterparts to their president husbands, but rather the women behind fashion designers Phillip Lim, Alber Elbaz, and others.
While many people know 3.1 Phillip Lim as the designer's namesake brand, Wen Zhou is a less familiar figure. Zhou co-founded the popular label with Lim in 2005, providing $750,000 of her own capital for its launch. Today, 3.1 Phillip Lim is a globally-recognized brand, with stores across the world—Lim even held his first runway show in China on Beijing's city walls last month—and sales so far this year totalling $60 million. All of this is largely due to Zhou's business savvy as she and Lim seem to maintain the perfect marriage of creativity and commerce. She's the company's CEO, while he does what he does best: design. "I really, really, believed in Phillip," Zhou said in a recent WSJ interview. "I just thought that with the $750,000, we've get by with the first season and we could figure it out from there. Well, we did get by."
Lanvin's Alber Elbaz, whose likeness and name is now ubiquitous as a result of the luxury fashion house's collaboration with H&M and all its cheeky video previews, has similar backing in Shaw-Lan Wang, a Chinese media magnate who bought a controlling stake in Lanvin in 2001 and brought Elbaz in to revive the fading house. Although Elbaz had designed at Geoffrey Beene and even helmed Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche for a short period, he was a little-known name outside of the fashion industry before Wang recognized his potential and handed him the reigns of what is now one of Paris' most popular and coveted luxury brands.
Some designers have kept their brands and businesses a family affair. Until just a month ago, Zac Posen had his mother Susan, a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer, in place as his company's CEO. It was Susan's influence that led to the launch of Posen's lower-priced line, Z Spoke, as well as his collaboration with Target, according to a report by Racked.
Philip Crangi is another family guy, with a family gal by his side—his sister, Courtney. His business partner as well as his co-conspirator in cultivating what he calls his "dynasty of design," Courtney is often credited for bringing out out the jewelry designer's best work. "Some of my favorite pieces I have made for her—like to wear to something special...I think you can see the love in the pieces," he said.
Let's hear it for the ladies.