Power dressing: the top 10 women in fashion today

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The Independent Online

They are the women who decide what we wear and how we wear it. Their influence is felt from New York to Milan and Paris to Tokyo. Some are household names, others are little known outside the right circles. But in the fashion world, their word is gospel, and now they have been enshrined in Time magazine's first ever list of the most powerful women in the industry.

First down the catwalk is Rose Marie Bravo, New York-based chief executive of the British company Burberry, named No 1 for her achievement in transforming the ailing firm - which she took over in 1997 - into a billion-dollar high street empire.

Miuccia Prada, revered throughout the industry, is second. Third is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and one of the first of the modern wave of creative Brits in New York. "Nuclear Wintour" to detractors, she is credited with creating or crippling trends on command.

The list illustrates the growing power of women in shaping fashion. They are not just designers but businesswomen, bestriding the industry in a manner once associated with men.

"Traditionally, when you thought of the big players in the world of fashion, they were all men - Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein," said Kate Betts, editor of Time's Style and Design supplement, which will publish the chart. "There is a new generation of women and things are really beginning to change."

The other names on the list are Donna Karan, Aerin Lauder, the granddaughter of fragrance queen Estée Lauder, and the Olsen sisters, teenage twins who front a multi-million-dollar empire targeting the youth market.

Rei Kawakubo, the Japanese designer behind the influential Comme des Garcons label, is at No 9. The remaining three are Angela Ahrendts (Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne) at fifth, Delphine Arnault (daughter of LVMH boss Bernard) at sixth and industry headhunter Floriane de Saint Pierre at 10th.

The list is likely to provoke a heated debate - not least over the women left out. Among them are Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Donatella Versace and Suzy Menkes, authoritative fashion editor of The International Herald Tribune.

Ms Betts, a former editor of Harper's Bazaar, said business acumen had been just as important as creative impact.

But Sagra Maceira de Rosen, fashion analyst at investment bank JP Morgan, said men were still primarily in charge.

"There are a lot of women out there now but, as an industry, the fashion world is still very much dominated by men. Rose Marie Bravo is the only female chief executive of a major fashion company, and that has to be an issue," she said.

The Olsen sisters (4)

The 17-year-old American twins Mary-Kate and Ashley have built up a merchandising empire that dominates the tweenie and teen markets all over the world, making more than £400m last year alone.

Donna Karan (7)

New Yorker who made DKNY one of the most recognisable set of initials in fashion. Karan, 55, sold her company to French conglomerate LVMH for £130m in 2001, but continues to play a major role.

Floriane de Saint Pierre (10)

Matchmaking is increasingly the name of the game in fashion. Saint Pierre, 39, wields huge influence, placing designers with houses.

Delphine Arnault (6)

The 28-year-old is hotly tipped as a successor to her father, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of luxury goods label LVMH. Has managed product ranges for John Galliano, Christian Dior and Loewe.

Angela Ahrendts (5)

A former president of the Donna Karan collection, Ahrendts, 43, was appointed executive vice president of Liz Claiborne Inc in 2002. She runs 32 clothing and accessory brands.

Rei Kawakubo (9)

Japanese designer, born in 1942, who founded global fashion company Comme des Garcons in 1973. Untrained as a designer, she made her mark in Paris in 1981 with the use of black in her collection.

Miuccia Prada (2)

Former mime artist joined family luggage business in 1978 and revolutionised its then dowdy products. Prada now grosses more than £1bn.

Rose Marie Bravo (1)

New Yorker who bestrode Manhattan fashion scene as president of Saks before stunning her peers by taking over the ailing Burberry label in 1997.

Aerin Lauder (8)

Estée Lauder's 33-year-old granddaughter and vice president of the £2.7bn family company, which markets 19 cosmetics brands, including Clinique, Prescriptives, Origins, Aveda and MAC.

Anna Wintour (3)

The original Brit-who-made-it-big-in-New York, the formidable 54-year-old inspired the nickname Nuclear Wintour - and didn't like it. Numbers Hillary Clinton among her friends.

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