Why Aren’t There More Designers On Forbes’ Powerful Women List?

Forbes magazine, originator of the listicle, today released an inventory of the world’s 100 most powerful women. On this list are 25 CEOs, six presidents and four first ladies.

And there are exactly three fashion designers. Well, OK — there are seven. But only if you count people like Gisele Bündchen and Beyonce Knowles as designers.

But aside from those two, Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna, there are three designers: Tory Burch, rank 88; Vera Wang, rank 91; and Donna Karan, rank 96. All three of them deserve to be on the list — and all three of them deserve much higher rankings. We’re just chronically surprised that there aren’t more designers included. (For those of you interested, yes, Anna Wintour made the list, and in spot 56 she’s the only fashion magazine editor included.)

Now, we don’t dispute that the women who are on the list have done great things — Oprah Winfrey, for example, certainly deserves her number two spot. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ranked number 31, should probably be a little higher. But in our minds there is no man, woman or political party that could create anything more influential than Diane von Furstenberg‘s wrap dress. There are very few people who have as great an impact on what we wear as Miuccia Prada. And how, after decades of telling everyone from Jackie Kennedy to Jessica Simpson what to wear, is Carolina Herrera not on the list?

Sure, many of the women on the list are avid consumers of fashion — Michelle Obama, ranked number one, doesn’t have to do more than appear publicly in a designer’s garments to give him or her a lift in popularity. Lady Gaga, at number seven, is a traveling avant garde runway presentation who tests the boundaries of fashion every time she gets out of bed. She probably does that in bed.

But as in control as those women are of their images — and as influential as they are on other people’s images — they’re not the ones who create the functional works of art which make it possible for us to tell the world who we are at a glance. Jenna Lyons does that. Tracy Reese does that. Rachel Roy does that.

The Forbes list is broken down into four categories: politics, media, business and lifestyle. If the magazine is trying to tell us that fashion is not important, or that it is somehow not involved in the politics, the media, the business or the lifestyle of every one of the women on its list and the great multitude of the world’s citizens, that’s their prerogative. But we know better. The women who dress the women on this list are a huge part of why the women on this list are so powerful. To deny that, even tacitly, is foolish.

Read the rest of Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women here.

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