To celebrate Mother’s Day, we consider the impact of mothers on five of our favourite fashion designers
Every mother is an inspiring mother, so with Mother’s Day just two days away, we celebrate the maternal figures behind some of the most successful fashion designers of our time.
One of fashion’s most celebrated names, Raf Simons launched his first menswear collection in 1995. With a background in industrial design, Simons, originally from Neerpelt, Belgium, is known to the world for his constructed designs and youth culture-inspired aesthetic. From Jil Sander to Dior, Simons has held the creative director seats in many of the premium luxury fashion companies. While he grew up in a small town where creativity wasn’t seen as something to be encouraged, Simons wasn’t impeded by his family – in fact, his parents were the first to invest in his career, in the form of a fax machine that Simons used to get his first orders through when he was still a student. And it was his parents Simons looked for right after his ready-to-wear debut show for Dior in 2012 – surrounded by hoards of illustrious fashion commentators post show, it was the sight of his mother and father that caused him to break down in tears. In a wonderful coincidence, Raf’s mother comes from the same village as Martin Margiela’s mother – the man who Simons credits with inspiring his career – and over the past few years the two mothers have forged a firm friendship.
The youngest of six children, Lee Alexander McQueen was born in Lewisham, South London to a schoolteacher and a taxi driver – a self-proclaimed working-class “yob”. His mother, Joyce, was a continual inspiration for him, as he sewed his way up from East End kid to enfant terrible of fashion. The two were incredibly close – as shown in Dan Chung’s touching portraits of the pair in the Guardian in 2010 – and would regularly catch up over tea and biscuits at Joyce’s house, and it was his mum who accompanied McQueen to Buckingham Palace on the day he was named Designer of the Year in 2003. McQueen was a big underwater diving enthusiast, an obsession inherited from his mother, who came from a family of deep-sea divers in the Forest of Dean. As he said in an interview in The Guardian in 2004, “from the McQueen side I’ve got anarchy, and my mum’s side, underwater diving”.
The second child of Sir Paul McCartney and his first wife, American photographer Linda Eastman, Stella McCartney was born in the spotlight and raised on a diet of art and music. Her parents were a clear inspiration in her career; a notorious vegetarian, world rights activist and environmentalist, Linda’s distinct impact on her daughter’s fashion ethics can be seen in Stella’s sustainable and ethical brand. Linda died of cancer in 1998, but remains always in her daughter’s thoughts. Indeed, Stella’s wedding dress in 2003 was a modernised version of the one Linda wore the day she became Mrs McCartney back in 1969.
Beautiful, glowing, classic and elegant, Margherita Missoni fully embodies the spirit of her family’s brand. The heiress to the Missoni empire, which was founded by her grandparents in 1953, Margherita was brought up in the countryside and instructed by her mother and grandmother that fashion doesn’t change the world and that she should keep the right distance from it. In fact, it’s only recently that Margherita has played an increasing role in the running of the business. The strong family bond is part of the spirit of the brand and, following in the footsteps of grandmother/founder Rosita and mother/creative director Angela, Margherita keeps the Missoni matriarchy going strong. Mother and daughter are very close on both a professional and personal level. During her homesick days as a Philosophy student in New York, Margherita would fall asleep with her nose stuck inside her mum’s cashmere jumper, and her favourite Missoni piece is still a patchwork vest that her mother used to wear when she was young.
Born in San Francisco in 1983, Alexander Wang dropped out of New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design to start his own company aged only 21. From his unisex knitwear beginnings, Wang moved on to creating both menswear and womenswear ready-to-wear collections, which earned him the support of key figures in the industry. The Taiwanese-American designer has sketched his way up since he was two, counting on the full support of his family. The Wang label is now a family business, which incorporates Wang’s brother, sister-in-law and even his mother, co-founder of a China-based manufacturing business. Her connections have proven handy to Wang, who has been sourcing production from China.
Dior And I, a behind the scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons’ first Dior collection, is released on March 27.