Sara Blakley - #91 on Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women, and the youngest self-made female billionaire, with a net-worth of $1 billion. The Florida native turned her $5000 investment into $250 million in annual revenues selling Spanx brand body-shaping women’s undergarments. She was the first female billionaire to sign the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge and established the Sara Blakley Foundation to support women’s causes.
According to therichest.org, the world’s 2012 top ten fashion designers included:
1. Calvin Klein – The native New Yorker began his career with a coat store in 1968. His line now includes sportswear, women’s wear, fragrances, cosmetics and accessories. His estimated net worth is $700 million. Calvin Klein, Inc. is currently owned by Phillips-Van Heusen.
2. Donatella Versace – Following her Italian brother, Gianni Versace’s murder in 1997, the Donatella took over as Vice-President of the Versace Group, as well as chief designer. Her net worth is estimated at $200 million. She shares a 20% interest in the Versace brand with her brother (30%) and daughter (50%).
3. Valentino Garavani – First acclaimed for designing Jacqueline Kennedy’s dresses, the Italian’s iconic line now caters to European royalty as well as the world’s elite. Despite having officially retired in 2008, he maintains an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion.
4. Giorgio Armani – The Italian creator of the world-renowned Armani suit has recently extended his empire to include British and Italian sports uniforms. His various luxury lines of fashion, accessories, watches, eyewear, home decorations and retail stores support a net worth of $8.5 billion.
5. Coco Chanel – The famed French creator of the classic women’s suit, LBD (little black dress) and Chanel No. 5 perfume, rose from obscurity as an orphan. Her “take no prisoners” approach included anti-semitism and harsh labor conditions for her workers. The House of Chanel, owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, is #12 on Forbes’ list of World’s Most Powerful Brands, valued at $6.2 billion.
6. Ralph Lauren – Born Ralph Lifshitz in New York, he changed his name after years of constant bullying at school. He designed neckties under the now-famous Polo Ralph Lauren brand. This served as the cornerstone of his empire of sportswear, accessories, fragrances and eyewear. He enjoys a net worth of $7.5 billion.
7. Tom Ford – As Creative Director, he transformed Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent before creating his own clothing line. The American then turned his attention to the film industry, successfully directing the Academy Award-nominated The Single Man. He is rumored to be planning to direct a second film. His net worth is $70 million.
8. Kate Spade – The erstwhile Fashion Editor of Mademoiselle made her entrée into the fashion industry with her Kate Spade New York collection of serviceable yet chic handbags. Her full line of eyewear, shoes, sleepwear, stationeries, personal beauty, kitchen and bedding items, has amassed a net worth of $150 million.
9. Betsey Johnson – The Andy Warhol-inspired 71-year-old Connecticut native served as House Designer of the Manhattan Boutique Paraphernalia, and directed the Alley Cat label before creating an eponymous fashion line. She maintains a personal net worth of $50 million. Despite Betsey Johnson LLC’s recent filing for bankruptcy, which resulted in the closure of most of her 63 stores, her wholesale line will continue to be sold through major retailers.
10. Marc Jacobs – This native New Yorker is currently the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton, as well as the head of his own two lines – Marc Jacobs and Marc. Known for his retrospective designs, Jacobs’ current worth is estimated at $100 million. He was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Gay Men in 2009.
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