Famous Fashion and Beauty Business Executives

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What's In a Name?

Elizabeth Arden in 1947
Elizabeth Arden in 1947. Getty Images / Hulton Archive

Women have been able to succeed in business in the fields of fashion and beauty, even when their entry into other fields of business has been limited. Here are some of the famous women fashion and beauty executives who made such successes that their businesses are known by their names. I've listed them alphabetically on the following pages.

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Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden, 1939
Elizabeth Arden, 1939. Alan Fisher/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Elizabeth Arden used mass marketing to sell her cosmetics to the public; she also sold through a chain of salons and spas that were part of her business. Little known: her birth name was Florence Nightingale Graham, named after the nursing pioneer.

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Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel in 1929
Coco Chanel in 1929. Sasha / Getty Images

She's known for the Chanel suit, the Chanel jacket and Chanel No. 5 perfume. Coco Chanel began life in poverty and obscurity, and managed to become one of the icons of 20th century fashion.

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Helena Rubinstein

Helena Rubinstein
Helena Rubinstein. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in Poland, Helena Rubinstein began her career in Australia where she began a beauty salon and a business manufacturing cosmetics. From there, she spread her business to Europe and North America. She distributed her products through salons and through department stores. She was still managing her cosmetics empire at her death in 1965.

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Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg 2003
Diane von Furstenberg at a FilmAid International benefit at Diane von Furstenberg Studios, December 16, 2003. Evan Agostini / Getty Images

Diane von Furstenberg designed a wrap dress out of knit jersey fabric in the 1970s, which became an iconic design that returned in the 1990s. That iconic wrap dress is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Costume Institute Collection. She also became known for her success in the home shopping network business, for her fragrance business and for leveraging her success by licensing her name to others.

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Madam C. J. Walker

Advertisement: Madam C. J. Walker Preparations
Advertisement for Madam C. J. Walker hair and complexion products, 1920. Courtesy Library of Congress, originally published in The New York Age, 1920.

Madam C. J. Walker was the inventor of the Walker System, a method for straightening black hair using a hot comb, an ointment that promoted hair growth, a scalp treatment and a hair oil. She trained and supported women in becoming agents to sell the Walker System and begin Walker hair care businesses, encouraging the success of hundreds of black women entrepreneurs. She herself became the first African American woman millionaire in America.

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