Money & Power
From Spanx to Prada: Tales Behind the Richest Women in Fashion
The names behind some of the most bankable fashion brands.
IMAGE Gillian Zoe Segal & Noura Alswailem / Wikimedia Commons
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Self-made or heir apparent, these women have some of the greatest fortunes in fashion. Have you been making them wealthier with your shopping sprees?

SANDRA ORTEGA MERA, 48


Net worth as of May 2017: $7.7 billion
Source of wealth: Zara

Clothing brand Zara is currently valued at $10.7 billion. The owner, Armancio Ortega, is now the third richest man in the world. In March 2017, Forbes reported that his net worth shot up to $72.8 billion after earning another $1.2 billion from his group Inditext, which counts Zara among its brands.

In 2013, Armancio Ortega’s ex-wife and Zara co-founder Rosalía Mera Goyenechea passed away. Daughter Sandra Ortega Mera inherited her wealth and became the richest woman in Spain. It’s unclear whether Sandra is next in line at Zara—there’s speculation that Armancio Ortega, now 81, could also consider Marta Ortega Perez, his daughter from a second marriage, to succeed him.

MIUCCIA PRADA, 68


Net worth as of May 2017: $3.4 billion
Source of wealth: Prada

There’s something to be said about a brand that makes it into the title of a hit book and movie: It is fully ingrained in pop culture. Miuccia Prada is the CEO and executive director of this storied brand. But unlike many heirs, she had a large hand in propelling her grandfather’s business into the mainstream.

She was there in the early days and even traded political science—which she took up as an extension of her left leanings—for fashion. In the 1970s she was already designing bags for the family business. Back then her designs were covetable enough to be copied. In fact, The Guardian reports, the man who would go on to become her husband and co-CEO at Prada ripped off some of her designs. She could’ve stayed mad, but instead proposed that she and leather manufacturer Patrizio Bertelli work together.

LOTTIE THAM, 68


Net worth as of May 2017: $3 billion
Source of wealth: H&M

Lottie Tham is the daughter of H&M founder Erling Persson. She currently owns 5.4% of H&M, the second largest stake in the company. Her brother Stefan owns a larger share at 38.8% and is the richest man in Sweden. But Lottie’s share is already huge, considering that H&M has 3,962 stores in 64 markets, as of February 2017.

GIULIANA BENETTON, 79


Net worth as of May 2017: $3 billion
Source of wealth: Benetton

With her brothers Luciano, Gilberto, and Carlo, Giuliana founded Benetton, the clothing brand best known for controversial ads that touched on racial discrimination, capital punishment, and the HIV epidemic. The brand was a sensation in the 1980s, with a reported $1.2 billion in sales by 1987. Today, the business outlook is not as bright: It has to compete with more relevant, trend-centered brands like Zara, H&M, and Bershka. Giuliana Benetton, however, remains one of the wealthiest in fashion, thanks to a steady following in Italy.

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DORIS FISHER, 86


Net worth as of May 2017: $2.6 billion
Source of wealth: Gap

Doris Fisher co-founded Gap with her husband Don in 1969. According to New York Times, the brand was supposed to be named Pants and Discs, but Doris thought of the catchier name based on the phrase “generation gap.” This wasn’t her only big contribution. She served as director of the brand for 40 years.

ANNE GITTINGER, 85


Net worth as of May 2017: $1.13 billion
Source of wealth: Nordstrom

Despite being a billionaire, Anne Gittinger is low-key and not much visible in the media. She is the granddaughter of John Nordstrom, who founded the namesake department store chain in 1901. The success of Nordstrom in 2012 made her a billionaire, but she made no comment on her net worth, according to Chicago Tribune.

Forbes reports that she owns 11% of Nordstrom, which has 354 stores in the U.S. and Canada collectively. The department store carries designer goods from usual suspects Chanel, Fendi, Gucci to under-the-radar brands Yigal Azrouël, Loewe, and Prabal Gurung, among plenty others.

SARA BLAKELY, 46



Net worth as of May 2017: $1.09 billion
Source of wealth: Spanx

In 2012, Forbes named Spanx co-founder Sara Blakely the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. She was only 41.

It’s hard to imagine that repurposed pantyhose brought a huge fortune to a woman who had been down on her luck after graduating from college. But this is what happened to Sara Blakely: She cut off the leg part of her flesh pantyhose and wore it under white jeans. She patented this new undergarment which had a slimming effect and no visible lines, and Spanx was born. It eventually became a style must-have promoted by the likes of Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow. Women everywhere found the shapewear useful for tight or white clothing, and sales soared. The company has an estimated sales of $400 million, according to Forbes.

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Kwyn Kenaz Aquino
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