"I've long believed that the most inspiring and vibrant women in America – and around the world – are the ones who stand out in the crowd,” writes Deborah Lloyd, the President and Chief Creative Ofﬁcer of Kate Spade New York, in the preface to the US brand’s new book, SHE: Muses, Visionaries and Madcap Heroines. And she would know, having helped build one of the most fun, fearless, and female-focused labels around today. “‘Daring’ is a word that’s always in style, whether it’s in reference to creating a shockingly beautiful work of art, following a wild dream, challenging the status quo, speaking from the heart, adventurous cooking or inspiring an entire generation to think about a social issue differently,” she continues. “The most daring thing you can do in life is be true to yourself. Individually and collectively, these women inspire us to do exactly that.”
It’s an introduction and a half, that’s for sure – but is perfectly ﬁtting of the incredible group of women chosen to ﬁll the pages that come after it; from Jackie O to Joan Didion, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Carrie Bradshaw.
Beautiful images are interspersed with celebratory lists such as “Ten fearlessly inappropriate things Diana Vreeland made appropriate” – individuality, the high-low mix and fashion as art being three – and the background history of power players like iconic feminist, Gloria Steinem. “I think the revolutionary role of a writer is to make language that makes coalition possible, language that makes us see things in a new way,” she wrote in 1969. What a woman, eh?
Equally awesome is the story of Annie Easley, one of the ﬁrst African-American women to work as a “human computer” for NASA in the ’50s, who famously said, “My head is not in the sand. But my thing is, if I can’t work with you, I will work around you.”
Alongside earning a degree in maths while working full-time as – quite literally – a rocket scientist, she was also a founding member of NASA’s ski club, and in the ’70s helped mediate gender, race and age discrimination complaints. “She and a co-worker were also the ﬁrst ladies in the ofﬁce to wear pantsuits. It caused quite a liberating stir,” according to the book. What a hero.
And speaking of fashion, where would we be without sartorial icons Cher Horowitz and Iris Apfel. One is real, one is ﬁctional, but both are ﬁgureheads of sisterhood and style.
“I feel like I learn lots of things by osmosis, and I feel that I’m always absorbing,” Iris said. “I mean, when people say, ‘What is your inspiration?’ I could throw up. I mean, I’m inspired by the fact I get up in the morning. And I’m still here.” As funny, moving and essential a coffee-table book as a girl can get.
Images: Courtesy of SHE: Muses, Visionaries and Madcap Heroines