Ever since women began entering the business world in record numbers in the 1970s there has been a discussion about special female leadership skills and therefore a clear perception of how a businesswoman should dress, if she wants to make a career. Female leaders experienced having their looks commented on as much as their actual work or success. For years, powerful female politicians and executives that wielded power in what was historically a man’s world dressed as a man, but brighter. Female leaders nowadays – thank goodness – are facing different times, but style, tone, and attitude are still of huge public interest.
Iris Epple-Righi is the CEO of the ESCADA Group since September 1, 2016.
Mrs. Epple-Righi has considerable experience in international apparel brands. For the past 13 years she has worked for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, both owned by PVH Corp., most recently as President Brand Management for Calvin Klein Europe. Before Calvin Klein, Iris Epple-Righi worked for Tommy Hilfiger, where she was responsible for several years for their retail business and later for the product. Mrs. Epple-Righi started her career at the German department store Breuninger, where she was in various positions in the buying department and for her last 6 years as GMM.
She has a Master of Business degree from Eberhard Karls University in Germany.
It’s a man’s world, still
A glance at executive and board levels show that areas such as economics, tech, and politics are still male-dominated. And as women fight to see their work and leadership reckoned as equally powerful they learn to adopt not only ‘male’ looks but also attitudes and demeanors. A well ingrained habit over the last decades, encouraged also by the fact that studies find ‘male attributes’ are still perceived as powerful. As a result, many women consider it necessary to control their appeal and the impression it might have on others.
Female leaders that are in the public eye, as well as all female businesswomen, are still liable to be reduced to their physical appearance. Throughout their careers, many women feel they must dress a certain way to meet expectations and to fulfill a certain image of how businesswomen should appear.
Dress good means feel good
Fashion is a means to express personality and to tell a story about yourself. Looking good from an internal perspective means feeling confident in your own appearance regardless of the level of dress. A person’s self-confidence has a tremendous effect on productivity, self-efficacy and overall workplace happiness. It is time for new, relaxed handling of appearance and it is up to each woman to decide what her styling is about. Because when you look good, you feel good. And then nothing can stop you!
How can we empower women to dress how they please?
We are currently facing a time where climate change threatens our future and the political world order seems unstable. But we also are witness to a time where women all over the world stand strong and raise their voices for equality and fundamental rights; a time where we see more and more female entrepreneurs and leading executives and politicians.
As a reflection of the change in the political climate, women start to not dress like men to illustrate power but use their femininity as power. We see a new age of feminism in which women are a force to be reckoned with. The more women in leadership positions break free from stereotypes and apparel clichés and live a different role behavior the less important traditional attributes of power become.
We are on the verge of a liberating time where women can dress as they please. Where women can be feminine and powerful.
Women in leadership positions can change the stereotypical image of the leader through their style, tone, and attitude. Right now, it is the time that holds an enormous opportunity to redefine what being a female leader means, on every level, and I invite you to join our discussion at the Global Female Leaders Summit 2019.
Founded in 1978 by Margaretha Ley, ESCADA is rooted in a confident and elegant vision of femininity, underscored by refined quality and workmanship. Over its 40-year history, its renowned love of bold colour, print and detail have attracted a devoted global following and now, these codes are given a distinctly contemporary twist. As one of the world’s leading luxury womenswear brands, ESCADA represents effortless elegance, feminine strength, and the modern woman of today. From fun daytime ensembles, to head-turning eveningwear, ESCADA dresses women for every moment of the day.