The 10 coolest fashion industry pros (hint: they’re all fictional characters)
Imagine, if you will, a world pre-Zoolander. It was one free of orange mocha frappucinos (well, we can only assume), trademarked poses, and do-or-die model walk offs. It was a time when the likes of Tyson Beckford, the Spice Girls, Tom Ford and Billy Zane could never be found within the same piece of cinema. All in all, it was a dark time.
Regardless of Zoolander’s cult-classic status, its characters are hardly the only members of the cinematic fashion world. From thinly veiled portrayals of real life fashion icons to exaggerated stereotypes, there’s no shortage of memorable editors, designers, and It girls onscreen. Here are some of our favourites.
Maggie Prescott, Funny Face (1957)
Part Diana Vreeland, part Carmel Snow, Maggie Prescott (played by Kay Thompson) wouldn’t be out of place in today’s mile-a-minute fashion industry. Almost 60 years later, her opening commentary on magazines (“If they come into the home, they must contribute!”) is no less relevant. What’s more, her iconic is enough to make us want to reconsider our stance on powder blue eye shadow and opera gloves. Decisive, voracious, and frank, she’s not to be messed with. As Dick Avery (played by Fred Astaire) says, “One never talks to Maggie Prescott; one only listens.”
Donna Martin, 90210 (1990-99)
Ah, those glorious pre-NoTORIous years when Tori Spelling was just a fresh-faced ingénue. Watching Donna Martin evolve from style risk-taking teenager to boutique owner to successful designer of Donna Martin Originals throughout 90210’s ten seasons was only half the fun—the better half was watching her single handedly slay every last ’90s trend, no matter how fleeting. She served up a master class in everything from wearing handfuls of butterfly clips at once (hey, we all did it) to going all-out Gwen Stefani grunge (think floral mini dresses, combat boots, and bleach-blonde hair).
Sylvia Fowler, The Women (1939)
Annette Bening gave it her best shot in the cringe-inducing 2008 remake, but let’s be honest, nothing can beat the original 1939 version of The Women in all its black and white, ground-breaking glory (not only does the movie have an all-female cast, including extras, but it boasts the first fashion show in film). A relentless gossip columnist and ruthless meddler, Sylvia’s a definite standout amidst a sea of charismatic characters.
Enid Frick, Sex and the City (1998-2004)
While Carrie’s formidable Vogue editor only appears in a handful of episodes, she’s a hard character to forget. Between her killer opening line (“This isn’t Vogue.”) to her no-bullshit advice on having it all (“Stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like. It’s true of the fall lines, and it’s true of relationships.”), Enid’s an expert on bringing the freewheeling Carrie back down to earth—something that’s strangely, intensely satisfying to watch.
Rachel Green, Friends (1994-2004)
Granted, in early seasons, Rachel didn’t do much to dispel the stereotype of the spoiled little rich girl looking to break into the fashion industry. Later on, though, we got to watch her slog her way through thankless gigs as a waitress, an assistant buyer, and a personal shopper to eventually become an executive at Ralph Lauren. We’ll never know what kind of career she could have had at Louis Vuitton if she hadn’t gotten off that plane, but in this case, we’re alright settling for a happy ending with her lobster.
Regina Krumm, Pret a Porter (1994):
Although it’s been called a “hate letter” to the industry, Pret a Porter’s cameo appearances alone reads like fashion week after party guest list (Naomi Campbell! Sonia Rykiel! Christy Turlington!). The cast is a whole other story, filled with clichés aplenty: there’s Richard E. Grant’s role as a snooty designer and Stephen Rea as a slimy, high-demand photographer. Best of all, though, there’s Regina Krumm, the tiny Elle editor whose signature rounded frames and pageboy haircut served as a template for future fashion-forward characters (but more on that later).
Mugatu, Zoolander (2001)
Sure, Derek and Hansel may be the heroes of Zoolander, but they can’t quite compete with the scheming fashion mogul, Jacobim Mugatu. The mastermind behind Derelicte, a not-so-subtle parody of John Galliano’s eyebrow-raising Fall 2000 collection, Mugatu remains the best caricature of the fashion world’s elite that we could hope for: he’s outrageous, he’s egotistical, and he doesn’t mess around when it comes to no-foam lattes. We’re counting down the hours until we can catch more of his antics in the upcoming Zoolander sequel.
Eleanor Waldorf, Gossip Girl (2007-2012)
Okay, so Eleanor isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy mother figure to Blair or a supportive mentor to Jenny, but there’s no denying that her designs supplied the Gossip Girl cast with some of the show’s most memorable fashion moments. Who can forget those backless coral and blue mini dresses worn by Serena and Blair while they traipsed around New York for an impromptu photo shoot? We’ll always wonder whatever happened to the OG Eleanor who appeared only in the pilot episode, though.
Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Would any list of onscreen fashion titans be complete without the infinitely quotable editrix of Runway? Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt’s characters are worth an honourable mention, but let’s be real—it wasn’t them who schooled a clueless Anne Hathaway with that devastating cerulean monologue, made having a silvery cropped haircut look impossibly cool, or delivered the ultimate kiss-off catchphrase (“That’s all.”).
Edna Mode, The Incredibles (2004)
Small, mighty, bombastic, and able to pull off calling everyone “dahling” in a way we can only hope to achieve, Edna Mode is the undisputed scene-stealer of Pixar’s criminally underrated animated movie. It’s no wonder she’s able to dream up sleek, high-tech superhero ensembles at the drop of a hat—she’s like a supercharged hybrid of every fashion industry legend we can think of (Edith Head, Mary Quant, Una Jones, and Pret a Porter’s Regina Krumm, to name a few).