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Empowering Female Leaders

How Emily Ratajkowski Designed Her Own Success

Photos: Courtesy of Leeor Wild

Emily Ratajkowski, the founder of fashion line Inamorata Woman, knew she had what it took to start her own business while working as a model on major campaigns. 

“They were hiring me traditionally as a model, but of course they were using my social channel and my art direction,” Ratajkowski said. “I started to realize my value and I wanted to do it myself.”

Ratajkowski, 28, began her business in 2017 with a line of designer swimwear. The brand now boasts more than 460,000 Instagram followers and Ratajkowski has become an advocate for women’s leadership.

Humble beginnings

When she started out, Ratajkowski recognized the obstacles she and many other women faced. 

“As a woman, you’re really taught to question everything you know, and to act like everyone else — especially the men in an industry like this — know more than you,” she said. “What I’ve found in these two-plus years is that everyone is just faking it until they make it, and whatever you don’t know, you can learn.”

Boosted by her social media following, Ratajkowski was able to build her business on her own terms. 

“I grew up in a pre-Instagram, pre-social media world, so my influences only came through the media and not directly from the talent I admired,” she said. “I really love that as someone who now has a platform like this, I’m able to use it to talk about things I care about.”

Long road ahead

Like many industries, fashion has a long way to go when it comes to empowering female leaders. Women are 17 percent more likely to aspire to leadership roles in the fashion industry, but men are 20 percent more likely to attain those roles, according to a 2018 study by Glamour magazine and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. 

More women than men enter the industry, yet fewer are offered the chance to rise. Ratajkowski argues that, like her, women need to make those opportunities for themselves, but that confidence can be an obstacle.

“Women, when they’re confident, are really intimidating,” Ratajkowski said. “You’re taught to be so concerned with being likable that you default back to that, especially in business.” 

Ratajkowski said she’s happy to see young women more eager than ever to take the reins in spite of the obstacles they face. “My generation and the generation below me won’t stand for anything else.”

Ross Elliott, [email protected]

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