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Women Leading Globally: Fashion


Many students come to Paris and to AUP for their interest in fashion. They come away having gained exposure to major actors, brands and events such as Fashion week, but the AUP education also guarantees that they come away with a consideration of the ways the industry can affect everyday life and with the agency to make sure the impact is a positive one.

Our graduates who have gone on to fulfilling, and impressive, careers in the industry – Charla Carter (’82), Liana Engel (’06), Geneviève Hartmann (’13), interviewed here, and Tara Jarmon (’85) – personify this in what they have achieved.

 The Faces Leading and Changing the Fashion Industry

Charla Carter (‘82) 

Writer, Influencer, Stylist, Television Host

Liana Engel (‘06)

Global Director of Talent and Entertainment at Cartier               

Geneviève Hartmann (‘13)

Senior Product Manager at Amazon Fashion

Charla Carter entered the Parisian fashion world at a time when fashion was high fashion, and it had the power to satisfy a certain woman’s desires for beauty. However, after 30 years working in the heart of the industry, she realized that fashion as she knew it had absolutely no effect on the average woman’s life. She was not sanguine about the future of fashion, but as a leader in the industry, she has contributed to making fashion and the benefits that come with it more accessible to the average woman by working as both a stylist on ABC Talk TV’s “Incredible Transformation” and as a “senior influencer” on social media. Carter, in her naturally elegant and charismatic way, states, “I think everyone would like for their life to be more beautiful, and fashion is a tool that can bring you beauty, and when you feel beautiful, I think, that leads to happiness.” 

While Carter has focused on what fashion can do for the average woman, Geneviève Hartmann, Senior Project Manager at Amazon Fashion, says she is most interested in leveraging the fashion industry as a vehicle to address the climate crisis and to minimize the effects of fashion on the environment. And Liana Engel, Global Director of Talent and Entertainment at Cartier, is focused on the ways fashion can be diversified to take into account gender and ethnicity. Indeed, the pressure to find the next face of fashion falls heavily on Engel’s shoulders at Cartier, but “instead of emphasizing the person in the portrait,” she believes we should be associating those faces with the personality behind them, and how they make their mark on the world. “In the past, it's always been just an actor or an actress, the best of the best. There are so many different types of talents, though,” she says. 

Hartmann echoes this idea when she states, “when looked at individually, we tend to immediately associate ‘fashion’ with fashion houses or luxury brands, but zoom out, and we see a much, much deeper landscape. And deeper landscapes mean more opportunities to learn, grow and expand.” As she reflected on her contribution to fashion, she added, “I feel as though I have a responsibility to participate in both the scaling of sustainable retail consumption and in the diversification of fashion, specifically those which are largely business, finance or STEM-based, beyond cis white females as the ‘diversification bar’.” As Carter looks back on her early days, she realizes that her generation was not particularly concerned with diversity, body inclusivity or overall acceptance. For her, and for Hartmann and Engel, it has been a matter of making the fashion industry adapt to its wearers and not the other way around.

What makes a leader?

When Charla Carter arrived in Paris in the early 80’s to attend AUP, she began freelancing while simultaneously interning for American Vogue. She explains that audacity was the key to making the most of her unique (and foreign) profile, considered “difficult to classify” by the French fashion world. Similarly, Engel rejected the “pas possible” culture well-known in French workplaces and held her head high as she advanced throughout her career with tenacity and tact. In her current position as Director of Talent, she has worked to delegate in a way that shows her employees that she values their contributions, stating “it's important for people to feel as though they're part of what the end product ultimately becomes.” As for Genevieve Hartmann, she too believes in leading as her authentic self, encouraging respectful discussion without aggression or defense, and not dimming her truth if challenged by others. She states, “it all comes down to a single word: empathy. Above all: lead with empathy.” In doing so, she believes that we will encourage others to find their place in the field and motivate them to contribute to the advancement of the fashion industry at large. 

All roads lead to…Paris?

The unique approach to education offered at AUP underscores the importance of engaging with the community, which includes the city of Paris, of utmost pertinence for students with a passion for fashion. All three of these women distinctly remember having had professors or guest speakers at AUP who opened doors to internships at reputable companies, working at Fashion Week, doing editorial translations, or transcribing fashion shows for broadcasting networks. These humble beginnings helped these leaders harness valuable skills, and above all, showed them what future professions were open to them, and they are not alone. Many AUP alums have gone on to work in the fashion world, many managing to make big names for themselves, and to change it from within. The brilliant and ambitious women featured here have clearly learned to see themselves in the world rather than seeing the world as an entity beyond them. In doing so, they have harnessed the ability to use fashion as a platform to help shape it into something of which they can be proud.