Fashion designers can have a huge impact on the larger industry, shaping it in ways that last for years. Here are 10 iconic fashion designers that shaped the fashion industry.
1. Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel started one of the most famous and influential fashion houses for over 100 years. Coco Chanel created luxury fashion for the 20th century, that featured classic style with function. Chanel first created the crossbody handbag to keep women’s hands-free as they go about their day. This was incredibly influential, and just one example of the impact the designer had on the fashion industry. Chanel is known as the pinnacle of luxury fashion, and the house incorporates classic silhouettes like the Chanel suit with more extravagant and creative designs that have consistently defined trends for 100 years.
2. Alexander McQueen
McQueen is considered one of the most influential fashion designers of the 21st century. The British designer first emerged in the ’90s, initially considered an outsider of the fashion industry. McQueen started as tailer, and eventually worked his way towards designing. His designs feature a dark victorian influence and often embrace theatrics. McQueen often designed his clothes by draping the fabric and worked directly on mannequins and models to get the perfect fit and shape that he envisioned. In 1996 McQueen became the creative director of Givenchy, although he eventually moved to establish his own fashion house. McQueen’s avant-garde style also embraced creating a spectacle at his shows. He famously had robotic arms spray paint a white dress while the model was on the runway. His theatrics and style continue to be influential in the fashion industry today.
3. Christian Dior
Christian Dior was an incredibly influential French designer throughout the ’40s and ’50s. Dior started as a couturier for fashion houses in Paris, although he eventually established his own fashion house. Dior created what he called “the new look” for a post World War Two world. Dior’s new look was focused on luxurious dresses, with delicate waists and full skirts. All of his clothes were made to be delicate and perfectly tailored. Dior often compared his designs, and the women he dressed, to flowers. the designer loved flowers and embraced their colors, delicate nature, and associations with femininity into his designs. Dior is responsible for creating the silhouettes and classic designs that we associate with the ’50s, and the Dior house continues his legacy of elegance.
4. Donatella Versace
Donatella Versace has run the iconic fashion house since 1997. Donatella took over the fashion house after the tragic death of her brother, who funded the brand. Donatella worked closely with her brother before his death, and continued his vision and style, expanding the brand and keeping it at the forefront of the fashion industry. Donatella helped Versace achieve coveted status for the Atelier lines. Versace embraces bold prints and colors, with over the top glam in every line. The brand often features dresses adorned with large gold hardware and bold geometric prints. The symbol of the Versace lion is iconic, and just one hallmark of the fashion house.
5. Miuccia Prada
Miuccia Prada took over her family’s fashion house in the late 70s and has since been an incredibly influential designer in the fashion industry. Miuccia continues to head the fashion house and established Miu Miu, another luxury brand that continuously pushes boundaries. Miuccia helped transfer her grandfather’s leather goods brand to a fashion powerhouse under her direction. Miuccia is known for not just following trends but creating them, season after season her designs are always new, and are almost always imitated. The Italian fashion house has been leading the fashion industry for decades, and Miuccia seems to have no intention of slowing down.
6. Vera Wang
Vera Wang created a bridal wear empire, creating luxury wedding gowns that are often worn by celebrities. Wang first started working at Vogue, eventually becoming one of the youngest editors. It wasn’t until her own wedding that Wang was inspired to open her own boutique, aiming to make wedding dresses for the modern bride. Wang makes boundary-pushing wedding dresses, turning a business that is focused on tradition into something that is fashionable and ever-changing. Wang doesn’t just make wedding dresses, her empire extends to multiple products, including bedding to perfume. Wang’s business sense mixed with her creativity has made her a household name and incredibly influential in the fashion industry.
7. Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent started working for Christian Dior, he became creative director of the brand after Dior’s death, and in his first collection created looser and lighter silhouettes. Laurent also created men’s wear inspired looks for women, popularizing women wearing suites, a trend that is still often worn today. Laurent continuously pushed boundaries, combing art, and modern style with classic fashion. The designer also popularized ready to wear looks for luxury brands, bring designer fashion into everyday wardrobes. Laurent famously created a collection inspired by Andy Warhol, colliding the two industries and shaping the way designers approach to fashion.
8. Karl Lagerfeld
Lagerfeld is another designer who was incredibly influential in the fashion industry. The famed designer became a household name due to his long career in fashion. Lagerfeld became the creative director of Fendi in 1965, after first working at Balmain and Chloe among other houses. 20 years later, he was named the creative director of Chanel, while keeping his position at Fendi. Through his long career, Lagerfeld proved he was unflappable, always ahead of trends, but keeping with timeless style that distinguishes the fashion houses he led. Lagerfeld is not only known for his designs, but for his lavish sets, including having a Fendi show on the Great Wall of China. Lagerfeld established himself as a legend in the fashion industry, creating an iconic career that shaped pop culture along with the fashion industry.
9. Hubert De Givenchy
Givenchy started his fashion house with the vision of couture gowns with two pieces, tops, and bottoms that could be mixed and matched. At the time, this was innovative and modern. Givenchy was still a new designer when a young Audrey Hepburn visited his studio, looking for french clothes before filming Sabrina. Givenchy’s designs embraced the idea of personal style and embodied bubbly sophistication. Givenchy was one of the first designers to put his branding on more than just clothes, including silverware. This expended his brand and made his french fashion empire able to stand the test of time. Givenchy has embodied classic French fashion, with a twist of creative fun for years.
10. Oscar De la Renta
Oscar De la Renta first started working at Lanvin in Paris, until he moved to New York and started his own fashion line in 1965. De la Renta focused on flattering designs for women, with feminine prints and colors that embraced elegance and fun. De la Renta became a popular designer with first ladies, famously dressing Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton among others. De la Renta’s designs always embodied grace and class, while remaining modern and up to date. This made him a staple in the fashion industry, and his label continues to be influential to this day.