Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Historic Fashion Designers

Fashion is an industry that lives in the present, constantly shifting and evolving. As Rose Bertin once said, however, “there is nothing new except what is forgotten.” Even the most innovative new designs build upon innovations of the past, and in this article we take a look at ten designers who made indelible marks on the fashion world before their own passing:

1. Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin (1747-1813)

French milliner and dressmaker Rose Bertin was confidante and official stylist to Queen Marie Antoinette. Building on and exaggerating current trends, Bertin constructed elaborate gowns and headdresses – the infamous clipper ship hairpiece was world-famous even then – and became synonymous with the idea of luxury and excess. Today, she is credited with bringing fashion into pop culture.

2. Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895)

A British draper working in Paris, Charles Worth turned to fashion in 1858 and was soon being commissioned by actresses, courtesans, princesses, and empresses. Worth was the first designer to mark his clothing with signature labels, and is quite literally “the father of haute couture” – his son Gaston, who succeeded control of The House of Worth after his father, founded the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a union which regulates quality standards within the custom high fashion industry.

3. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971)

Coco Chanel’s hardship-riddled upbringing and relationships with wealthy men made her determined to succeed on her own rights; her chic and simple menswear-inspired designs redefined elegance and made her a fashion icon. In the 1920s, Chanel’s designs were embraced as the fashion of choice for the “new breed” of daring young women—also known as flappers. Today, original Chanel designs are still faithfully reproduced, the fashion house is still as strong as ever, and the little black dress is still the most important part of every fashionable woman’s wardrobe.

4. Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975)

The motto of French dressmaker and designer Madeleine Vionnet was: “when a woman smiles, her dress should smile too.” Rather than mold women into with corsets and bustles of the past, she drew her inspiration from ancient Greek drapery and a dancer’s fluidity of movement. Vionnet introduced the world to the bias cut, a fabric-cutting technique that made dresses cling flatteringly—and naturally—to the body, creating a brand new silhouette that dominated high fashion in the 1930s and continues to be a favorite today.

5. Christian Dior (1905-1957)

In 1947, up-and-coming French designer Christian Dior rocked the fashion world with Corolle, his revolutionary first collection under his own label. Commonly referred to as the “New Look,” his wasp-waisted, full-skirted, curvaceously silhouetted garments were radically different from simpler dresses seen during wartime, causing controversy and restoring France as the forward-thinking fashion capital of the world.

6. Claire McCardell (1905-1958)

American fashion designer Claire McCardell transformed the state of women’s wear from the 1930s through the 1950s. Compared to Frank Lloyd Wright for her focus on form following function, she designed simple yet stylish everyday looks and helped define the casual sportswear “American Look” that persists to this day.

7. Emilio Pucci (1914-1992)

As privileged youth of noble lineage, Emilio Pucci got his start by designing uniforms for his college skiing team. His knowledge of sportswear and stretch fabrics took him from skiwear to swimwear, but couture fashion truly put him on the map. Even today, the Pucci name is synonymous with the bold, bright colors and psychedelic, geometric patterns that dominated his designs.

8. Halston (1932-1990)

Roy Halston Frowick became a name to know in Chicago when he opened his first hat shop in 1957, and became a nationwide household name when Jackie Kennedy wore his iconic pillbox hat to her husband’s inauguration ceremony in 1961. By the 1970s, he was known for long flowing dresses that dominated the disco scene. Along with making his mark on the art of fashion, Halston also revolutionized the business of fashion by licensing his name to JC Penney, thereby bringing his high-end designs to a whole new market of women.

9. Liz Claiborne (1929-2007)

In 1976, after designing for other companies, Liz Claiborne started her own design house with the working woman in mind: instead of focusing on couture and high fashion, she produced bright, feminine, affordable mix-and-match collections that revolutionized the concept of fashion in the workplace. Besides dressing them, Claiborne was a businesswomen herself. In 1986, Liz Claiborne, Inc., became the first female-founded company to make the Fortune 500 list.

10. Gianni Versace (1946-1997)

The fashion envelope was already being pushed to its limits in the 1970s, but in the ‘80s designer Gianni Versace found a way to push it even farther. His knits and eveningwear alike were full of edgy rockstar glamour, and his couture gowns worn by actresses like Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Hurley made headlines on the red carpet. His untimely death shook the fashion industry, but his sister Donatella carries the house today.

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