Fashion is an ever-evolving industry with a rich past. The history of style has been filled with designers who dared to break molds and shatter expectations. Without icons like this, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Designer and financial consultant Adam Edelberg offers his insights into which design icons have shaped the fashion world as we know it.
Italian born Armani came to fame as a fashion designer, though his company now has investments in hotels, music, and sport. Edelberg says that Armani is a pioneer of the red carpet. He has made elaborate gowns for celebrities like Lady Gaga and has designed for many televised award shows. One of his contributions to designer culture was banning models with a body mass index under 18. He did this in an attempt to prevent eating disorders like anorexia nervosa.
Tokyo designer Kawakubo grew up studying the history of aesthetics. When she launched her brand Commes des Garcons (like the boys) in 1969, she made a name for herself quickly. She designed clothes for women that were comfortable and offered a full range of motion, challenging women’s fashion of the sixties and seventies. Kawakubo’s work has been called “anti-fashion,” featuring dark colors and unfinished hems. Despite mixed reviews in the fashion world, CDG does well in markets worldwide. Kawakubo was also the second fashion designer to ever be featured in an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Yves Saint Laurent
According to Edelberg, Saint Laurent defined high fashion for the 20th century. Catching the eye of industry leader Christian Dior when he was merely a teen, Saint Laurent went on to take over Dior’s brand at the age of 21. But the world was not ready for Saint Laurent’s edgy styles. It wasn’t until he went on to start his own brand that he got the recognition he deserved. Saint Laurent’s designs featured the fusion between elegant and comfortable, popularizing things like smoking jackets for women. Saint Laurent battled with drugs and alcohol for much of his adult life before dying of brain cancer in 2008.
If you’re familiar with the popular women’s styles of 1960s London, you can thank Quant. Think miniskirts, hotpants, and short shorts. She emphasized styles that would allow women to run and move and still look chic. Quant’s impact on fashion started in her little boutique in London but grew to include make-up lines and several books. Quant embraced the vivaciousness that comes with fashion. She said of the women she designed miniskirts for, “…they are curiously feminine, but their femininity lies in their attitude rather than in their appearance.”
No fashion conversation is complete without mention of Wang. She was ambitious as a youth in New York, gaining notoriety for her prowess in figure skating. Immediately after her college graduation, she was hired as an editor for Vogue Magazine. After seventeen years there, she went to work for Ralph Lauren. Wang then became an independent bridal wear designer. She has gone on to design wedding dresses for the likes of Mariah Carey, Victoria Beckham, and Chelsea Clinton.
Have there been many others? Of course. But according to Edelberg, these five designers stand out as icons for the ways they’ve changed the course of fashion history. Even those who have since passed away or retired are still felt in the industry today.