Whether you’re interested in fashion or not, you probably know the names of some of the biggest fashion brands out there – Armani, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, etc. However, usually, the masterminds behind the brands are camera-shy and steer clear of media attention to focus on their craft. In case you ever wondered what the faces behind those beautiful, out-of-this-world and madly expensive designs looked like, we have compiled a list of the faces behind the most famous fashion brands.
#1 Vera Wang
The fairy godmother of every white wedding, Vera Wang was born in 1949 and raised in New York City. An avid figure skater, Vera tried to make it to the US Olympic team and failed, therefore this has prompted her to turn to another passion of hers – fashion. Upon graduation from Sarah Lawrence College, Vera was hired to be an editor at Vogue making her the youngest editor at that magazine. She worked there for 17 years, then spend 2 years at Ralph Lauren, when finally, at the age of 40 Vera became an independent bridal wear designer. Vera got her start in bridal fashion before her own wedding in 1989. She was unsatisfied with the choices of wedding dresses available, so she designed her own. Now, her feminine and fairy-tale-like dresses amassed many fans, including Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Victoria Beckham and even the one and only Michelle Obama.
There are three main types of clothing in French fashion: haute couture (a French phrase that literally means “high sewing”), prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) and lingerie. Haute couture refers to high-end, tailor-made clothes, while ready-to-wear clothes are factory-made and sold in finished condition and standardized sizes.
#2 Vivienne Westwood
Those who haven’t heard of Vivienne Westwood – a queen of modern punk in fashion – have probably been living under the rock. The woman was inspired by the shock-value of punk and is known for always speaking her mind. Vivienne creates a varied range of merchandise and some of it is linked to her many political causes such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, climate change and civil rights groups. Vivienne studied fashion and silversmithing at the Harrow School of Art in London, but left after one term claiming that a working-class girl could never make a living in the art world. Thankfully, she made it and introduced the world to her colorful, refreshing and brave designs.
#3 Giorgio Armani
Mr. Giorgio Armani probably needs no introduction. The genius was born in Italy and is now known for his clean and tailored lines in the clothes. Back in 2001 he was proclaimed to be the most successful Italian designer ever. If that’s not enough, Mr. Armani is credited for pioneering red-carpet fashion. It is also important to know that Giorgio was the first designer to ban models with a body mass index (BMI) less than 18, after model Ana Carolina Reston starved herself to death.
#4 Miuccia Prada
The youngest granddaughter of Mario Prada, Miuccia Bianchi Prada took over the family business in 1978. One of the best dressed women in the world (as per Forbes), Miuccia is the head designer of the luxury brand Prada and the founder of its subsidiary Miu Miu. Although most of her designed goods look more like pieces of art than actual clothes, Miuccia abstains from merging fashion with art by proclaiming that “Art is for expressing ideas and for expressing a vision. My job is to sell.”
#5 Gianni Versace
Gianni’s mother was a seamstress, so the boy spent majority of his childhood learning how to sew. He opened his first Versace boutique in 1978 and quickly became an international sensation. Versace clothes took inspiration from the contemporary and pop cultures. Gianni was also one of the first designers to link fashion to the music world and was friends with such legends like Elton John, Cher, Sting, Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. After his death, his sister Donatella took over the business.
Even though Christian Louboutin’s shoes are known for their iconic red soles ( inspired by Andy Warhol’s artwork ‘Flowers’), for a limited period the designer produced shoes with blue soles so brides could wear something blue on their wedding day.
#6 Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein is yet another man who needs no thorough introduction. His name has become a proper noun and he is credited for being an amazing businessman that took undergarment fashion to a whole new level. Thanks to this New York City native, the world is going crazy for panties with a CK line on them. Of course, that’s not all that he crafts – the brand Calvin Klein also produces clothes, perfume and accessories.
#7 Christian Louboutin
Since a young age, Christian loved making shoes and has done so for fashion houses such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Maud Frizon. When he turned 27, he decided that he wanted to create his own brand and opened a store. His business gained recognition from Hollywood celebrities and socialites, who fell in love with his footwear, making him one of the most notable footwear designers in fashion history.
#8 Diane Von Furstenberg
Best known for her iconic wrap dress, Diane von Fürstenberg (born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin) is a Belgian-born designer. After marrying Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, Diane made an important decision: “The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts.” Back in 1974, she introduced the knitted jersey “wrap dress” and the fashion world went mad. Fast-forward to today, she is the president of Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and one of the most notable women designers ever.
#9 Marc Jacobs
Born in the Big Apple, Marc Jacobs attended the High School of Art and Design and studied at the Parsons School of Design. At the moment, he is the head designer for his own fashion label Marc Jacobs which is known for its feminine and sometimes quirky style. Back in 2016, the Council of Fashion Designers of America have announced Marc to be Womenswear Designer of the Year.
#10 Dolce & Gabbana
Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce met in Milan in 1980 when working for the same fashion house and created their own label five years later. Dolce & Gabbana became known for their sensual and sexy style, often inspired by classic and feminine looks of the women of Sicily. The genius pair are partners in both business and their personal life. The two spark up controversy from time to time – the most recent one was stirred up last year when they posted a video in their social media of an Asian model eating Italian food with chopsticks. Dolce & Gabbana was accused of racism and their show in Shanghai was cancelled.
Human models weren’t a ‘thing’ up until 1853. Since the 1500s, fashion designers would show off their clothing lines by creating mini versions of clothes that they would put on little dolls.
#11 Alexander Wang
Alexander Wang – the hero of all the cool kids – is an American designer, known for urban and sleek designs. He was born in San Francisco and at the age of 18, same as many other designers and stylists, he moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design. In 2007, two years after graduating, Alexander presented a women’s ready-to-wear collection on the New York catwalk and received critical acclaim. His fanbase steadily grew and now, among many others, Rihanna is a huge fan of his urban and refreshing clothes and accessories, which should be enough evidence that Mr. Wang sure knows his craft.
#12 Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney is a British designer, known for many as the daughter of the famous former Beatle Paul McCartney. However, Stella has proved herself to be so much more than that. She designed her first jacket at the age of thirteen. Now, Stella is known for her feminine, soft clothes for which the designer never uses leather or fur, as she is a passionate animals-rights and ecology activist.
#13 Tom Ford
The king of all things glam, Tom Ford (born in 1961) is an American fashion designer, film director, screenwriter, and film producer. The man is of many talents and not only designs clothes and make up, but has directed such movies as A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals. Tom spent his childhood in the suburbs of Texas and later – in New Mexico. When he moved to New York, he got sucked into the Studio 54 scene and fell in love with its glamor, which would later fuel much of his creations. Tom launched a line of menswear, beauty, eyewear, and accessories back in 2006.
#14 Kenzo Takada
Kenzō Takada – a legendary Japanese designer – moved to Paris after graduating from Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College. He then set up shop in the city and created clothes from fabrics he bought from flea markets. His success began in 1970 and today, Kenzō is one of the most renowned designers in the world and is the acting Honorary President of the Asian Couture Federation.
#15 Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy (born Thomas Jacob Hilfiger) sure knows what it’s like to fail – when he was just 20 years old, he opened his own clothing store but went bankrupt in 5 years. After bankruptcy, he moved to New York City – the fashion capital of the US – where he worked for several brands. By the age of 28, he once again took a shot at creating his own clothing company, called Tommy Hill. Six years later, he established the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation which was destined to become one of the most recognizable fashion brands in the world.
If you want to be an Haute Couture designer, you have to get approved by the Chamber of Syndicale, the governing body of fashion in Paris first. The approval process is very strict and serious. As of today, there are only 14 members of the ‘Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture.’ Even some of the greatest designers such as Giorgio Armani remain unapproved.
#16 Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean-Paul Gaultier grew up in the suburbs of Paris. When Jean-Paul was a kid, his grandmother introduced him to the world of fashion. Interestingly enough, the now world-famous designer and a creative genius never received formal training. Instead, he drew sketches and started sending them to famous couturiers at a young age. Thankfully, Pierre Cardin saw his talent and was so impressed, that he hired Jean-Paul as his assistant back in 1970.
#17 Roland Mouret
Roland Mouret was born in France and after high school, he studied at a fashion college in Paris for three months. Even though he lacked some technical skills, this didn’t stop him from designing. His big break through came in 2006 when he introduced his Galaxy dress in his Spring collection. Suddenly, it became the dress of the year and the majority of celebrities fell under Roland’s spell. The designer later said: “I think my appeal is understanding women; it is not just about designing an outfit for them.”
#18 Roberto Cavalli
When Roberto was young, he studied weaving techniques, which he found to be fascinating. This inspired him to drop out of school and open his own textile printing business, that slowly but surely made a name for itself in the fashion world. At the age of 32, the designer presented his first ready-to-wear collection in Paris. Not long after, he opened a fashion boutique in Saint-Tropez and his name became synonymous with glamorous and sexy style.
#19 Manolo Blahnik
When Manolo was 28, he started to a column about footwear in the legendary Vogue magazine in London. A year later, he opened his own footwear boutique named after himself. At the age of 32, the designer became the second man in history to have appeared on the cover of Vogue. Now, Manolo Blahnik shoes are coveted by celebrities and were even called the fifth character on the Sex and the City series.
The first New York “Fashion Press Week” took place in 1943. It was organized by publicist Eleanor Lambert to dethrone Paris as the fashion capital of the world. Only 53 of the 150 invited journalists bothered to attend the event.
#20 Michael Kors
Michael Kors, who was born in Long Island, is a designer mostly known for his glamorous but timeless pieces. His passion for the craft of designing emerged early and at the age of 5, he even redesigned his mother’s wedding dress for her second marriage. During his teenage years, he would sell the clothes he made from his parents’ basement. In 1981, Kors launched his Michael Kors women’s label at Bergdorf Goodman and today he has an incredible fanbase, alongside with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
#21 Donna Karan
Donna Karan an American fashion designer and the owner of the Donna Karan New York and DKNY clothing labels. Donna was born in Queens, New York and after high school, went to Parsons School of Design. Ms. Karan is often nicknamed as The Queen Of Seventh Avenue and has always insisted that she would only create clothes which she would wear herself. Naturally, she has a lot of fans who love her feminine, creative but simple designs.
#22 Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler, a designer known for his impeccably structured designs, was born in France. In 1973, Mugler presented his first clothes collection called “Café de Paris”. Even years later, the designer still finds new and fresh ideas, which are inspired by the weirdest of things – insects, robots, aliens. An interesting and not so well-known fact is that Thierry is actually a very avid… bodybuilder.
#23 Christian Lacroix (right)
Born in Arles, France, Christian originally aspired to be a museum curator. However, while sketching on historical costumes for fun, he fell in love with fashion and opened his own haute couture house in 1975 and began creating ready-to-wear clothes 13 years later. Although critics noted, that Mr. Lacroix did not seem to understand what women wanted, he continued working on his out-of-this-world designs and inspire many people.
Simon Porte Jacquemus was born in 1990 in a small town in France to a family of farmers. When he turned 18, Simon went to Paris, where he studied for a few months at the École supérieure des arts et techniques de la mode (ESMOD). Two years later, in an honor to his recently deceased mother, he created his brand Jacquemus – which was the maiden name of hers. In the clothes he creates, Jacquemus likes simple cuts and clean, but original designs, therefore it’s no surprise he quickly became a favorite of many models and celebrities.
Many celebrities are paid to attend fashion shows and sit in the front row. It is estimated that A-list celebrities earn around $100,000 just for showing up.
#25 John Galliano
Even though John has been proclaimed as one of the greatest British designers and even has been named British Designer of the Year four times, his career has seen its sunset after the scandal of 2011. Apparently, John holds anti-Semitic views and was not afraid to express it in a public place, after, probably, having one or two glasses of wine. Therefore, to no surprise, his own label was shut down the same year and he was fired from Christian Dior.