Die Kunst, Chanel zu sein

"Die Kunst, Chanel zu sein" book on Coco Chanel. (Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash)

Today’s fashion lovers have been treated to the fabulous clothing designed by many talented designers in the modern era. In fact, wearing something created by a well-known designer is a huge symbol of status in many circles. Fashion influences everything from trends to music videos to movies and can be a distinctive mark on history. However, times change, and tastes vary, so coming up with a list of the best fashion designers of all-time can be a tricky challenge. 

While fast fashions are having their moment in the spotlight, there’s no doubt that iconic fashion designers will continue to influence the industry for years to come. Half of Americans believe “fast fashion” — clothing modeled on the runway and then manufactured quickly for stores to carry at a very low price point — is going out of style, according to new research. A survey of more than 2,500 Americans delved into the fast fashion trend and revealed 54 percent are opposed to it. So, while trends come and go, you can always count on turning to these titans of fashion for inspiration.

While some of these iconic designers poured their hearts into creating chic, classic wardrobes, others were creating gender fluid and non-conformist pieces years before the trend went mainstream. While there have been many talented minds to contribute to the industry, true fashionistas will need to be well acquainted with the most iconic fashion designers of all time. 

Ready to strut your stuff? You don’t have to scour the internet to find out who tops the list, we’ve done it for you! StudyFinds turned to the experts to make this list of the best fashion designers of all time to ever grace runways and clothing store shelves alike. Be sure to note which is your favorite designer in the comments section below.

The List: Best Fashion Designers of All Time, Per Style Experts

1. Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, later known as “Coco” to the world, is perhaps the most iconic and influential fashion designer of all time. She learned to sew as a teenager in an orphanage, and her vision of simple and functional, yet classically stylish, women’s clothing has made the Chanel brand coveted the world over.

“A mere list of her contributions to the fashion world is enough to guarantee a marquee place,” CEOWORLD magazine notes. “From the ‘little black dress’ to Chanel No. 5, it’s all from the house of Chanel. She even made the suntan famous.”

Coco Chanel in Los Angeles, 1931
Coco Chanel in Los Angeles, 1931 (Photo by Los Angeles Times is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

“Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion,” writes Stars Insider. “In the early 1900s, her designs were considered sportier and liberating, as women didn’t require a corset to wear them. Chanel also popularized the little black dress, skirt suit sets, and perfumes like the iconic Chanel No. 5.”

“Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer and businesswoman who redefined fashion by introducing sporty and casual womenswear to the market,” writes Top Trends Guide. “As a fashion leader, Chanel is known as one of the best designers in history for creating timeless designs and trends that revolutionized the industry. Believing that women needn’t be corseted to look elegant, she spent her career designing everything from relaxed suits to handbags. Her modernist approach to fashion made her an international sensation.

2. Christian Dior

French fashion designer Christian Dior lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars to open one of the most iconic fashion houses still operating today. His vision of a “New Look” (A-line, calf-length dresses with fitted bodice waists) transformed women’s couture wear for a new era.

24/7 Wall St. writes, “Few designers dominated the fashion industry as Christian Dior did after World War II. Dior’s creations featured a lower hemline on dresses, small shoulders, and fuller skirts, a contrast to the padded shoulders and shorter skirts look from years past. Dior is credited with restoring French clothiers to the exalted status they enjoyed before the war.”

Christian Dior & the Duchess of Marlborough at Red Cross benefit fashion show in 1954.
Christian Dior & the Duchess of Marlborough at Red Cross benefit fashion show in 1954. (Photo by blacque_jacques on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Dior was so revered at his height that TIME writes he assumed “the role of a fashion dictator.” It says Dior “called the shots in the 1950s, banishing knees, tightening waists and padding hips. But understanding the fickleness of the fashion world, Dior within years ordered that knees be shown and waists let out.”

“The fashion designer used the runway to champion the idea of female empowerment, and his A-line, zigzag-line, Y-line, and H-line silhouettes continue to influence the fashion industry,” writes The VOU. “With a focus on femininity and high-end women’s clothing, Dior is recognized as one of the most influential fashion designers in women’s couture and evening wear.”

3. Yves Saint Laurent

Taken under the wing of Christian Dior as a teenager, Yves Saint Laurent went on to become an international success as a women’s fashion designer. He’s known for clean, comfortable creations that retain an air of elegance.

“His collections were responsible for rescuing Dior from the cusp of bankruptcy,” writes CEOWORLD magazine. “The straight-lined, clean-cut creations became vastly popular and became the new face of branded couture.”

Yves Saint Laurent is greeted by a crowd after a big show in Paris.
January 30, 1958 – unknown photographer, Paul Popper, Paris – Yves Saint Laurent greeted by joyous crowd after big show. (Photo by Carl Guderian on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As Insider notes, “After starting his own fashion house, the designer created never-seen-before silhouettes and garments such as his legendary smoking suit in 1966, the reefer jacket in 1962, the sheer blouse in 1966, and the jumpsuit in 1968.”

“According to Edelberg, Saint Laurent defined high fashion for the 20th century,” writes SF Weekly. “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.”

4. Gianni & Donatella Versace

After the renowned Italian designer Gianni Versace was murdered in his Miami home, his sister, Donatella, became the head of the fashion house. The brand is known for taking a daring approach in its fashion designs.

Dress Magazine says, “Gianni has always been known for his boldness…Even in the 80’s, when the public often criticized him, he used bright colors, frank necklines and large prints. He was not afraid to go against the norms, that’s why he became one of the most famous fashion designers of the world.”

Donatella Versace receives the Rodeo Drive Walk Of Style Award awarded to her and her late brother and fashion designer Gianni, held at the Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on February 8, 2007.
Donatella Versace receives the Rodeo Drive Walk Of Style Award awarded to her and her late brother and fashion design icon Gianni, held at the Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on February 8, 2007. (Photo by Tinseltown on Shutterstock)

“Gianni goes down in history for introducing the fashion industry to modern street culture,” writes 24/7 Wall St. “He was the designer to iconic public figures, celebrities, and even royalty, most notably Princess Diana. Donatella began working for her brother in the 1970s and now runs the show.”

“The designer was known for his risqué designs worn by supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell,” states Stars Insider. “His sister Donatella has since channeled the same vision since his death.”

5. Hubert de Givenchy

Born to an aristocratic family, Hubert de Givenchy began apprenticing with famous French designers as a teenager, and he opened his own couture fashion house in 1952. Givenchy won several awards for his chic, feminine clothing designs for women.

According to Dress Magazine, “Givenchy looked for inspiration in unusual places – the design of stores, avant-garde establishments, the decorations of couture shows.”

Hubert de Givenchy
“Hubert de Givenchy in his atelier at Avenue George V” by James de Givenchy is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was a French fashion designer who founded the house of Givenchy in 1952. He was famous for having designed much of the personal and professional wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn and clothing for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy,” writes Ranker. “He was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1970.”

“Featuring separates such as long skirts and tailored tops that included the ‘Bettina blouse’ named after model Bettina Graziani, elegant evening gowns, feminine hats, and tailored suits, Givenchy’s name became synonymous with Parisian chic,” notes The VOU.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Melissa Sherrard

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