Born in The Bronx to parents from Belarus, Ralph Lauren went through his schoolboy days with dreams of becoming a millionaire. Unlike many prominent fashion designers who attended art schools to hone their natural talents, Lauren attended Bernard M. Baruch College in New York City to study business. His education there did not last; he dropped out after only two years of study.
After two years of service in the United States Army and a job as a salesperson for Brooks Brothers, Lauren decided that it was time to follow his true passion. In his youth, he had earned a reputation for selling neckties to students at his schools and in 1967, after receiving financial backing from Normal Hilton, Lauren got his start in the fashion world by opening a small shop in New York selling high-end neckties that he designed himself under the Polo label. He eventually purchased the label back from Hilton, making him an independent designer.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Ralph Lauren name became synonymous with menswear, but Lauren garnered more substantial recognition for his contribution to the costumes seen in the 1974 film, The Great Gatsby. His role in the Hollywood film gave Lauren the extra publicity that he needed to further his business and in the mid-1980s, he converted New York CIty’s Rhinelander Mansion into the flagship store carrying Polo Ralph Lauren designs.
Lauren had an eye for simplicity. He especially liked more “preppy” trends, reinventing classic designs like the timeless polo shirt, making polos must-have items in the 80s. Because he saw the benefit in branching out, Lauren soon extended his lines to include fragrances courtesy of L’Oreal, a prominent French cosmetic company that also worked with other fashion designers like Giorgio Armani. Lauren also included accessories in his line.
In 1986, Lauren appeared on the cover of Time magazine, solidifying his career as a designer and an artist. He had a unique perspective on his designs; he did not sell clothes, he sold lifestyles. He understood that while appearances are not everything, a smart-looking suit or a snazzy casual shirt can make a person feel classy, sophisticated, and elegant. Helping his clientele to dress for success was important to him and no one had marketing skills to top those of Lauren’s. His contribution to 1980s fashion is a solid ideal, rather than just an article of clothing: Dress in your best and feel like a star.
Calvin Klein is a fashion icon known all over the world for his classic looks for men and women. His line includes the Calvin Klein Collection of designer clothing for both men and women, Calvin Klein jeans for men, women and children, and an affordable line of casual wear under the label “CK”. In addition, Calvin Klein produces successful fragrances, cosmetics, accessories and items for the home.
Calvin Klein with a friend Ben Schwartz started his first business in 1968 with only $10,000. The stylish line of coats for men and women was quickly sold to the upscale fifth avenue retailer Bonwit Teller. The label grew successfully by producing quality men’s and women’s clothing with a flair for design described as “minimalist”.
The Calvin Klein line was classic in its simplicity with an elegance and style unique to the brand. Calvin Klein was the youngest designer to receive the coveted COTY award in 1973 and later received many other fashion awards as well as placement in Harper’s Bazaar and the cover of Vogue magazine.
Calvin Klein created a fashion craze in the 80s by being the first designer to mass market designer jeans with his signature name on the back pocket. Calvin Klein sold more than 200,000 pairs of jeans the first week that they hit the market. The famous jeans commercials by teen actress Brooke Shields were mildly suggestive with the phrase “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins”. Sales got an additional boost from actor Michael J. Fox who wore Calvin Klein jeans in the blockbuster hit “Back to the Future”.
In 1982 another product launch grossed Calvin Klein $70 million in a single year and revolutionized the underwear market. Calvin Klein made boxer shorts fashionable for women and briefs for men with the distinctive Calvin Klein logo on the waistband. Ads featured pop singer Mark Wahlberg posing on a giant billboard clad only in figure revealing Calvin Klein briefs. Sales skyrocketed with the underwear being called simply “Calvins”. Later ads featured Wahlberg and model Kate Moss and Antonio Sabato, Jr in artistic but highly seductive ads.
In the late 80s, Calvin Klein launched two successful fragrances for men and women, Obsession and Eternity. At the time of their introduction, the ads were noted for their artistry as well as their shock value. Later additions to the fragrance line included Escape, CK One and Contradiction, still sold widely today.
To date, Calvin Klein, Inc. exceeds $6 billion in annual sales. Calvin Klein products are sold worldwide in fine department stores and specialty shops.
In the 2010s, the name “Thierry Mugler” is most often recognized because of the label’s notable association with the Haus of Gaga. However, long before Lady Gaga ever picked up a disco stick, the Thierry Mugler brand thrived and established a highly unique style that drew attention to a woman’s natural beauty while simultaneously re-sculpting the feminine shape from the ground up.
Mugler got his beginnings as an artist and ballet corps dancer for the prestigious Rhin Opera. It was during his time at the opera that Mugler acquired his first taste of fashion. Backstage, he caught glimpses of the costume design and grew an appreciation for it, an appreciation that catapulted him into the epicentre of the fashion world at the tender age of 26. Like many fashion designers before him, Mugler got his beginnings in Gudule, a small boutique in Paris that acquired a reputation for churning out many prominent designers throughout the decades.
During the 1970s, Mugler worked as a freelance designer for ready-to-wear houses located in fashion epicentres like London, Paris, and Barcelona. It was during this time that Mugler established his signature style, moving between Tokyo and Paris to showcase his unique designs, and in the 1980s, he achieved international recognition. In no time, Thierry Mugler became a household name and his label enjoyed substantial success in commercial markets.
The fashion world fell in love with Mugler’s radical concepts of feminine beauty, emphasizing the importance of his ground-breaking reconstruction of the feminine form. He started with a clean silhouette, creating base shapes that would accentuate a woman’s natural curves.
On top of that clean silhouette, Mugler would tack on radical additions like sharply edged shoulder blades or angled hips, emphasizing female attributes with otherworldly flair that came across as extreme, yet effortless. He sought to embody the ideal of a Parisian woman through timeless, yet radical pieces of clothing that promoted elegance, confidence, and sex appeal.
The concept behind Thierry Mugler designs is simple: Accentuate and reshape the wearer without overwhelming the natural silhouette. Mugler appreciated the beauty of the human form and sought to highlight natural assets through unique shapes moulded throughout his clothing and each piece from the label is a wearable piece of art. Over the years, Thierry Mugler fashions have evolved to suit current fashions, yet the staples introduced during the 1980s linger as constant reminders of his creativity, timelessness, and importance in the fashion world.
A French fashion designer who started out making jewellery, Claude Montana became a prominent figure in 1980s fashion. Montana understood the importance of colour and acquired a reputation for his colour choices. In his collections, he often implemented metallic and neutral tones to widespread critical acclaim. Along with Thierry Mugler, founder of the world-renowned House of Mugler, Montana carved a name for himself with his eye for incorporating shapes into his pieces and quickly became a valuable addition to the world of fashion in the 1980s.
Shortly after starting his own design company, Montana began designing his first collection of men’s clothing, Montana Hommes. He used his love of colour in his pieces, creating bold articles of clothing that made statements by using the entire piece, not just the details. For Montana, the details did not make the garment; he used every aspect of the piece to create an appealing piece of art. Along with colours, he had a love for specific materials, particularly leather and wool, both of which he would use to create sharply tailored garments with the cleanest lines of any fashion designer of his time.
His boldness met with critical acclaim, but the house that employed him, the House of Lanvin, suffered terribly for his tastes. The haute couture collections that he designed for the House of Lanvin rocked the fashion world, but because his garments were not to everyone’s taste, Lanvin’s business began to falter. Shortly after the house’s substantial loss of revenue, Montana was replaced, but he soon went on to build his own fashion house independent of Lanvin.
Taking notes from the House of Lanvin’s disastrous downward spiral, Montana sought to create more affordable clothing with his next womenswear line, Montana BLU. Despite his recent failure, Montana gathered the pieces and started over again, focusing heavily on presentation. For Montana, presentation was everything. He was not the most knowledgeable businessman, but he understood that a good presentation could bring a phoenix up from the ashes.
Montana’s dedication to presentation and appearances resulted in a wide commercial following, re-establishing his reputation as a successful fashion designer. His shows became his crowning glory. With no shortage of glitz and glam, his fashion shows became prestigious events attended by only the most prominent figures in fashion.
With numerous awards under his belt for his elegant clothing lines, Montana remains a prominent staple in the fashion world. His empowering dedication to perfection and refinement remain timeless contributions to clothing design, making his contribution to 1980s fashion even more important.
Born in Arles, Christian Lacroix is renowned as a French fashion designer. His passion for fashion began at the University of Montpellier, where he studied art. After graduating from the University of Montpellier in 1973, Lacroix continued to study in Paris at Ecole du Louvre and Sorbonne. His intention at the time was to become a museum curator.
While in Paris, Christian Lacroix met several individuals who greatly influenced his entrance into the world of fashion. First, he met his wife Francoise. Francoise encouraged Lacroix to pursue his own artistic abilities and learn how to draw the female figure. He also met one of the leading advisors to the couture fashion houses in Paris, Jean Jacques Picart. Picart was able to find Lacroix a job at two of the leading couture fashion houses in Paris at the time, Hermes and Guy Paulin.
After working at these fashion houses for a few years, Lacroix finally received an opportunity to draw up his own designs for haute couture at the Jean Patou House. At this couture house, Lacroix created some of the most vibrant fashion pieces filled to hit the runway. Lacroix’s pieces were known for being colorful, exotic, and luxuriant all at the same time. During a time in which haute couture was said to be dying, Lacroix singlehandedly was able to revive this important world of fashion in France.
Lacroix rose to elite prominence in the fashion world during the 1980s. Lacroix was awarded the first De d’Or for being the most influential foreign designer in the world. The award was given by the CFDA in New York City.
Lacroix’s designs became popular during the 1980s, because they drew inspiration from cultures all around the world. One of his most popular designs was the “poof” skirt, which was a short skirt bubbling around a woman’s waist. He also was noted for creating shirts with plunging necklines, as well as his various rose printed patterns. Hot, neon colors are what Lacroix is known for using in his designs. His designs also have a strong Mediterranean influence, which has continued to be the case in his present designs.
Critics have scoffed that Lacroix’s designs fail to appeal to the working woman, however, working women everywhere don his designs for their high-class appeal. Lacroix has managed to succeed in the fashion world by staying true to his own spirit and vision of fashion for women. Lacroix now has launched a jeans line, fragrance for woman, and a lingerie line for women. He still continues to do haute couture fashion to this day.
Donna Karan was influenced by the fashion world from childhood, as her father was a tailor and her mother a model. She started to design and sell clothing while still in her teens, and after high school attended the Parsons School for Design. She started her design career working for Anne Klein, but she was fired soon after. She jokes that she was too good, and that threatened Anne.
Donna didn’t give up her dream, she started working in fashion again for Patti Caparelli and learned from her. While still in the 1970s, she went back to work at Anne Klein. When Anne died in 1974, Donna was the heir apparent. During the time she designed for the Anne Klein company she won three Coty Awards, the American fashion world’s highest acclaim. In 1984 she left and launched her own design company, Donna Karan.
During the 1980s, Donna’s elastic fabrics and stretchy dresses could be seen everywhere on “power dressing” women. She was perhaps best known for the Essentials collection, seven pieces of apparel meant to be mixed and matched endlessly. Her designs were intended to be sophisticated, elegant, yet comfortable. By 1984 she had been conducted in the Coty Hall of Fame.
Her designs for women in the 1980s were popularized by Barbra Streisand and Candace Bergen, who wore Karan on the set of Murphy Brown constantly. Karan’s designs were thus associated with strong, independent women, and this fit the national mood in the 80s well. Her sexy clothing that could be worn day or night became enormously popular. Clothing that looked good but could be packed and worn with a minimum of care suited the busy life of executive men and women alike.
In the late 1980s Donna launched the brand she would become best known for, DKNY. This stood for Donna Karan New York, was designed for the younger set, and used denims heavily. The DKNY brand is seen as one of the first bridge companies that took high fashion to the teen set. Donna Karan started the line for her daughter, Gabby, a teen at the time the line launched.
Donna’s practical approach to fashion has paid off, in the modern day her small design house has grown into a half-billion dollar a year industry. She herself stepped down from running the company, but still designs for the collections that bear her name. She shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Manolo Blahnik has become one of the leading shoe designers in the world. Manolo Blahnik took his start in the world of fashion at the University of Geneva, where he studied art. In 1968, Blahnik moved from Paris to London in order to write for the high-end fashion magazine Vogue Italia. During this time, Manolo Blahnik also worked for a small fashion boutique named Zapata.
Blahnik worked at creating his own fashion lines during the late 1960s. At one point, Blahnik received the opportunity to show his portfolio of designs to top designer Diana Vreeland. Vreeland reviewed his materials and recommended that Blahnik only focus on designing shoes. After he received that advice, Blahnik decided to purchase Zapata with a loan and began focusing solely on shoe creation.
Throughout the years, the stiletto heel has remained the focus of Blahnik’s shoe empire. He began promoting the stiletto design during the 1970s. This was a smart move that garnered Blahnik a lot of attention from the fashion world. During this time, chunky platforms and sandals were all the rage on the fashion runway. Blahnik’s designs truly stood out for their smart and sophisticated appeal.
In the 1980s, Blahnik became renowned for his shoe designs for the professional woman. During the 1980s, Blahnik specialized in the creation of suede and velvet pumps. He also mastered the design of the pointed toe shoe during this time.
Manolo Blahnik’s creation of boots also became a success during the 1980s. His attention to the fine detail in black leather boots can be compared to no other designer. Look at a pair of Manolo Blahnik black sued lace boots, and you will likely notice the small curves in the stiletto heel on such boots. When boots were all the rage in the 1980s, Blahnik was able to separate his designs for their unique attentiveness to detail and knowledge of the female form.
Blahnik’s shoes have been worn by some of the most elite names in the world of socialites, politicians, artists, and musicians. Princess Diana wore a pair of Blahnik heels to the Serpentine Gallery in 1994, while Bianca donned a pair in 1977 during her entrance to Studio 54. Famous singer Kyle Minogue also wore a pair of Blahnik heels to promote her 2001 album.
Blahnik has stunned audiences everywhere with his ability to bring out the best in the female figure through his shoe designs. With a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels, any woman can’t help but feel sexy, curvaceous, and full of confidence all at the same time.
The name Gianni Versace is iconic in the fashion industry. Born the son of a dressmaker in Italy on December 2, 1946, Versace was a pioneer for high fashion and design in the 1980s. Versace established his empire in 1976 with his brother Santo in 1976. One year later, his sister Donatella joined the team. Although his first signature collection of menswear was debuted in 1978, Versace’s 1982 collaboration with renowned photographer Richard Avedon was the pivotal step that set Versace on the path to becoming a legend.
Inspired by the punk rock fashions trends of early 80’s London, Versace’s women’s wear fall/winter collection of 1982 featured garments crafted of metal mesh, a fabric with which he collaborated with German engineers to perfect. Later collections included the same metal mesh fabric infused with bright, vibrant colours.
Versace would later infuse another innovation into his clothing line by bonding leather to rubber via the use of lasers, creating a fabric that was form-fitting and wearable while retaining the texture and structure of leather.
By 1986, Versace had become so renowned in the world of fashion that the National Field Museum in Chicago featured a retrospective of Versace’s work. Versace’s talents were not limited to haute couture design. In 1987, Versace designed the costumes for “Salome”, an opera by Richard Strauss. Later that same year, Versace travelled to Russia to design the costumes for the Ballet du XX Siecle.
During the 1990’s, Versace stretched his wings further and he created “Versus”, his signature scent. More scents, “Versus Donna” and “Versace l’Homme” soon followed. Versace expanded his line to include a line of watches, which were featured in his boutiques located in Paris, Milan, and New York City. He also created a home décor line (“Home Signature”) which featured dinnerware, carpets, and decorative accessories such as throw pillows.
Versace met an early an tragic end in 1997 when he was murdered outside of his Miami Beach mansion by Andrew Cunanan.. Two-thousand people attended a memorial mass for Versace held in Milan. Included with the mourners were celebrities such as Elton John, Princess Diana of Wales, and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
The ground-breaking fashion innovations created by Versace during the 1980s continue to influence the fashion of today. The black dress adorned with gold zippers and safety pins worn by Elizabeth Hurley to the “Four Weddings and a Funeral” premiere in 1994 continues to one of the most iconic designs in modern couture history. The house of Versace continues to offer cutting-edge clothing and accessories for men and women worldwide.
Born and raised in northern Italy, Giorgio Armani came from humble beginnings. Originally, Armani set out to become a doctor, but after military service that required him to work in a military hospital, he decided that a career in medicine was not for him. Armani’s first job in the world of fashion was as a window dresser in La Rinascente, a Milan-based department store for whom Armani eventually became a fashion buyer. Working primarily as a buyer in the menswear department, Armani acquired his first taste for true fashion and in the mid-1960s, he became a designer for Nino Cerruti.
Armani spent most of the 1970s establishing his own label after years of freelancing for different fashion houses like Allegri, Tendresse, and Montedoro. In 1975, Armani charged into the fashion world designing under his own label and by 1980, he had a well-established clothing line that touched on womenswear but focused primarily on menswear. He quickly established a signature style, emphasizing the importance of clean lines and razor-sharp edges with the philosophy that designing practical clothing for “real people” was important to success.
A business agreement with L’Oreal in 1982 allowed Armani to create new ventures, namely a ground-breaking perfume line. Shortly thereafter, clothing lines for different demographics began to emerge, including ready-to-wear lines from Armani Junior and Emporio Armani. Additional licensing agreements throughout the decade allowed him to create lines of eyeglasses, gift collections, and even designer socks.
In the mid-1980s, Armani branched out and began engaging unconventional advertising methods, renting gigantic billboards for his company’s advertisements and commissioning television spots for promotional purposes. Armani saw the importance in engaging the media and he proved it in 1987 when he designed the costumes for The Untouchables. Prior to the film’s release, Armani had designed costumes for more than 100 films, but The Untouchables was by far the most prominent and most important of his cinematic costume ventures.
At the very least, Giorgio Armani emerged in the 1980s as a shrewd businessman who understood the importance of practicality when designing luxury clothing and accessories. However, he also proved himself as a fierce competitor in the world of fashion, standing heads above the competition with his clean lines and various looks. Through all his ventures, Armani never once lost sight of his target audiences, making him not only a pioneer of his time but also an artist with an eye for timeless beauty.
At the tender age of 15, Jasper Alexander Thirlby Conran became the youngest student to enrol in the prestigious Parsons School of Design. Between classes, Conran was known to hang around future celebrities including Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Truman Capote.
The daring teenager then setup shop at a rented house in Regent’s Park and began putting together the very first Jasper Conran women’s wear line with the help of housemate Chrissie Hynde (who would turn out to become the front-woman of popular rock-cum-new wave band, the Pretenders).
By the time Conran was 19 years of age, he had debuted his very first collection for Henri Bendel New York. With clothing that is a mix of classic British elegance combined with a cheeky twist, Conran’s signature style very quickly caught the attention of Vogue, which featured the budding fashion designer in a 10-page Vogue magazine spread featuring his second women’s wear collection.
During the 1980s era, Jasper Conran would go on to win two Fil d’Or International Linen Awards (1982, 1983), be awarded with the Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council (1986) and obtain the Fashion Group of America Award (1987).
Jasper Conran also became a publicly recognized fashion name when he dressed the late Princess Diana for her very first public appearance as Lady Diana Spencer. Throughout her reign as Princes of Wales, the late Princess Diana would be frequently photographed donning a Jasper Conran suit in red, pink, plum and monochrome colours. Since then, Jasper Conran has also styled other high-society individuals including Lady Sarah Chatto and Jasmine Guinness as well.
Conran would only break into the commercial market becoming the very first high-fashion designer to collaborate with Debenhams, an equally high-street store catering to the masses in 1996. ‘J by Jasper Conran’ features affordable dresses at an average price of £60 as opposed to the flagship Jasper Conran store which retails dresses at thousands of pounds per piece.
To date, there are now over fifteen ‘J by Jasper Conran’ stores that offer fashion from cocktail dresses to pyjamas for children. As a token of gratitude for his service to London’s retail industry, Jasper Conran was also awarded the OBE for his services.
Ironically, Conran sees himself as more than a fashion designer and has actively dabbled in creating costumer designs, china, fireplaces, wallpaper, luggage and even spectacles. Despite having spent over three decades in the fashion industry, Jasper Conran’s designs is still highly anticipated every London Fashion Week.
Bruce Oldfield’s success is perhaps more poignant when underscored by his upbringing as a charity child in 1950s Britain. He was fostered by a seamstress, who encouraged his early love of fashion, and Barnardos Children’s Charity sent him to art and fashion school. He remains deeply involved with the charity to this day.
Out of school, he landed a one-year deal designing shoes for Henri Bendel in New York. After that, another capsule collection in London gave him the momentum to start his own shop. Charlotte Rampling took a liking to him and helped make his designs well known.
In the 1970s he made a splash in the fashion world of London, but it was his romantic, color coordinated designs for Diana, Princess of Wales that created his fame in the 1980s. He also designed for Joan Collins and Charlotte Rampling in their movies. The high publicity surrounding all three women made him a well-known designer of the era.
His designs for Diana epitomize his style, the dramatic silhouette that emphasizes the body and its sensuous curves. Women that entered his shop were charmed not only by the man, but by his encouragement to show off their curves. In 1984 he had opened his own shop in London, selling readymade dresses, and creating unique couture pieces for discerning women. Later, he would design wedding outfits for many famous brides. Oldfield specializes in occasions, selling ready-to-wear evening gowns and couture designs for something special.
In 1990 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the fashion world. His love of women shines through in the romantic, sweeping gowns that he designs for them. His plunging necklines and wrapped styles highlight waist and hips, his straight skirts show off legs, and full skirts appeal to the feminine. Bruce dressed Diana Ross, Joan Collins, and Faye Dunaway in the early 1980s.
His timeless designs avoided the excesses of some 1980s designers, and his disdain for shoddy workmanship made his clothing enduring classics. His use of sumptuous fabrics like velvet, taffeta and silk make his dresses works of art that women love to appear in. His philosophy was to create a progression of fashion that changed gently throughout the years.
Today Bruce remains a popular and famous designer, creating wedding couture, but also creating designs for shoes, china, and more. His dress design was one of the top choices for the recent royal wedding. His work in the 1980s remains relevant because Bruce Oldfield creates classics for classically beautiful women.
When a young Jean Muir began working in the stockroom of Liberty & Co during the early 1950s, she had dreams of moving away from London and designing fashionable clothing. Despite earning unremarkable academic scores, she possessed remarkable talent with a needle, claiming to have learned how to sew, embroider, and knit by the tender age of six. Whether Muir had exaggerated the age at which she acquired her skills or not, one thing remains true: Her talent took her to high places.
After a few short years of employment at Liberty & Co, her raw talent attracted the attention of her superiors and she earned the opportunity to design items for the store’s ready to wear lines. Because of Liberty & Co’s status as a reputable department store, designing for them gave her the background that she needed to land a higher paying position as a designer for Jaeger, a United Kingdom-based retailer of men’s and women’s clothing. For them, Muir assisted other designers in developing lines for Young Jaeger, a label designed for young adults.
Muir’s position as a designer for Jaeger kick-started her career in the fashion world. The 1960s and 1970s were kind to her, and her new job as a designer for Jane & Jane, a label funded by jersey dress manufacturer David Barnes, gave her the freedom she needed to develop her signature style. Taking cues from her first position of employment at Liberty & Co, Muir chiselled a style from neutral, understated items of clothing that flattered the wearer.
Muir’s philosophy stated that less was more. She did not want to incorporate all the frills and glitz put forth by other fashion designers of her time. Her dedication to couture paid off and before long, understated silhouettes and simplicity became her trademark.
The 1980s marked the decade during which Muir’s designs flourished. She had established her own label, Jean Muir Ltd., with her husband as her business partner. Muir believed in using only the best materials, making her creations expensive, but highly sought by stars like Joanna Lumley, Lauren Bacall, and Judi Dench.
Because of her penchant for understated clothing articles, Muir often designed dresses in neutrals or blacks, but she did have an eye for colour. When she used colour in her creations, she chose colors that made bold statements; often deep blues, heather-toned purples, and saffron yellows. Furthermore, she immersed herself in the creation of these colours, overseeing the production of her fabrics with an intense eye for scrutiny and perfection.
Ever since his beginnings as a designer in France during the 1940s, Pierre Cardin had an eye for avant-garde. Working closely with Jeanne Paquin, a noted fashion designer in the former part of the century, and later Elsa Schiaparelli, Cardin did not begin his own fashion house until the early 1950s. Around this same time, he officially kick-started his career with a stunning contribution to a Venetian masquerade ball hosted by Carlos de Beistegui, an eccentric millionaire and art collector with a passion for mid-20th century beauty. Shortly thereafter, Cardin ventured into the world of haute couture.
Over the years, Cardin developed a signature style that was experimental, radical, and sometimes taboo even by modern standards. The fashion industry was not ready for his designs; he was often criticized for his work and even expelled from the Chambre Syndicate at one point. Stifled by the restrictions of his time, Cardin launched his own venue, the Espace Cardin, in 1971 to promote new artists in varying fields of art including theater, music, and fashion.
With his work rising to prominence in the 1980s, Cardin completely reinvented the human shape and eventually ignored it altogether. He appreciated the human figure, but he had a penchant for incorporating geometric shapes into his work, thereby nullifying the wearer’s natural shape. The most prominent example is the Caldin bubble dress. The bubble dress served as more of a slip than anything, a virtually shapeless design that would sharply angle the wearer’s body, often crafted in bold colours.
Other examples of his avant-garde work include his Space Age dresses and unisex designs that sometimes dipped into the impractical. His clothing was undeniably fashionable, but the practicality of such items was in question. Consumers at the time were more interested in shapes that complimented the human form, often citing Thierry Mugler as the more practical choice despite the Mugler house’s reputation for unconventionality. Nonetheless, his fashions became famous throughout Europe and his haute couture collections flourished by the late 1980s.
Despite the controversial content in his work, Cardin made his mark on the fashion world. Even his home in Cannes is unconventional and slightly impractical, infamous for its “bubble” design that more closely resembles a group of red clay pots than a home. In all aspects of his life, Cardin was a pioneer, blazing the trail for future generations of avant-garde designers who would later follow his example by going against the grain and creating new standards for fashion.
Yves St Laurent
In 1953, when he was just 17 years old, his design of an asymmetrical cocktail dress won an international competition. Later that year, Yves Saint Laurent was introduced to the legendary Christian Dior, who was so impressed with the young man’s sketches that he hired him on the spot. Yves became Dior’s assistant. Over the next four years, he saw more and more of his own designs become a part of the fashion line.
In 1957, Dior announced that he had chosen Yves Saint Laurent as his eventual successor as chief designer for the House of Dior. With the unexpected death of the designer later that year, Yves found himself the head of a major fashion line at the age of 21. His 1958 collection for Dior undoubtedly saved the company. Subsequent collections did not fare nearly as well with critics, and, when he was conscripted into military service in 1960, the House of Dior took that opportunity to replace him as head designer.
Although his brief military service took its toll on the young designer, his determination to succeed in the fashion world was undaunted. By 1962, with his partner, Pierre Berge, he launched his own signature couture line. Yves Saint Laurent had a knack of giving the world exactly what it wanted, when it wanted it. He was driven, not to be a follower of fashion, nor too avant garde, but in his own words: “My small job as a couturier is to make clothes that reflect our times.” When designer labels became a vital part of the 80’s culture, the YSL ready-to-wear line was already supplying modern women with everyday fashion, while feeding their dreams of haute couture.
Yves Saint Laurent redesigned men’s wear for women with sleek pants suits, his famous “The Smoking”, tuxedo jacket, and the Safari suit. Among his many brilliant innovations, he is responsible for introducing see-through blouses, the bolero jacket, the trapeze dress, the pea coat and the peasant top into high fashion.
His designs adorned famous beauties like Catherine Deneuve and Iman, Bianca Jagger, Lauren Bacall and Paloma Picasso. So remarkable were his designs, that, in 1983, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened an exhibition of his work, the first of its kind for a living designer. The philosophy of Yves Saint Laurent might be summed up in his own words. “The most beautiful clothes that can dress a woman are the arms of the man she loves,” he once said. “But for those who haven’t had the fortune of finding this happiness, I am there.”