Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, Donatella Versace, Alessandro Michele and Giorgio Armani.
These legendary names in the fashion industry have created their fame, working for famous fashion houses or creating their luxury brand. They have made their way into this lively and competitive industry, becoming proper fashion royalties in both cases. These designers continue to be talked about both for their creative skills and their commitment to commendable causes. They have somehow influenced the way we dress; many mass-market brands take inspiration from these genes of fashion, bourgeoning luxury trends in affordable options. Their creative ability inspires all categories of the clothing market place, but they brought back the fashion houses they worked for in some cases. While other designers made their eponymous brands' real fashion fixtures, making their stores pilgrimage destinations for fashion lovers who hang out in the trendiest cities.
Among the most influential and loved luxury brands, there is undoubtedly Armani, founded in the mid-'70s as a small start-up. This Italian brand now boasts a turnover of £1.9b per year. Giorgio Armani, only artistic director since the foundation of the brand, started a quiet but powerful revolution. Regardless of others' opinions, Armani has decided to subvert the rules of fashion, proposing outfits with flat shoes also for occasions such as gala evenings. It has shown how women can dress extraordinarily androgynously while maintaining their femininity. In womenswear collections by Armani, suits always stand out. The dichotomy created by masculine cuts and sensual and feminine materials makes the outfits capable of winning consumers' admiration and the many Hollywood stars in love for the refined Armani style.
Moving to the Ville Lumière, one of the most loved Parisian brands is Chanel. Although everyone connects the success of this fashion house in Lagerfeld, few know his right arm. Virginie Viard assisted the German designer for three decades in the leadership of the empire created by Mademoiselle Chanel. After remaining in Lagerfeld's shadow, Viard took the reins of the Chanel adapting the elegance and detailed-oriented style of the brand to contemporary fashion. Thus, the iconic tweed Chanel continues to be the protagonist of many outfits, accompanied by sumptuous jewellery and sophisticated accessories. Viard carries on the traditional Parisian elegance of the brand, always shown in settings so realistic that they make everyone forget the show's artificiality.
Remaining in Paris, another fashion house symbol of both heritage and innovation is Balmain. The young and resourceful Olivier Rousteing became creative director at the age of 25, and immediately made the brand emblem of sophisticated glamour. Rousteing has thus become the darling of many stars who appreciate the French craftsmanship he brought back, homaging style of Pierre Balmain. Olivier celebrates diversity in the countryside and catwalks, refusing to exploit it as a passing trend, and commendably defending the beauty of inclusiveness. Beauties of all ethnicities wear the traditional French artisanship. Those are part of the 'Balmain Army', just as the designer defines the brand's models. Tradition, innovation and ethical commitment blend perfectly, and they are not slow in gathering the admiration of Rousteing's social followers. Leaping back to Italy is the extra-blonde Donatella Versace who from the top of her stilettos is a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ + community, AIDS activism and sisterhood. Wrapped in outfits printed in the typical Greek-inspired Versace motifs, Donatella has always forged friendships with the jet-set stars. Intense colours, sensuality and Mediterranean prints are the key elements of the style created by Gianni Versace. Over the years, his sister Donatella united the brand's heritage with more contemporary silhouettes and colour palettes. Gianni’s sister is an irreverent free spirit, aesthetically over the top, but always on the front line together to defend the ideals she believes.
In the case of Versace, the artistic direction after the founder's death fell on his right arm, the beloved sister Donatella. However, for most of the brand, this is not possible. Thus, some figures silently emerged on the fashion scene, generating a great rumour thanks to their stunning visionary fashion aesthetic, as in Hedi Slimane, one of the most potent contemporary designers who led two of the most prestigious French fashion houses. Shortly after becoming assistant in Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) 's marketing department, Slimane was appointed ready-to-wear menswear director. In the F/W 2000 collection the designer showed his predilection for the super-skinny silhouette. This collection named Black Tie strongly clashed with the baggy fashion of the time. However, once he became the creative direction of Dior, he further accentuated his razor-thin iconic style. The new androgyny proposed by Slimane marked the restyling of Dior Homme as a brand. Once back at YSL, he was determined to revolutionise the brand, and he did so starting by boldly dropping the 'Yves' in the fashion houses' name.
Another overwhelming fashion talent capable of revolutionising one of the biggest brands is Alessandro Michele. Since he became Gucci's creative director in 2015, he instilled the brand his colourful and bold aesthetic, making it a cool-topic to talk. Michele started the genderless fashion revolution, sending endless gender-fluid outfits on the catwalk. He loves intense clashing colours and bold patterns that characterise statement garments. Michele's peculiar vision is applied indifferently to womenswear and menswear. The fluidity in fashion is what Michele wants to accomplish, significantly reshaping the definition of masculinity. Alessandro Michele continually expresses his quirky taste, allowing shoppers to escape from style conventions by diving into a bold genderless escapism world.
Environmental commitment is one of the pillars of corporate social responsibility, and in recent years pledging to safeguard the environment is a key focus for many brands. Although all the designers already mentioned diverted through more eco-friendly collections, two British designers are pioneers of sustainability. The forerunners of the contemporary craze for fashion sustainability are Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood. The first dedicated her creative genes to the design of feminine tailored-based collections, always ethical 100% committed. Since the debut of her brand in 2001 McCartney presented fur- and leather-free collections. Thus, recycled polyester, upcycled materials and vegetable-based leather featuring all her collections and runway shows. Also, the signature product of the brand, the Falabella bag is made of soft leather-like polyester. During the Fashion Awards 2017, McCartney was awarded the Special Award for Innovation.
Also, Vivienne Westwood was honoured with an award for her commitment to a more sustainable fashion. Westwood won the Swarovski Award for Positive Change at The Fashion Awards 2018. She mainstreamed punk and new wave fashion from the beginning of her career, with irreverent and thorny collections always ready to send strong messages. Thanks to special merchandise, Westwood spreads her environmental commitment by promoting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and climate change awareness.
The defence of tradition, the pursuit of innovation, on the verge of upheaval, are common and obvious elements in the progression of fashion history. However, what makes these designers the pillars of contemporary fashion is their ability to remain faithful to their ideals and aesthetics, albeit sometimes outside the box.