Famous Fashion Designers

Chanel bag
Iconic Coco Chanel logo purse

The list of famous fashion designers continues to grow, as up-and-comers gradually gain fame and recognition in this sometimes fickle arena.

List of 12 Famous Fashion Designers

Get a group of fashion-loving, opinionated people together, ask them who their top 10 picks for famous designers are, and you're likely to spark a spirited discussion. While the name Chanel will undoubtedly pop up, some lesser-knowns may be hotly debated. Does Balenciaga belong in the same category as Betsey Johnson? Just how far up the list should you place Helmut Lang?

While this isn't a definitive list of all the famous fashion designers who've ever designed a gown, it's a good start.

  1. Chanel: French legend Coco Chanel revolutionalized women's fashion, and not only with her cardigan styles and little black dress. She preferred relaxed, masculine-inspired clothing, which was in sharp contrast to the tightly corseted, confining women's dresses of the day. She's been credited with popularizing slacks for women, and who can forget her timeless fragrance, Chanel No. 5?
  2. Balenciaga: Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga is unparalleled when it comes to modern femininity. While not as well-known as some other 20th century fashion powerhouses, Balenciaga's post-World War II vision set the style scene ablaze with such innovations as the baby doll dress and the sack dress.
  3. Armani: This Italian designer's name is synonymous with elegance and luxury. With a keen awareness of buying trends, Georgio Armani has branched out beyond couture and offers more affordable styles for the average man and woman under a few sub-labels, including Armani Exchange.
  4. Gucci: Another famous Italian name, Guccio Gucci founded this high-end brand in 1921. After his death in the early 1950s, Gucci's family took over the business, and although the Gucci clan was notorious for in-fighting, it survived under the family name until the 1980s, when it went public. Known for edgy chic, Gucci lasted through years of turmoil and bad business, but is once again a reputable force in the fashion world.
  5. Oscar de la Renta: Classic designs that celebrate a woman's beauty are the hallmarks of de la Renta, who originates from the Dominican Republic. While some designers seem to create clothing with no regard of the people they're creating for, de la Renta's eye for fashion has long celebrated the feminine form. He designs for the young socialite, the mature lady, as well as celebrity dresses that show up on the red carpet.
  6. Dior: Christian Dior is haute couture at its best. Credited with creating the "New Look" two years after World War II ended, Dior's shapely fashions quickly became all the rage. It didn't take long for the Paris-based company to expand overseas; a majority of French export fashions in the 1950s bore the name Dior.
  7. Givenchy: Designing at a time when ladylike fashion was the norm, Hubert de Givenchy won praise for his feminine yet modern styles. Everyone from Audrey Hepburn to members of the Kennedy clan sported his clothing.
  8. Diane von Furstenberg: Where would today's woman be without the wrap dress? Credit Belgian-American von Furstenberg for this easy and flattering design. Her original dresses were made of casual jersey knit, but wrap dresses are made in many different materials today.
  9. Calvin Klein: While this brand sometimes gained more exposure for its racy ad campaigns, Calvin Klein has been going strong since the 1960s. Clean, minimalist lines define this brand, which manufactures men's and women's clothing, fragrances and accessories, including lingerie whose simple designs are favored by those who prefer easy styles that showcase the body.
  10. Versace: After Gianni Versace's senseless murder in 1997, his sister Donatella has headed this couture brand. Styles are often cutting-edge and beloved by celebrities like Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce Knowles.
  11. Ralph Lauren: The polo shirt is ubiquitous in American fashion and you can thank Ralph Lauren for that. The polo player logo that's recognized around the world falls in line with his all-American fashions. Classic and timeless are just two ways to describe the typical Polo Ralph Lauren piece.
  12. Donna Karan: American Karan made it easy for women to put a wardrobe together based on seven mix-and-match pieces, which was dubbed her "Essentials" line. With more accessible labels like DKNY, she made good-quality fashion affordable for all women.

Other Notables

Some other designer names you may be familiar with include:

  • Prada
  • Betsey Johnson
  • Isaac Mizrahi
  • Jean Paul Gaultier
  • Alexander McQueen
  • Carolina Herrera
  • Vera Wang
  • Yves Saint Laurent

Fresh Talent

Many of yesteryear's famous designers have long since passed away, although their brands remain. When it comes to finding the next crop of talent, you may see a future high-end couturier on Project Runway. After all, every designer has to begin somewhere.

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Famous Fashion Designers