The first stop we will be making on our journey through modern fashion is in the great city of New York. New York is considered the economic and true current media fashion capital of the world. The city has a longstanding tradition of excellence and creativity in design and is an important historical center of artistic fashion design for many years.
Vera Wang is a very successful, New York City-native designer. Wang began her design career in 1989 with the opening of the Vera Wang Bridal House, designing a signature collection of streamlined and sophisticated bridal wear. Vera Wang launched a ready-to-wear (RTW) line in 2004. Decorative, feminine, and artsy-intellectual, Wang favors the long and lean, with a keen interest in silhouette and a passion for the sheer and textural. Wang is perhaps best known for her romanticism. Whimsical and feminine without looking saccharine, luxurious materials get worked and finessed with a singular flourish. Wang’s designs are often adored for the sophistication and elegance that they are created with. This style may root from her many intensive years of training as a professional figure skater. She draws her exquisite perfections from the poise and beauty that an ice skater must posses. With a heavy interest in history, Wang looks to all sorts of outlets as inspiration. She has even admitted to analyzing history from czarist Russia to Ancient Rome as muses for her collections.
Located at 11 W 42nd St in New York City resides the humble fashion headquarters of Long Island-born designer, Michael Kors. Kors received an education from the Fashion Institute of Technology and first set out to design clothes at the age of 19. He launched his first line of womenswear at high-end department stores in 1981. The vibe for his Fall 2010 collection portrays him as a minimalist. He uses a general palette of charcoal, camel, olive, and black. With such an easy-going palette, Kors strategically lets his creativity shine in the meticulous accents to the details in his pieces. For example, he would be known to pair a distressed jacket with a big, fur, collar. He is known for creating American sportswear with a chic and luxurious, but sensible aesthetic. In an attempt to translate fashion into “living the dream”, the company’s mission is to encompass every aspect of a luxurious and polished lifestyle. From a sporty day of tennis, to cocktails at the club, Kors designs for the ultimate sporty-chic pair. After years of designing, and many awards on his shelves, Kors remains a powerful brand in the American fashion landscape. Simply put in a 1996 review, The New York Times fashion critic Amy Spindler said of Kors: "Michael Kors is a designer with so much integrity in his work that it is wonderful when fashion comes back to the sort of simple, beautiful clothes he does so well."
Next on our American runway stop, let’s review the latest looks of Critic’s favorite, the established designer, Marc Jacobs. With an education from Parsons The New School for Design, Jacobs delved into his interest in fashion at a young age. Before opening his own brand in 2008, Jacobs had first begun designing at Perry Ellis after its founder had died. In 1997, he was appointed Creative Director at Louis Vuitton, where he created the company’s first ready-to-wear line. Marc Jacobs’s creativity and originality with runway looks has been said to “stun/delight/scare the fashion world, twice a year”. He draws references from unlikely sources, and always incorporates fluxus into his work. (Fluxus is an artistic movement, literally meaning, “to flow” in Latin. It capitalizes on experimental art, by blending different artistic medias and disciplines.) A look into Jacobs mind to find inspiration: “I like romantic allusions to the past: what the babysitter wore, what the art teacher wore, what I wore during my experimental days in fashion when I was going to the Mudd Club and wanted to be a New Wave kid or a punk kid but was really a poseur. It's the awkwardness of posing and feeling like I was in, but I never was in. Awkwardness gives me great comfort.” Jacob reflects his own life from his unique collections. He capitalizes on the awkwardness he felt growing up, and that awkwardness has now made him the coolest of kids.
Quirky, whimsical, and full of life, the designs of Betsey Johnson always stand out in a crowd. Often times her designs are considered “over the top”. She graduated from Syracuse University and got her first push into the fashion world as an intern at Mademoiselle fashion magazine. Johnson is grouped with the 1970’s youth quake fashion movement and Andy Warhol’s underground scene. She began her own fashion line in 1978, her first collection was a great success and her second was not as fortunate. Her designs reflect inspiration tapping into a punk-Warholian aesthetic. These designs strongly portray both the “flirty” and “sassy” looks. Her eccentric nature, and outrageous designs truly contribute to the culture of American style, and set her apart from other designers, not to mention, they also make for great and exciting fashion shows.
The next stop on our tour to the fashion capitals of the world will be in the prestigious city, home to the Champs Elysees, Paris, France. Paris and London are considered the symbolic fashion centers of Europe and the world, due to their long standing histories as centers of art and fashion, and being home to several renowned fashion houses.
When a fashionista hears the name, Christian Dior, they automatically are aware that high fashion, and high prices will be involved. However, another immediate assumption, or thought is that whatever the product is, it must be very elegant, well designed and luxurious. The influential French fashion designer began what would be an incredibly successful life in Granville, France in 1905. At the beginning of his fashion career, he made money by selling his sketches outside for about 10 cents each. After his schooling, he opened a small art gallery where he sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso. In 1939, he was recruited into the military, and after leaving the army, Dior founded his own fashion house on October 8, 1946. His first clothing line was titled Corolle (meaning circlet of flower petals).
Dior's designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. Dior is remembered as a master of creating shapes and silhouettes. His designs employed bustier-style bodices, hip padding, and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist giving his models a very curvaceous form. Some controversy arose when women protested the designs because the dresses covered up their legs. Due to the previous limitations on fabric from the wartime shortages, women were used to conserving fabric. Dior created designs with the hem of a skirt ending at the ankles, ignoring the fabric limitations, but the opposition ceased as the war ended. Dior’s designs and unique, inventive sense of style revolutionized women’s dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after World War II. His designs will always remain greatly inspirational and appreciated amongst fashion designers.
Another one of the finest and most legendary fashion designers that Paris is home to is Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel. Chanel’s pursuit of expensive simplicity made her an important figure in 20th-century fashion. Her extraordinary influence on fashion led her to be the only person in the field to be names on Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century. When Coco opened her first small millinery shop in Paris in 1913, little did she know that she was laying the foundation for what would become the world’s most acclaimed fashion houses. With the outbreak of World War I the popularity of Chanel’s new kind of chic only grew. Women sought more comfortable garments to replace constrictive corsets. One of Chanel’s most iconic creations was the Chanel suit for women. She was revolutionizing the way women dressed, and as a reaction, women now had the opportunity to have a comfortable suit to work in, as simple as a man’s business suit. Chanel’s life began with humble beginnings in an orphanage. She faced much struggle, but that is possibly what makes her pieces so beautiful. The passion that she gained from the hard times that she faced only made her stronger, and her work more elegant and admired. As a fashion designer, Coco Chanel made great strides for the progression of women in the 20th century, and for style. It is clear that she was one of the most important designers, because her influence is still relevant in fashion today.
Moving onto the final fashion capital we will discuss, for the purpose of one great fashion designer, London, and the work of Alexander McQueen. London, along with France and Milan is one of the powerhouses of fashion in Europe. It is home to many top designers and modeling agencies, and much business generated is influenced through media and fashion. It is the vibrant capital of the United Kingdom and is renowned for its unique art and antiques that are displayed in museums. Fashion statements and trends that are established in London eventually become followed all over the world.
Alexander McQueen dropped out of school at age 16 to pursue a career in fashion design, learning tailoring on Savile Row and pattern making from costumiers Angels and Bermans. He showed his degree collection fresh out of the Central Saint Martins Masters program in 1994, which was bought in its entirety by style icon and fashion editor Isabella Blow . The label is known for its dramatic, gorgeously constructed pieces, combining elements of British tailoring with French couture. Signature looks included billowy dresses cut in hourglass silhouettes, frock coats paired with skinny pants, sharp, angular suiting, and darkly romantic gothic gowns covered in intricate embroidery and lace. In 2004, McQueen designed his first menswear collection and was named British Menswear Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council. In January 2006, the brand launched McQ, a more affordable, denim-based ready-to-wear line including menswear, womenswear, and accessories. McQueen was always known for provoking his audience’s extreme emotional reactions. One season, his audience shed tears over his inhospitable venue, and then tears of joy from the beauty of his clothes. Tragically, McQueen continued this play with emotions until his very recent last day when was found dead in his London apartment in February 2010. The cause of death was suicide. His powerful work showed what great thoughts he must have had; unfortunately, these thoughts led him too far. There is much grievance in the fashion community over this event, but at least he left us with his groundbreaking collections and visions to look back on and remember him with.
Alexander McQueen's Spring 2010 Runway Show
One thing that all of these designers have in common is their great contributions to the development of fashion throughout the decades. All are inspirational, and all have influenced the casual trends that we purchase and claim as our own personal styles. Not only do they create apparel for us be clothed with, but they create statements with their series of collections. They’re powerful voice is heard when their designs are brought to life, walking down the runway. Each of these designers is unique in their own way, and they all differ from each other through elements such as purpose, concept, style, and even through the materials that they use.
“Fashion is a form of imitation and so of social equalization, but, paradoxically, in changing incessantly, it differentiates one time from another and one social stratum from another.” This quote is interprets role of fashion in society. It is inevitable for art to be some form of imitation, but that combined with originality creates the styles produced by such iconic designers. In the future, fashion trends will continue to change, but the present collections of our designers differentiate our generation now from all others in the past and future.