As far as my favorite fashion designers go, this list could be nigh on limitless. Even if I’m not fond of one house’s or designer’s line one year, the next year it could have something really beautiful, eye-catching, fascinating, or just plain awe-inspiring. I’m also one of those people who finds beauty or inspiration in what is not conventionally attractive or appealing. So, even when scads of other people are poo-pooing some weird geometric contraption of a garment, I can understand the human-hours that go into constructing the wearable sculptures we see on the runway, and there is some attraction in that.
Rei Kawakubo (founder of and designer at Comme des Garçons)
There is a beautiful nonchalance about Comme des Garçons’s clothing, and we have Ms. Kawakubo to thank for founding the line back in 1973 for that. Even Comme des Garçons’s kind-of-creepy heart-with-eyeballs logo (by designer Filip Pagowski) is charming.
Garçons’ fashion actually falls into what modern-types consider anti-fashion, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s sculptural, thought-provoking and, at times, a little frightening. But, well, that’s what makes it so appealing to me!
Diane von Fürstenberg
When I was in college, my fashion design class had the honor of visiting the designer’s headquarters in New York City, and Ms. von Fürstenberg made a point of coming out to talk with us while we were there. It wasn’t rushed — she spoke to a couple of my classmates individually — and it was, overall, a truly lovely experience.
If the name doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps the ubiquitous wrap dress that Ms. von Fürstenberg made famous in the 1970’s might ring a bell or two. If not for you, then possibly for your mom!
I pretty much had to flip a coin between Schiaparelli and her longtime rival, Coco Chanel. While Chanel was a trailblazer in the time she established herself as a designer, the breadth and variety of design that Schiaparelli has to her name is just stunning, and sometimes bizarrely wonderful. A gown with a lobster on it? Yes please! A hat that’s also a high-heeled shoe? Of course. What about a dress with a raised ribcage and spinal cord? Well, why the heck not?!
Contemporary art and fashion have a way of mirroring each other at any given time. In the 20’s, Chanel took her cue from the cubists, while Schiaparelli aligned herself with the surrealists the following decade and, boy-oh-boy, did it show in her design choices (I’m a big fan of surrealists, but I’ll try not to fangirl over them too much).
Armi Ratia (co-founder, and previous CEO/president of Marimekko)
Marimekko is a Finnish fashion and textile company that’s still going strong today. It was founded by entrepreneur and visionary Armi Ratia, and her husband, Viljo, back in 1951. Ms. Ratia’s rapport with artists and designers helped to shape the world of Marimekko, with its bold designs that particularly helped shape fashion in the sixties.
The 1960s appeals to my fashion sense, partially due to the absolutely avant-garde break clothing and attitudes took from previous decades, and Ms. Ratia’s company embodies the playful, bold loveliness that I so admire about the mid-century style era.
A.K.A. Germaine Émilie Krebs, Madame Grès was an incredibly talented dressmaker whose draping methods are still being mimicked and replicated by designers today. Her gowns are elegant fabric sculptures — pleated Grecian-esque gowns — as if the very carved chitons had been plucked from the marble bodies of goddesses and made into an actual, wearing pieces of clothing.
Indeed, sculpture had been her first choice of artistry, but her talents eventually took her into millinery and eventually dressmaking for the likes of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, taking her pseudonym in 1942.
What era or area of art and design would you like to see represented here? Do you have a particular artist or designer whom you positively admire? Let us know in the comments below!