Fashion designers channel their visions into namesake lines, revive old fashion houses, and build lifestyle brands. From Jeanne Lanvin, who began her empire as an entrepreneur before the 19th century to Rei Kawakubo, who carved out a successful niche of fashion meets art, these powerful women have created designs that changed fashion and still influence us.
Below are some of the most influential international women’s fashion designers:
· One of the earliest female entrepreneurs in fashion, Jeanne Lanvin, started a millinery house in 1889. Later, inspired by her daughter, Marguerite Marie-Blanche di Pietro, Lanvin began creating lavish dresses for little girls using delicate silks and embroidery. Lanvin’s kid’s wear and adult ensembles flew off the shelves, and her department store strategy was ahead of her time. She expanded her line into sportswear, furs, home décor, lingerie, menswear, swimwear and fragrance.
· The classic designer, Gabrielle Bonheur ‘Coco Chanel’ defined the notion of staples such as the little black dress, the tweed jacket and the statement cocktail necklace that would last a lifetime. The jersey fabric had put the French designer on the map. She started her career during World War I. She was the first mainstream designer to use the material reserved for undergarments, throughout her collection. She was also one of the first fashion designers to create boxy, shorter and easy to move in pieces, freeing women from their tight corsets and Poiret-inspired skirts. She expanded her brand and her well-loved perfumes remain favorite of every girl in search of glamour. She is one of the biggest influential women fashion designers in all of history. Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was a French fashion designer and a businesswoman who was the founder and namesake of the iconic Chanel brand. Her influence in fashion continues to stay strong even to this day as her house remains one of the biggest names in fashion. She’s actually the one who invented pants for women during the 1920s through her interest in borrowing elements of men’s wear and emphasizing comfort for all women who wore skirts and dresses at the time. Coco also has her trademark suits for women and the little black dresses that are timeless and still popular today.
· McCardell is believed to be the creator of American Fashion. After mass production and ready-to-wear was born in the 30s, America struggled to find its own fashion identity. McCardell created functional, chic pieces like easy shift dresses with pockets, multi-functioning wrap dresses, freeing pleats, cotton sundresses, twill, gingham, denim, and jersey.
· Madame Louise Chéruit, also known as Madeleine Chéruit, is one of the designers that helped give way for other female fashion designers in the industry. She’s also one of the first women to take control over a major French fashion house at the change of the century. She became well-known for her suits and afternoon dresses. Her dresses and other pieces can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
· Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli is one of the most influential women fashion designers. During the 1920s and 30s, Elsa’s work and sense of style molded the look of fashion. Her clothes were worn by the world’s most famous women. Coco Chanel was a major rival to Elsa where the two always tried to create and out-do the other one’s style. Elsa’s debut collection involved sweaters featuring an art method that uses realistic imagery to create optical illusions. It became her trademark. It caught the attention of the fashion industry, like French Vogue. Her success started to build up when she was praised for her collection of bathing suits, ski-wear, and “divided skirt” which are known to be tennis skirts today.
· Valentina Nicholaevna Sanina Schlee, known as Valentina was a Russian fashion designer. She was popular for her dramatic evening gowns. She had her small couture dress house called Valentina’s Gowns where she designed gorgeous made-to-measure, flowing style dresses. She modeled her designs where she let her dramatic, elegant personality play a major role in her designs.
· Leading French couturier Madame Grès made a powerful statement in the fashion world. She’s also a costume designer and founder of former haute couture fashion house Grès and associated perfume house Parfums Grès that still exists today in Switzerland. She was notoriously secretive about her personal life but a workaholic who gained attention for her designs. Grès was famous for her floor-length draped Grecian goddess gowns which inspired a handful of the most recent designers today.
· Edgy fashion designer Betsey Johnson is an exotic and fun designer who creates beautiful pieces. She started her brand during the late 1970s. She had a strong passion for dance and art. This inspired her fashion brand. Her fashion career exploded when her Avant-garde designs became part of the 1960s “Youthquake” movement. Betsey opened a boutique in New York’s Soho neighborhood. She has more than 60 stores worldwide!
· Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo is the founder of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market. Rei doesn’t mess around when it comes to fashion. In the 1980s, she worked with Yohji Yamamoto and transformed Paris fashion for good. She introduced a clothing style that joined Western and Japanese influences. Rei remains as one of the most influential women fashion designers in fashion history. Her two popular brands continue to create styles and designs for her consumers and overall fashion lovers.
· American fashion designer Vera Ellen Wang is famous for balancing modern designs with traditional elegance. She’s one of the most prominent designers of bridal wear across the country. Vera was a senior fashion editor at Vogue for 15 years before becoming a design director for Ralph Lauren. She designed her wedding dress and opened a bridal boutique where she launched her signature collection. Vera Wang is a huge name in Hollywood. She is also designing lingerie, jewelry, and home products. Her empire features a ready-to-wear line, a diffusion line for Kohl’s, a tuxedo line, and a ton of fragrances.
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· Italian fashion designer Miuccia Prada is best known for Prada, her fashion powerhouse that creates goods for both men and women. Even though she took over her family’s luggage business in 1978, she made a grand entrance into the fashion world in 1985 with a series of black nylon handbags and backpacks.
· Stella McCartney is still killing it with her gorgeous designs. She is the daughter of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. She launched her career in 1995 and her brand has only gotten bigger through the years. She’s known to be one of the inspiring women entrepreneurs changing the rules of business. She’s won numerous awards and even designed clothing for Great Britain’s Olympic team in 2012. Her style and designs are super feminine, flattering, and easy to wear, which make her label a major success. Stella has also been a developer in vegan and environment-friendly fashion.