9 Influential Designers and Their Most Iconic Creations

With fashion’s long and winding history, it’s hard for even the most knowledgeable experts to decipher who invented what. There are, however, notable figures in modern history who paved the way for creating your favorite styles today. Many of the people behind these “iconic” creations are female designers. “Who better to design for women than women?” Beth DincuffCharleston, a fashion historian and professor at the Parsons School of Design, tells TZR. “No amount of design training or business acumen can replace the experience of living in the body you design for.”

Maureen Lehto Brewsterfashion expert and doctoral student at the University of Georgia, agrees: “Designers were able to speak more directly to the needs of their consumers, identify with them and thus create clothes that reflected their lifestyle, their interests and lifestyle. aspirations… This is not to say that genre is the source of their talent for design, but rather that this talent has been reinforced by their understanding of their audience.

Ahead, discover nine of these creative women who, through their designs, left a lasting impact on the fashion world that is still felt to this day. However, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Without further ado, keep scrolling to refresh your fashion story.

We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

Ann Lowe: Evening Dress Fit for a First Lady

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Perhaps you’ve heard of mid-century American dressmaker Anne Lowe, whose clients included the Roosevelts and the Rockefellers. The daughter of a seamstress, Lowe was a pioneering black businesswoman and designer, responsible for generations of socialite fashion in New York. However, perhaps her most iconic confection is the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress she made for Jacqueline Bouvier before her marriage to future President John F. Kennedy.

In a style that aligns with the 1960s, “his work is beautifully and meticulously crafted,” says Lehto Brewster. “She was also independent and tenacious; she left her first marriage to pursue design, returned several times from financial disaster, and contacted Jackie Kennedy directly to express her sadness at not being respectfully credited for her work on Kennedy’s wedding dress.

Coco Chanel: LBD and Tweed Sets

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Contrary to popular belief, Coco Chanel did not invent LBDs or tweed sets. However, she popularized them. The first was actually adapted from working class women uniformswhile the latter had its roots in contemporary menswear.

“[The little black dress] was designed to appear more effortless and simpler than the deco and decadent styles that came before it,” says Lehto Brewster, who also points to the designer’s robust marketing as one of the main reasons we associate so strongly with clothing at the French fashion house. “Some designers are just better at publicity.” Chanel’s suits, on the other hand, were renowned for their meticulous detailing, such as weighted hems that helped the garments drape evenly over the body. She also fashioned them into coordinating quilted liners, which were sometimes brought to the outside of the costume for an even bigger statement.

Diane von Furstenberg: The wrap dress

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When first created in the early 1970s, Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress style was highly sought after by everyone from the Studio 54 lot to the Park Avenue crowd. And even today, it’s so versatile that actors and royalty wear it as much as businesswomen, academics and journalists. The original design was a long-sleeved silk jersey dress with a fitted top and a skirt that wrapped around the body to tie at the waist. Feminine yet functional, it responds to the liberated mood of American society at the time, during which more and more women joined the workforce and opted for suit jackets and pants.

“Designers like Yves Saint Laurent were popularizing women’s suits, and second-wave feminism was drawing attention to outdated, hyper-feminine gender norms,” ​​says Lehto Brewster. “The wrap dress was flowing and hugged the body, was simple and elegant, feminine but not stuffy. It was somewhat reactionary to the androgynous or masculine silhouettes of the costume, but still modern and sensual.

Donna Karan: modular clothing

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American designer Donna Karan cut her teeth under the direction of Anne Klein before creating Seven Easy Pieces on her own, the basis of the modular (or mix-and-match) dressing room. The interchangeable clothing group (which included a bodysuit, a tailored jacket, a wrap skirt and a white shirt, among others) made American sportswear what it is today: practical, versatile and relatively inexpensive. . “Women could achieve a variety of looks and identities, to wear in all walks of life,” says Alexis Romain, fashion historian and lecturer at the Parsons School of Design. “The wearer has become the creator in a sense.”

Rei Kawakubo: ultra avant-garde silhouettes

Going against the quintessence of 1980s clothing, i.e. the ultra-luxurious and close-fitting fashion of the era, Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo anchored her brand, Comme Des Garçons, in the balance between art and fashion and reframed common notions of beauty.

“[Her clothing] works with the body, but also redefines what a body looks like, where it begins and ends,” says Lehto Brewster, who also points out that the alleged “non-wearability” of Kawakubo’s designs refers more to society’s views on practicality. “It can of course be worn, but you might not want to because it’s ‘weird’, it protrudes from your body and takes up space, it reshapes your body into something unrecognizable. Most women’s fashion is designed to complement the body, to work with it or to transform it into something idealized… Kawakubo is not interested in that.

Mary Quant: Mini Skirts

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Mary Quant has often been credited with “inventing” the miniskirt – perhaps the most defining element of 1960s dress – during the heyday of Swinging London and Youthquake. In fact, Quant popularized above-the-knee styles by offering them at a more affordable price than its contemporaries, like Courrèges. While many people considered his designs to be provocative, his clothes were still very popular among zeitgeists due to the aforementioned prices and Quant’s Accessible Style and Marketing Methods. Taking his name, his King’s Road shop, called Bazaar, was a space for consumers to socialize and interact with his work and build a community of fans.

Miuccia Prada: A Pretty-Ugly Aesthetic

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In French, pretty ugly refers to “the beautiful, the ugly”. For designer Miuccia Prada – the heir to the luxury goods company then known as Fratelli Prada – this manifests itself in her collections via pleated skirts, clumsy shoes and shift dresses. Like Kawakubo, Prada was “interested in rethinking body fashion,” says Romano. “And it wasn’t a typically glamorous, sexy body, but [her approach to design] said that women can have different body types and they can look like intellectuals.

Sonia Rykiel: The “poor boy’s sweater”

‌Similar to DVF’s wrap dress, Sonia Rykiel’s “poor boy sweater” spoke to the rise of second-wave feminism, a movement that redefined the way we lived and, therefore, dressed. A ready-to-wear designer at heart, Rykiel, originally from France, eschewed any couture-related sensitivities and opted to create flattering and comfortable pieces, like slimmer silhouette knits.

“The beauty of this sweater is that it hugs the body and is very fitted, but also stretchy and comfortable,” says Romano. “[It] saved women from having to go to the tailor or seamstress to make a more formal, perfectly fitting woven garment. Audrey Hepburn and Françoise Hardy were among the stars who wore the sweater style throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and interpretations of it continue to appear in Rykiel’s collections today.

Madeleine Vionnet: dresses cut on the bias

The construction of Madeleine Vionnet’s dress from the early 1900s has had lasting effects on minimalism in fashion. Her use of the bias cut, a technique of cutting along the grain of a textile so it drapes naturally over the body, created a “seemingly simple silhouette that allowed for increased movement,” says Romano. However, with the rise in popularity of the cut, women have also had to get used to revealing their bodies in ways they had not done before. “While this freed women from corsets and other structured undergarments, it meant they were tasked with achieving the lean, athletic bodies that were best displayed in these garments.”

Below, discover several items that echo the design DNAs of these iconic fashion women. Their creative contributions live on through clothing.

We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

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