Fashion can be seen both as the most effective tool for expressing personal style or a completely monstrous undertaking, becoming a materialistic achievement reserved for the privileged. No matter how you see it, there have been key influential figures that turned the fashion world on its head. Maddening brilliance and an ego to match, these men prayed in the altar of the feminine silhouette. They’ve created an empire, backed by their imprint on menswear and womenswear, which established an everlasting legacy no one will ever forget.
He studied medicine and completed military service before his true calling in fashion. The cult favourite bomber jacket can be traced back to 1970 when Armani designed the first pieces under his own name. This spring boarded the patron saint of Italian fashion to fame in Hollywood, as he provided the wardrobe for American Gigolo, starring Richard Gere. In 2012, with an annual revenue of over $2.3 billion, he became the most successful Italian designer of all time. Turning 84 this July, the man from Piacenza is now worth a cool $9.1 billion. In a Vogue interview, the perfectionist stated he was 10 times worse than Tom Ford on details, who is also according to Armani, the only designer worthy enough to take over for him once he retires.
If there was ever a maverick born out of Texas, it is arguably the greatest menswear designer in the world. Introducing his first ever, star-studded women’s collection in 2010, Tom Ford had come a long way from turning heads in Europe. His legend was created after he brought Gucci back from near bankruptcy in the 90s, taking an earned $500 million to $4 billion within five years. Not to mention, he made Yves Saint Laurent publically criticised Ford after what the latter had done with the former’s label as the creative director. Former commercial actor, now an Oscar-nominated film director, and creative head of his own label, Ford sits atop Mount Olympus of fashion.
Yves Saint Laurent
The French-Algerian went from designing dresses for his two sisters as a boy to become the first designer, and the first living person to be honoured by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Famous for his “Le Smoking” tuxedo jacket, Saint Laurent was first to be credited for feminising the entire male wardrobe. In turn, he was the first to use models of ethnic minorities, empowering women along the way and democratising fashion, making it available to more people. After being fired by Christian Dior, he went on to create one of the greatest French labels of all time.
The epitome of ‘Classic Americana,’ the Bronx native is currently worth over $5.5 billion. He is the only designer to win the top four honours from the Council of Fashion Designers of America: Lifetime Achievement Award, Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, Menswear Designer of the Year award and Retailer of the Year Award. No stranger to Hollywood himself, he had created the wardrobe for the male leads in 1974’s The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford. The man who gave the world the Polo line now sits as the executive chairman and chief creative officer of his company, becoming the definition of classic American fashion.
The once skilled apprentice of Savile Row was possibly the most rebellious British designer of all. His early collections were controversial and placed with shock tactics, earning him titles such as ‘l’enfant terrible’ and ‘the hooligan of English fashion.’ Starting from his early 20s, working for Koji Tatsuno and Romeo Gigli, he was placed as the chief designer of Givenchy from 1996 to 2001. He went on to receive prestigious awards, and before his tragic end, McQueen’s dramatised runway left the most violent and grotesque elements in dark romantic themes never seen in the history of fashion.
Illustrations by: Jason Dhali