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Here Are Some Designers Every Fashionista Needs to Know About

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KU chapter.

Here’s a list of the most impactful fashion designers of the past 100 years:

 Coco Chanel

She is credited with inventing the Little Black Dress, along with popularizing the dress suit usually made out of tweed, jersey fabric, the flap handbag, costume jewelry, the corseted silhouette and the sporty-chic fashion aesthetic. She is also famed for her influence on couture fashion, the iconic Chanel no. 5 fragrance, and Chanel’s interlocking C’s logo.

Christian Dior

Created the iconic New Look which included rounded shoulders, cinched waist and a full long A-line skirt. He also taught Yves Saint Laurent everything he knows about fashion

Mary Quant

Revolutionized fashion by bringing the mini skirt and mini dress into mainstream fashion in the 1960s and they are still an immensely popular staple today. However, in the 60s, they were so controversial that there were even mini skirt protests. Crazy, I know!

Dapper Dan

Instrumental for bringing the styles of hip hop, Harlem and Black culture into the mainstream. He also worked with Gucci.

Christian Siriano

Helped make the fashion industry more inclusive by including plus-sized models in his shows and also being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. He is also known for his experimental and fun designers and his time as a TV personality.

Karl Lagerfeld

The German designer is actually most famous for revitalizing the french fashion house of Chanel, as well as working with Italian fashion house Fendi. Those iconic 90s Chanel looks? You can thank Karl Lagerfeld for those. His signature look featured white hair, black sunglasses, an intense collar and fingerless gloves. He also has his own label called “Karl Lagerfeld.” When he took on Chanel in 1982, the brand was almost near-death until Lagerfeld saved it by introducing Pret-A-Porter style (Ready-To-Wear), which is a touch more approachable than Haute Couture. Many other fashion houses followed in Chanel’s footsteps introducing RTW collections as well as couture. He established the brand’s image of “intellectual sexiness.” He also popularized logomania with the use of the interlocking C’s Chanel logo. He was also friends with Yves Saint Laurent and assisted Pierre Balmain early in his career before being hired by Fendi, then Chanel. His runway shows were also known to be grand and unique, often taking place at the Grand Palais for Chanel during Paris Fashion Week. He also had Milan Fashion Week shows for Fendi. He immortalized items like hair bows, dress suits, tweed, mini skirts, matching sets, and blazers into wardrobe classics, causing these items to represent the highest height of sophistication.

Miuccia Prada

Known for two equally iconic luxury fashion labels, the Italian house Prada and the French house Miu Miu. 


Known for his gorgeous evening wear. Remember Blair Waldorf’s 17th birthday dress? That was a Valentino.

Hubert De Givenchy

Known for haute couture and pret-a-porter, Givenchy, like Chanel, is also known for the LBD thanks to iconic household name Audrey Hepburn. The Givenchy and Hepburn collaboration wasn’t just for red carpet appearances, but also for the costume design of many of Hepburn’s movies such as Funny Face, Charade, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Givenchy also worked with Cristobal Balenciaga. 

 Yves Saint Laurent

After working with Dior, YSL made his own mark on the fashion industry. He helped make couture relevant again in the 1960s. He approached his aesthetic by making sure women felt confidence through comfortability and elegance. He made non-European references, had diverse models, and became famous for the women’s tuxedos. The house is known for its edgier take on femininity.

 Edith Head

One of the biggest names in the Old Hollywood era, designing costumes for Paramount pictures and Alfred Hitchcock movies and Oscar winners like Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.

 Gianni Versace

Instrumental in blending the music world to the fashion world through working with Madonna, Elton John and Tupac Shakur. He also worked with many icon supermodels like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. He also was a favorite for Princess Diana. He designed costumes for many films and plays and was also an international partier, which he incorporated into his designs as well as Ancient Greece and Andy Warhol. He also had a rivalry with Giorgio Armani.

Emilio Pucci

Known for geometric prints and a kaleidoscope of colors. Madonna, Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were all fans of his.

Christian Lacroix

Known for bead, fringe, embroidery, and mixing colors and patterns.

Manolo Blahnik

The Spanish fashion designer defined the stiletto. Inspired by his mother’s obsession with fashion, which often meant them taking trips to Madrid and Paris while he was growing up. The brand is most associated with Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with the shoe brand on Sex And The City.

 Ralph Lauren

A fashion designer that defined the Americana preppy aesthetic. He is also the costume designer for many American film classics like The Great Gatsby (1974) and Annie Hall.

Marc Jacobs

Defined ready-to-wear fashion for New York fashion week. He is known for his classic style mixed with a hedonistic touch. Winona Ryder, Miley Cyrus, Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid and Cara Delevingne are all fans of Marc Jacobs. It’s also a favorite of Gossip Girl character Blair Waldorf. The brand is also best known for fragrances along with clothes. The label was formerly called Marc by Marc Jacobs.

 Cristobal Balenciaga

The Spanish designer was praised by the likes of Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Hubert De Givenchy. He is a fan of Haute Couture and has worked with Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Orlando Bloom, and many members of the Spanish royal family. He is often referred to as the “King of Fashion” and was greatly inspired by Dior’s New Look.

 Alexander McQueen

One of the most iconic labels in the London fashion world and a staple at London fashion week. A favorite label of Kate Middleton and often edgy, punk-rock-inspired designs, making David Bowie and Janet Jackson fans of his work as well.

 Carolina Hererra 

The Venezuelan designer is a New York staple and often favored by First Ladies like Jackie Kennedy, Michell Obama, Laura Bush and (unfortunately) even Melania Trump. She is greatly inspired by brands like Lanvin, Dior, Balenciaga, and Emilio Pucci and people like Mick and Bianca Jagger, Diane Vreeland (1981 Editor-In-Chief of Vogue), Andy Warhol, and the Studio 54 scene. She is also a favorite of the Spanish royal family.

Brandon Maxwell

A current favorite for the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Lady Gaga, Brandon Maxwell is known for his bright, sleek and fun designs. He is the rare and cool combo of being both experimental and practical. He is also known for being a TV personality.

 Calvin Klein

Known for ready-to-wear fashion, but also occasionally has haute couture shows as well. He is best known for leisurewear, underwear and using the “sex sells” appeal for advertising.

 Elsa Schiaparelli

Coco Chanel’s greatest rival. Known for knitwear in the beginning and was often inspired by the surrealist artists of the time like Salvador Dali. Introduced the wrap dress to Europe and was one of the first to use zippers in her designs. She also got creative with buttons by using some that resemble anything from crowns to candlesticks. She was also known for the Lobster dress, the shoe hat, the Tear dress and the Skeleton dress.

 Salvatore Ferragamo

The Italian designer made his mark in the shoe industry before moving to accessories and clothing as well. Made shoes for the movie The Ten Commandments, starring Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson.

Wes Gordon

The current head of Carolina Hererra. Responsible for revamping the brand for a more youthful audience. 

 Diane von Furstenberg

The Belgian designer is an iconic New York staple and best known for introducing the wrap dress to America. 

 Stella McCartney

Daughter of musician Paul McCartney, Stella is known for using vegetarian alternatives to her clothing and undergarments. The British designer has also worked with British models Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.

 Vivienne Westwood

The British designer is synonymous with the Punk and the New Wave scene. She still uses 70s & 90s punk influence in her designs today. She is also responsible for giving the stereotypically-associated preppy, British print of plaid more punk and alternative connotations. 

Thierry Mugler

Know for his theatricality, hyper-feminity and avant-garde tendencies when it comes to fashion, he is a favorite of many celebrities and encourages experimentation and fun out of the fashion world

Dolce & Gabbana

The Milan-based duo is best known for its theatrical, bohemian, campy and erotic designs. They often use bold colors and animal prints in their designs and take huge inspiration from Sicilian culture. They also did the costume design for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

Virgil Abloh

Instrumental in making street style what it is today. He is also to thank for making Louis Vuitton and Off White synonymous with street style. 

John Galliano

Has been the genius behind many collections at Givenchy, Oscar Re La Renta, currently Maison Margiela, and most notably (favored by Carrie Bradshaw) at Dior. Standard Oil Heiress Millicent Rogers was the British designer’s muse. He often took inspiration from the theatre and femininity. 

 Michael Kors

 Michael Kors is known for being among luxury more accessible to everyone by making his most sought-after accessories available at mainstream department stores. However, his clothing remains high-end and is still a staple at New York Fashion Week. 

 Roberto Cavalli

The Italian designer was extremely popular in the 90s and 2000s, and his vintage designs are still sought-after today. He is best known for exotic prints, patchwork and unique jeans. He also invented and patented the primary procedure for leather in the fashion industry that is still used today, and yes, is vegan.

Pierre Cardin

He was a pivotal designer in the 1950s and 1960s known for his Space Age, avant-garde and futuristic designs. He often used geometric shapes and was a pioneer for unisex dressing. His designs weren’t practical, but very experimental and beautiful. He also introduced the bubble dress or bubble hem. 

Donatella Versace

Continuing her brother’s legacy, she has made Versace known for its boldness and loudness. The perfect example is Jennifer Lopez’s green Google jungle dress. 

Bob Mackie

Known for his relationship with musical icon Cher, he has made some of the most iconic fashion and costume moments from the 20th century. He has designed looks and costumes for Marilyn Monroe (the “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress), Carol Burnett, Ann-Margaret, and Lucille Ball.

Jean-Paul Gaultier

Known for revolutionizing gender fluidity in fashion, Jean-Paul Gaultier is often seen as fashion’s Enfant Terrible. His designs take inspiration from TV classics, sexual fetishism, Baby Boomers, and futurism, making him a favorite of 80s icon Madonna. He also popularized the grey hair trend and was praised by Pierre Cardin.

Jean-Louis Dumas

Head of the Hermes fashion house in France. Also, when he met style icon, Jane Birkin, on a plane and heard her complain about her purse, he created the iconic Birkin bag (you know, the one Samantha Jones attempted to steal from Lucy Liu or the one Kris Jenner has color-coded in her closet). It’s now a status symbol and up there with the Chanel Flap Bag, Gucci 1961 Jackie Bag (named after Jackie O) and Prada Cleo Bag as one of the most iconic handbags a woman can own.

Paco Rabanne

The beloved France-based, Spanish designer popularized the chain metal dress in the 1960s as part of the Enfant Terrible movement. He revolutionized the use of metal and other hard materials in clothing.

Hello! My name is Sami Gotskind! I'm from Chicago and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Acting and Journalism. I also working on getting a certificate in Fashion Styling from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was a writer for Her Campus KU from 2020 to 2022 and for Her Campus Nationals since 2021. I was also the Writing Director for Her Campus KU in 2022. I love film, TV, fashion, pop culture, history, music, and feminism. My friends describe me as an old soul, an avid Euphoria fan, a fashion icon, a Swiftie, an Audrey Hepburn-Blair Waldorf fanatic, a future New Yorker, and a Gossip Girl historian. Look out for me on your TV screens in the near future! Thank you for reading my articles!