Alanis has always been drawn to lines and cuts and fabrics and colors that elicit great swoon and self-definition in the wearing of the often painstakingly gorgeous process of creating a to-be-worn magnum opus. Designers who honor their creative integrity also have the power to spark social change; pushing us to open our own worldview.
Today, we here at Alanis.com are celebrating a mix of classic and contemporary fashion designers who’ve dazzled and inspired us with their work.
Synonymous with disco-era glamour and luxury fashion, Roy Halston Frowick (known simply as “Halston”) originally made a name for himself as an extraordinary hat maker. Perhaps his most iconic piece was Jacqueline Kennedy’s now-famous pillbox hat, which earned him a spot among America’s fashion elite. But the eccentric artist was also a prolific apparel designer, reimagining classic garments like the jumpsuit and shirtdress. At the height of the 1970s, his pieces were regular staples at Studio 54, donned by everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Andy Warhol. Today, the brand lives on under new leadership (Halston lost his battle with AIDS in 1990), but the label remains a mainstay of classic Americana.
Is it possible to celebrate fashion greats without mentioning Coco Chanel? The forward-thinking designer redefined women’s fashion with her signature garments; each one dripping with elegance and grace, while still being comfortable enough for the modern woman to enjoy. (We have Chanel to thank for the little black dress.) She was also daring enough to reinterpret the men’s suit for the female frame. Her legacy is largely defined by the Chanel suit, which was a radical departure from the traditional women’s garments of the 1920s. The move pushed the evolution of feminine apparel in an entirely new direction.
3. Phoebe Philo
Phoebe Philo has been the creative force behind legendary fashion house Céline since 2008, but her resume reveals a much more expansive story. Known for her minimalist take on women’s fashion, Philo was also a mainstay at Chloé for nearly a decade before stepping down to prioritize her family and devote her time to motherhood. She reentered the fashion scene when she took the helm at Céline, revolutionizing the brand in the process (particularly in the handbag division). The two-time British Designer of the Year recipient is easily one of today’s leading designers.
The powerhouse duo behind Rodarte are sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy, who founded the label back in 2005. Not much time had passed before the California-bred sisters gained national attention for their rich, multilayered designs. The industry favorites are often celebrated for being fashion outsiders whose work reflects more of an everyday girl’s take on high couture. That’s not to say their pieces are any less artistic or elevated; quite the opposite, in fact. If anything, it makes their collections more unique. The pair, who created some of the beautifully intricate costumes for the hit film “Black Swan,” were also presented with honorary doctorate degrees from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University earlier this year.
5. Timo Weiland
Timo Weiland, along with co-designers Donna Kang and Alan Eckstein, have been churning out playful designs since 2010. The eponymously named brand is lauded for its preppy wearability, describing itself as “modern prep meets streetwear.” The label, which recently made headlines with a Banana Republic partnership, designs and creates all of its pieces in New York City—giving them a refined grittiness that makes them all the more attractive.
6. Ellen Van Dusen
Bold, eclectic and truly diverse, designer Ellen Van Dusen’s vibrant collections have made her a standout in the fashion scene—and with good reason. Blending geometric patterns and quirky silhouettes since 2010, her line (Dusen Dusen) reflects a kind of warm, kitschy feel that has come to be her signature vibe. Bright, whimsical and unexpected, Van Dusen’s unusual and idiosyncratic point of view definitely comes through in her garments.
7. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney barely needs an introduction; her sleek, modern garments speak for themselves. The fashion industry icon has also carved out a space for herself as an activist, speaking up for animal advocacy. (She has taken a hard line against leather and fur, flat-out refusing to work with them.) McCartney prides herself on sustainability, creating garments using only responsible materials—something that makes her that much more inspiring as an artist. In the meantime, her pieces are a beacon of contemporary femininity.
8. Gogo Graham
In a culture that’s finally starting to transcend gender barriers and embrace the idea of the true self, Gogo Graham is making a name for herself as a pioneering transgender fashion designer. Her design sensibility is one of trans-femininity; one that reexamines the expected, replacing it with honest elements that better reflect our evolving culture. As Graham told The Huffington Post in a 2015 interview, “Fashion is a reflection of the current state of things, not the other way around.” That being said, her garments are both raw and revolutionary.
9. Alexander McQueen
One of the most renowned designers of our time, Alexander McQueen left his mark on the fashion world as a distinguished artist and creative maverick. While known best for running the Alexander McQueen label, he also earned his stripes as head designer at fashion house Givenchy. All the while, his work always had an emotional edge; his garments doubled as a vehicle for storytelling on the runway. The legacy McQueen left behind reflects an artist who chose authenticity over conformity. McQueen took his own life in 2010, but the brand lives on under creative director Sarah Burton. It was Burton who designed the now-famous wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
10. Demna Gvasalia
Not long ago, designer Demna Gvasalia was best known in fashion circles as one of the founders of Vetements, an independent fashion house that’s been elevating Paris street fashion since its inception. Today, he wears two hats—one of them being the new Creative Director of Balenciaga. He recently debuted his first collection, which subtly mixed his signature streetwear style with the high-end Balenciaga luxury we’ve come to know and love. In other words, it seems as though Gvasalia just might bring the brand into exciting new territory.
11. Dries Van Noten
Most luxury fashion designers aren’t known for keeping low profiles, but, then again, Dries Van Noten isn’t like most luxe designers. The Belgian red-carpet darling, who famously shies away from flashy industry parties and sticks strictly to ready-to-wear (no couture, here), relies solely on his unique design aesthetic and creative bravery. Van Noten’s Spring 2017 collection is a fine example of his artistry in motion. The garments are all at once soft with an underlying masculinity; traditionally feminine floral prints paired with manic, metallic embellishments, all working in beautiful contrast. Wonderfully eccentric, Van Noten is revered for delivering radical designs to the masses without compromising his artistic integrity.
“I think creativity is a reflection of your environment, of things that you feel, things that are happening in the world…” he recently told The New York Times.
The NewbarK team, comprised of sisters Maryam and Marjan Malakpour, continues to churn out deliciously modern takes on classic shoes and handbags. They’re perhaps best known for their loafers, which represent an elevated departure from the expected; simultaneously minimalistic, and forward-thinking and sophisticated yet still preserving their traditional inspiration. The sisters, who first made a name for themselves as celebrity stylists, run the L.A.-based line with a simplistic, ultra-contemporary eye. This design philosophy rings true in the luxury brand’s other offerings, which include super-flat sandals and slides, 1970s hippie-chic wedges, luscious ankle boots, and their ever-timeless hip pouch. It isn’t difficult to see why NewbarK has such a loyal following.