From its beginnings in 1858 with Englishman Charles Worth, known as the “Father of Haute Couture”, fashion design history has unfolded throughout the centuries culminating in contemporary design trends, set by technological and cultural ‘revolutions’. Some of the latest trends and styles are actually pinched from a far past: Levi’s jeans were conceived in 1872 by German born Levi Strauss upon the request of designing trousers that were strong and easy to work in.
1913 marks a landmark in fashion design history when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel opened a boutique in Deauville in France, at the time it revolutionized and democratized women’s fashion with tailored suits, chain-belted jerseys, quilted handbags, probably the most copied fashion designer in history. Her main rival was Elsa Schiapparelli, also known as a WW1 and WW2 fashion designer icon for her pioneer use of zippers, shoulder pads, unusual buttons, bright colors, including the famous “shocking pink”. WW1 influenced fashion design, with the military cut and prompting women to work in factories and offices, therefore wearing pants. Their participation in sports gave way to the ‘flapper’ and later in 1926 knee-length hemlines marked a new high.
Sport, in particular tennis, marks the introduction of a designer logo appearing on a garment. Star Rene Lacoste, known as “le Crocodile” manufactured a versatile new tennis shirt featuring an embroidered crocodile.
Reviving the wartime austerity of WW2, which forced many Paris couture houses to close, 1947 glamour of Christian Dior’s “New Look”, with tight waist, stiff petticoats and billowing skirts. The 1950s are marked by Cristóbal Balenciaga’s “semi-fit” dresses with soft and round shoulders. From this period also The House of Givenchy, founded by Hubert de Givenchy in 1952; famous for having designed much of the personal and professional wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, as well as clothing for clients such as Jacqueline Kennedy, he was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1970.
The 1960s are all about the mini skirt and the hot pants, expression of the youth movement, with icon model Twiggy launched by London boutique owner Mary Quant. The late 60s are influenced by rock music, “Mod” scene making London major fashion center with fun, revolutionary clothes: bell-bottoms, psychedelic prints, wild colors, dresses made of vinyl, paper, cellophane, metal or covered in mirrors. 1968 saw Calvin Klein producing elegant, simple clothes, favoring neutral earth tones and luxurious fabrics and Ralph Lauren creating men’s wear line, designing features in western or country motifs.
In 1971 Vivienne Westwood opened her first shop in London, a launch pad for the punk culture and famous band the Sex Pistols, dressed with Vivienne Westwood’s favored thing to use, tartan but also bike chains, razor blades, safety pins and bondage style items. Also significant are the developments in Italian fashion that happened during the course of the 1970s. Because of its ready-to-wear industry, Milan confirmed its status as second only to Paris as a center of international fashion. The ‘alta moda’ preferred Rome, the base of the couturiers Valentino, Capucci, and Schön. While profiting from a clearly defined style, Italian fashion was luxurious and easy to wear. The two most influential Italian fashion designers of the time were Giorgio Armani, with his first women collection in 1975, and Nino Cerruti.
In the 1980s appearance was related to performance, which was of supreme importance to a whole generation of young urban professionals, whose desire to look the part related to a craving for power. The mullet became the standard men’s haircut and women sported large, square-cut perms although there were many variations of both. Jumpsuits were a popular element of female clothing and on men, skinny neckties and wraparound sunglasses. Aerobics were in vogue and so brought into style Spandex leggings and headbands, which later encouraged popularity of the Adidas sports label, which achieved an incredible level of street cred in the 1980s. The defining designs were from Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaia and the legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.
The 1990s saw the “Anything goes” fashion credo emerging, with Alexander McQueen’s cozy, romantic designs, dresses looking like quilt blankets, rabbit-skin dresses, all in favor of highly theatrical fashion shows. Stella McCartney, at Cloé fashion house also gained following with daring new designs. In Italy Gucci and Prada emerged and later Miucci Prada with ready-to-wear fashion, gaining fame for her subtle, streamlined, yet unquestionably luxurious style, that catered for the privileged young woman who prefers understatement to flamboyant. In America, the most influential designers of the time were Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and Calvin Klein, one of the first fashion designers to anticipate the globalization of world markets.
In the 2000s, designers began to adopt a more colorful, feminine, excessive, and ‘anti-modern’ look, which is seen in the Dolce & Gabbana brand, in grounding some of their inspiration from Italy’s past.
Nowadays name brands have become of particular importance among young people and many celebrities launched their own lines of clothing. Tighter fit clothing and longer hair became mainstream for many men and women, this sense of modernism and futurism.