The Great Fashion Designers PDF by Brenda Polan and Roger Tredre


The Great Fashion Designers
by Brenda Polan and Roger Tredre

The Great Fashion Designers


Acknowledgements ix
Foreword xi
Introduction 1
Introduction 7
Charles Frederick Worth 9
Callot Soeurs 13
Jeanne Paquin 17
Paul Poiret 21
Mariano Fortuny 25
PART 2 1910s–1930s
Introduction 31
Jeanne Lanvin 35
Gabrielle Chanel 39
Jean Patou 43
Madeleine Vionnet 47
Elsa Schiaparelli 51
Mainbocher 55
Adrian 59
Salvatore Ferragamo 63
Madame Alix Grès 67
PART 3 1940–1950s
Introduction 73
Cristobal Balenciaga 77
Christian Dior 83
Charles James 87
Claire McCardell 91
Hubert de Givenchy 95
Pierre Cardin 99
Mary Quant 103
Rudi Gernreich 107
PART 4 1960s–1970s
Introduction 113
Norman Norell 115
Yves Saint Laurent 119
André Courrèges 123
Valentino 129
Karl Lagerfeld 133
Halston 137
Kenzo 141
Ralph Lauren 145
Issey Miyake 151
Geoffrey Beene 155
Calvin Klein 161
Giorgio Armani 167
PART 5 1980s
Introduction 173
Rei Kawakubo 175
Yohji Yamamoto 179
Vivienne Westwood 183
Paul Smith 187
Azzedine Alaia 191
Gianni Versace 195
Jean Paul Gaultier 201
Dolce & Gabbana 205
John Galliano 211
Donna Karan 215
PART 6 1990s–
Introduction 221
Miuccia Prada 225
Martin Margiela 229
Marc Jacobs 235
Tom Ford 239
Alexander McQueen 243
Nicolas Ghesquière 247
List of Illustrations 251
Bibliography 253

In 2001 American fashion trade newspaper Women’s Wear Daily ( WWD ) marked its ninetieth anniversary by asking fi fty-three leading designers who were the three most important designers of the past ninety years. The results were fascinating, not perhaps for the runaway ‘winners’ (Coco Chanel with thirty-four votes and Yves Saint Laurent with twenty-nine), but for the other names cited and the explanations offered. Giorgio Armani cited Jean Paul Gaultier among his top three (‘for his ability to make fashion ironic’). Nicolas Ghesquière included Issey Miyake (‘he gave the Japanese concept of deconstruction a European femininity and sensibility’). More unpredictable names who are featured in this book included Adrian and Rudi Gernreich. The ever-prolifi c Karl Lagerfeld, who received three citations himself, sent a fi ve-page fax dividing the twentieth century into three distinct periods: 1905–1939 (Poiret, Vionnet and Chanel); 1945–1960 (Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel); and 1960–1970 (Courrèges, Saint Laurent, Vionnet, Chanel and Balenciaga).

The very earliest couturiers received barely a look-in, perhaps refl ecting the short-term memory of fashion (although Alexander McQueen voted for Charles Frederick Worth). The constant interaction between craft and commerce was highlighted, and designers were quick to applaud fellow designers who were skilled at business and marketing as much as creativity. Infl uence was paramount. ‘Who has the biggest infl uence?’ declared Karl Lagerfeld. ‘It’s unimportant who is the most gifted.’

One means of determining infl uence is to ask the question: who is the most copied? Designers have had an equivocal attitude towards this issue from the very early days of couture, on the one hand threatening legal action against copyists, and on the other hand happy to sell models to upmarket stores for copying. Few have been as relaxed about the issue as Coco Chanel—or American designer Norman Norell, who provided working sketches of his 1960 culotte suit to the trade free of charge to ensure that his design would be copied properly. These days, many designers work directly with their biggest copyists, the fast fashion chain stores, in effect copying themselves by creating low-priced collections in short- or long-term retail linkups. For the WWD survey, the designers were also asked to decide who were the three most important designers since 1980: Karl Lagerfeld won the most votes, followed closely by Giorgio Armani, Rei Kawakubo, Jean Paul Gaultier and Tom Ford. Lagerfeld noted Chanel, Gucci and Prada but put fashion designers fi rmly in their place by referencing Nike, Levi’s and Adidas. ‘They are fashion for today, too, and worn by more people than the fashion of the fashion world we talk about.’ Marc Jacobs brought the designers down to earth by recalling the celebrated comment from fellow American designer Bill Blass that the words ‘dress’ and ‘important’ should never be mentioned in the same sentence. ‘I’m going to paraphrase,’ said Jacobs. ‘The words ‘designer’ and ‘important’ should never be mentioned in the same sentence.’

Over the past two decades, the meaning of the term ‘designer’ in relation to fashion has become a freefor- all, inviting a wide variety of interpretations. From business moguls to celebrities to genuine creative geniuses, everyone and anyone can claim designer status. The industry was dominated by couturiers until the 1960s when the ready-to-wear styliste and créateur came to the fore. In more recent years, the broader interpretation of designer has made it challenging to defi ne true greatness—many designers are only as good as the team behind them. Is the product manager a designer? Can the famous personality behind a celebrity brand be considered a designer? For the purposes of this book, we have accepted an all-embracing interpretation of the word, covering skill sets ranging from pure design to brand management and marketing to pure business. In the fi nal analysis, though, it is the infl uence of each individual designer that has driven our selection. Echoing Karl Lagerfeld’s point to WWD , talent is not enough.

We have acknowledged the signifi cance of commercial achievements in compiling our list. British designer Paul Smith may strike some readers as a surprise choice, but his success as an Englishman in creating an international fashion brand without the backing of a major luxury group gives him a unique status. Success is founded, he says, on being ‘90 per cent businessman and 10 per cent designer’.

Many great designers have also been great business people, and others have succeeded through long-lasting linkups with business-minded partners, such as Yves Saint Laurent with Pierre Bergé. We were inspired by the ground-breaking research of Nancy J. Troy, the American fashion historian, in Couture Culture: A Study in Modern Art and Fashion (2003). She explored the links between fashion and commerce, particularly through the work of early twentieth-century couturier Paul Poiret. Designers have always understood the importance of a creative image for driving forward their businesses. An observant reporter for The New York Times, writing back in 1913, said of Jeanne Paquin: ‘She maintains the attitude of an artist, but we know she is the most commercial artist alive.’ Early fashion was dominated by men such as Charles Frederick Worth and Paul Poiret, who often overshadowed the achievements of women such as Jeanne Paquin and Marie Callot Gerber. This book tries to nudge back the balance a little more in these women’s favour, although we acknowledge that the fl amboyance of personalities such as Poiret was an integral part of the makeup that made him so infl uential.

Another important point to make is that the development of fashion—just as the development of history itself—is not a story of constant progress. Fashion (perhaps like history too) has an intrinsic cyclical nature. It looks backwards as much as forwards. Jeanne Lanvin, for example, made full-skirted evening dresses at a time when Chanel was championing short hemlines. The modernist wins out over the nostalgist every time. But Lanvin’s very signifi cant success, as noted by historian Nancy Troy, raises important questions about the conventional narrative of fashion history. Perhaps we should highlight more the retrospective and nostalgic characteristics of some of the greatest fashion.

It may become harder still in the future to identify the skill sets of a designer. New technology makes design by computer a doddle. In future, all of us can play the role of designer. Even the once timeconsuming process of research can be shrunk in an instant to a few hours on the Internet. Not all designers have been profi cient in all as pects of design, as Dean L. Merceron points out in his biography of Jeanne Lanvin. For years, Paul Smith referred to himself as a ‘getter-togetherer of fashion’ rather than as a designer. Jean Patou once famously said: ‘I wouldn’t know how to design. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, for I can’t draw, and a pair of scissors in my hands becomes a dangerous weapon.’

The skills needed to be a fashion designer are certainly changing; there is less emphasis on technical prowess and more on an instinct for trends. In future, more consumers are likely to design their own clothing and order items directly from the manufacturer. In turn, the role of shops will change to become places where customers pick up prepurchased clothing.

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