From ready-to-wear to haute couture, these French designers have made a huge impact on the international fashion industry, both past and present. Culture Trip brings you seven French fashion designers you should know.
Power suits, leather masks and futuristic armor – yes, there he is, Thierry Mugler. The brand came under public scrutiny in the 1980s, after creating a stir with their ‘sexist fantasies’, and went downhill fast, resulting in its disappearance from the fashion world for years. Today, Mugler is primarily known for designing costumes for Cirque du Soleil and Beyonce’s ‘I am…’ tour. Mugler’s best-selling Angel Fragrance also contributed in some part to his fame.
Paco Rabanne is another French designer who started his career in costume design. After several collaborations with Dior, Givenchy and Balenciaga, Rabanne became known to the public for designing costumes for science fiction films. Barbarella. She eventually founded her own brand, and although she has experienced many ups and downs throughout her history in the fashion world, she remains one of the main innovators of the ‘bohemian chic’ look in France.
Despite being born in Italy, Paris-raised Maria Nina Ricci founded her own fashion house with her son Robert Ricci in 1923 at the age of 49, after 20 working as a designer and business partner at the French design house Raffin. The Nina Ricci brand grew rapidly throughout the 1930s, being known not only for ready-to-wear, but also for leather goods and fashion accessories. In 1949, he launched a perfume called ‘L’air du temps’ which remains the brand’s most famous product.
Born in 1952 to a clerk and accountant, Jean-Paul Gaultier had no formal training as a clothing designer, but despite this, he sent sketches to many well-known brands. Her talent was recognized by the famous Pierre Cardin, and she was hired to be an assistant in 1970. Her most famous outfit is probably the ‘cone bra’ that Madonna wore during her 1990 tour. Gaultier recently announced during the 2015 Spring/Summer Fashion Week that she would stop making ready-to-wear clothes and instead focus on haute couture.
Yves Saint Laurent
Le Smoking! There’s no way Yves Saint Laurent can remember without referring to the legendary Le Smoking suit. The designer entered the fashion world very early, and at the age of 21 she became the head designer at Dior. He delivered a spectacular brand back in the spring of 1958, saving the company from financial ruin. Unfortunately, Saint Laurent was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in 2008. Prior to his death, he was given the title of Grand Officier in the Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honor). He was presented with the award by then president Nicolas Sarkozy who said, “You have been making fashion for 40 years, but during this time you have not only built a work of art, but a slice of society, and that demands our respect.”
While his successor, Yves Saint Laurent, was known for creating women’s tuxedos, the founder of the fashion house Dior, Christian Dior, was known for his revolution in women’s clothing with the ‘New Look,’ which brought Paris back to its status as a fashion capital. By 1949, Dior clothing made up a total of 5% of France’s exports, with many celebrities becoming its customers, including Eva Perón and Ava Gardner. Despite his sudden death in 1957, the brand is still growing and is recognized as one of the most respected names in the industry.