History's Mirror Project : Designers


Christian Dior

After years of dull, unflattering military uniforms, Dior livened up fashion by bringing out the 'New Look'. Consisting of cinched waists, full skirts and rounded shoulders, this new look set fashion alight. Due to the extravagant variety of fabrics, and the way they had been put to use, it appealed to the post-war women who had gone without such luxury for years.

By 1948 Dior had risen to fame, with his 'New Look', and furthering licensing deals for fur, perfumes and stockings, the revenue was on the rise.

Norman Norell

Norman Norell was the creator of the 'little black dress'- simple and elegant yet playful and daring. It became every woman's essential item in the 1950s, making Normal Norell a well known New York designer of the 50s and 60s.

Vera Maxwell

Winning various awards in her fashion design and sportswear, Vera Maxwell was a popular designer in the 50s and 60s. Presented co-ordinates in plain, simply cut outfits and also introduced innovations to men's work clothes.

Bonnie Cashin, Anne Klein and Claire McCardell

Known as the pioneer in fashion for her design of sportswear, Bonnie Cashin was one of the most critically acclaimed designers of the twentieth century. Along with Anne Klein and Clair McCardell, this trio of women formed a remarkable grouping that was to lay the foundations of American sportswear. They ensured that ready-to-wear was not simply thought of as second best, but as an elegant and comfortable way for modern women to dress.


Christian Dior

Kicking off with a feeling of hope and jubilation, the 1950s welcomed Dior's 'New Look' with open arms. The 'New Look' pointed to a future of confidence and prosperity, something that everyone aspired to.

The aim was to give all women a fabulous hourglass figure, by nipping in the waist and giving volume with a full skirt. After the unflattering uniforms and rationing of clothing in the 1940s, Dior's mission was to bring fashion back to the people. However, Dior's designs were a symbol of elegance and luxury, which wasn't favoured by all in a post-war Europe.

Although the hourglass figure was the first popular style from Dior, he brought out several others, such as; The Princess Line, the A-line, the H-line and the S-line. These styles were to appeal to all different body shapes, and bring flattery to all sizes. But keeping to the fashion, these new shapes still kept a narrow waist and kept the hemline below the knee.

The A-line design was a rather simple dress, to fall from fitted shoulders outwards towards the hem. To create the shape, a stiffened fabric was used.

Hubert de Givenchy

Givenchy was to create a new design which was to break free from the ever loved, yet restrictive, hourglass shape. The 'sack' dress finally arrived, giving a new dimension to shape through clothing. The first Givenchy couture house opened in 1952, by creating separates which fashionistas could mix and match at their will, caused a sensation. As popularity grew, more couture shops began to open, even in places such as Zurich and Buenos Aires.

Also very famous for his close fashion friendship with icon Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy created some of her most famous looks.

Cristóbal Balenciaga

A popular designer of his time, Balenciaga radically changed the accepted hourglass style of the 50s. He introduced fluidity and grace to clothing by leaving the narrow waist behind. One of his diverse creations was the 'balloon' jacket, introduced in 1953, this designed was an elegant sphere that encased the upper body and provided a pedestal for the person's head. With high-waisted dresses and coats cut like kimonos, Balenciaga's designs differentiated from the designs people had been grown used to. Because he distanced himself away from the commonly known 'hourglass' shape, it was considered one of his most important contributions to the world of fashion. Balenciaga is also notable as one of the few couturiers in fashion history who could use their own hands to design, cut, and sew the models which symbolised the height of his artistry.

Pierre Balmain

An architecture come fashion designer, Balmain followed his dream, and it led to him being a high profile Parisian designer. His vision of the elegantly dressed women was particularly Parisian, with its ample bust, narrow waist and full skirts. His sophisticated clientele was equally at home with luxurious elegance, simple tailoring, and a more natural look. Although he did much couture work, in the 50s he also designed costumes for 16 films. He became a known name in Hollywood designing for high profile actresses such as Vivien Leigh and Mae West.

Coco Channel

Although Dior's 'New Look' was a big fashion step after the war, not everyone was a fan, especially Coco Chanel. After the war had closed down all her salons, in 1954 at the age of 70, Chanel made a comeback. On the 5th February she presented a whole collection of new designs which would be copied throughout the world by all women. Not only was Chanel a pioneer in fashion, but her cosmetics were also one of her highest revenues. Even today the Chanel make up range and perfumes are as popular as ever.


Main Rousseau Bocher was born in 1890, the brand name 'Mainbocher' came later. Best known for the design of military and civilian service uniforms, in the 1950s, Mainbocher managed to combine femininity with functionality. He was the first American celebrity in the French fashion world, moving to New York he set up a shop next door to Tiffany's. This is where his popularity rose and his social status too. He began to dress the most famous of actresses in Hollywood films, such as 'The Sound of Music' and 'Call me Madam'.

Christian Dior

After Dior's 'New Look' in the 1940s, clothing items such as girdles and corselettes grew in popularity. With the popularity increase in lingerie, companies began to make their own brand of under wear. In 1957, Jane Russell wore the 'Cantilever' bra that was scientifically designed by Howard Hughes to maximize a voluptuous look. The invention of lycra at the end of the 50s further revolutionized the underwear industry, and became an essential material when making lingerie.

Emilio Pucci

Emilio Pucci brought colour back to the fashion world, his color range came straight from an Aegean horizon, turquoise and ultramarine set against sea green and lime, or hot fuchsia and sunflower yellow. He was first working in the sportswear industry, but soon moved onto other items of fashion. His first haute couture house was opened on the Isle of Capri, where the name for his well known 'Capri Pants' comes from, narrow three quarter length trousers. Pucci designed for many famous names, such as Jacky Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe was also buried in one of his designs.


Mary Quant

Most known for her introduction of the miniskirts and hot pants to the young era, Mary Quant encouraged fun in fashion. The 60s was a massive step forward in music, London was in the swinging 60s and Mary Quant wanted the youth to aspire to dress exactly how they want. The miniskirt is seen as one of the defining fashions of the 60s, it changed how women could dress, and dare to show more flesh.

Barbara Hulanicki

Known best for opening her stylish couture shop 'Biba' in the 1960s, in Kensington. Biba was a popular hangout for famous faces, such as The Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger. The shop was full of the typical fashion of the 60s such as miniskirts, feather boas, velvet clothing, richly dyed t-shirts and floppy hats. They were all at affordable prices, therefore snapped up by all the fashion conscious youths.

Emanuel Ungaro

His style was very much influenced by bold and contrasting colours and printed patterns, he liked to influence femininity through his clothing. At Avenue Mac-Mahon was where his first collection was presented, in 1965. Two years later he moved his workshops to a larger space, three floors, to hold all his collections. His contrast between passion and reason appealed to his clients greatly.

Andre Courreges

With the first moon landing around the late 60s, the interest in space began to grow and even influence the fashion of its time. Andre Courreges introduced the 'space look', trouser suits, white boots, goggles and box shaped dresses. These items were often designed in fluorescent colours and shiny fabrics such as PVC and sequins.


Ossie Clark

With a great love of dancing himself, Ossie Clark wanted to make sure all his designs were free for movement and non-restricting. His desire for fashion started from a very young age, but his peak was between 1965- 1974. His styles were known for their muted colours and moss crepe fabric; he designed many items of clothing from shoes to jackets. He was a well known designer for the 60s and 70s and dressed well known faces such as Mick Jagger, Twiggy and Jimi Hendrix. He even had a portrait of himself, his wife Celia Birtwell and cat Percy painted by David Hockney, and hung in the Tate Gallery.

Celia Birtwell

She was married to Ossie Clark, and they were known as a fashion power couple. She did all the textiles and patterns while he cut the fabrics and designed the clothing. Unfortunately in the 70s their marriage broke down. She was well-known for her distinctive bold, romantic and feminine designs; she had good knowledge of fabrics and textures to produce popular haute couture.

Bill Gibb

His aim was to create items people could mix up and play around with, he would put knitted waistcoats over evening dresses, and this gave knitting a whole new image. With his new ways of updating knit wear, other fashion designers began to follow his lead. Being Scottish himself, he enjoyed taking traditional Scottish woven fabrics, like tweed and giving them a new twist. One of his 1970 designs features a heavily patterned pigskin jacket worn over a knife-pleated, checked tweed skirt.

Zandra Rhodes

Rhodes was one of the designers on the fore front of London in the 60s and 70s; with her wild appearance and crazy hair she put her print instantly on the fashion industry. Her designs were crazy but creative, dramatic yet graceful and bold but feminine, people felt inspired by her designs. She was a big influence on the punk era too, creating designs with safety pins, and tear drop shapes.

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood

They were the punk power couple of the 70s, Westwood a unique fashion designer and McLaren a rock band manager. They both created and designed outrageous outfits of the 70s, based on bikers, fetishists and prostitutes. The punk movement was deconstructive and anti-establishment; it was characterised by bondage, safety pins, ripped edges and irregular stitching. With McLaren's band 'The Sex Pistols' were clad in Westwood's designs, and as the bands popularity grew, so did their clothing attire.

Calvin Klein, Geoffrey Beene, Ralph Lauren

Calvin Klein first began his fashion career, by opening a Coat shop in a York hotel, as the years went past his popularity grew along with his revenue. He began adding shoes, underwear and perfumes to his range in the 70s. In the early 1970s Geoffrey Beene introduced his 'Beene Bag' collection, a sportswear line, which was affordable and successful. He was the first American designer to show his collection off in Milan. As the designer holding the most amount of Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards, Ralph Lauren is considered to be the quintessential American designer of the 1970s.

Diane von Fürstenberg

Known best for her creation of the 'wraparound' dress in the 70s, Diane gained instant fame with this popular design. And as the popularity grew so did the revenue. As time went on she began releasing other items such as fragrances, her first fragrance called Tatiana was released in 1974, along with a cosmetics range.

Jeff Banks and Daniel Hechter

Jeff Banks started off as a young child by buying paraffin and then selling it on at a higher price, but by 1975 he had his first stand alone shop and outlets in twenty two different department stores, including Harrods. By 1979 Jeff became British Designer of the Year. Daniel Hechter is known for his 'ready to wear' collection, his goal was to create wearable yet good quality clothing to a wide market. Brigitte Bardot wore one of his designs in 'La Parisienne', which boasted his status in the fashion industry higher.

Rudi Gernreich

Rudi explored unisex fashion he liked dressing males and females in the same clothes and having them shave their heads. He was a controversial designer, and experimented with different swimsuits, such as the monokini and pubikini.


Christian Lacroix

Lacroix collaborated with the Tokyo imperial court in the early 80s; he then later joined the house of Jean Patou with Jean-Jacques Picard. They began to bring haute couture back to live, as it had began its journey on the decline. Together they introduced the extravagance and baroque lavishness which became a hall mark of the 80s. Lacroix went on later to win the Golden Thimble award, and he was also proclaimed Most Influential Foreign Designer by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Vivienne Westwood

As the 80s began, so did a new era of fashion 'Romanticism'. Vivienne Westwood incorporated this new style into her designs; she introduced the mini-crini, which she had gotten inspiration from a ballet tutu. The mini crini was an almost bell like skirt, which came out wide and loose. She took a lot of inspiration from old English fashion too, layering full skirts, and more tight fitting clothes. With big padded shoulders and punk being another fashion at the time, Westwood introduced another style which appealed to the likes of Spandet Ballet and Boy George.

Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley was another designer of the 80s who went for the Romanticism style, keeping to floral's and feminine designs. Although she died in the mid 1980s it was after her death that her fashion gained immense popularity. Known for her 'vintage' looking style, with romantic shades of colour, this style was very popular.

Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaia

Thierry Mugler was a well established designer by the 1980s, he was on trend with his designs, and they took on a modernistic look. He would dress his models in tight skirts, wide shoulders, narrow girded loins, which all oozed womanity and sexuality. In 1985 he created all the costumes in the musical 'Emilie Jolie', which further showcased his talent. It was towards the end of the 80s that Mugler produced the 'New Age Man' look, which consisted of a relaxed laid back style refreshed by a new set of priorities. Mugler said inspiration came from intellect, by the end of the 80s he released a collection of dresses in acid colours, show girl colours, diamante bras, and a group of outfits which took inspiration from the shape of the cars at the time. Mugler's glamour dresses were a huge success, and signified the complete end of the hippie era with its lack of unstructured silhouette.

Azzedine Alaia

Azzedine Alaia produced his first ready-to-wear collection at the beginning of the 80s, before this he had worked with the likes of Christian Dior and Thierry Mugler. By 1984, Alaia won the awards for 'Best designer of the Year' and 'Best collection of the Year' at the Oscars del la Mode, by the French ministry of culture. By the late 80s he had opened his own boutiques in Paris, New York and Beverly Hills. He was nicknamed in the media 'The King of Cling', as he was known for his sexy, seductive tight designs. He was the master of all kinds of techniques which has previously been known to haute couture, he experimented with under used materials such as spandex. With the experimentation came the tight, figure hugging bodycon dress which oozed sexiness.

Claude Montana

Also favoring aggressive shapes and strong colours, Claude Montana became another high fashion designer of the 1980s. His designs consisting of broad shoulders often made of leather, did not look out of place in the 'futuristic' look of the 80s. Montana sent shock waves through the world of haute couture, with his flounced skirts, embroidered corselets, bustles, and polka-dotted crinolines which evoked the rhythms of flamenco.

Angelo Tarlazzi

Angelo Tarlazzi, a technician who once worked for Patou, bewitched both the press and his customers with his 'handkerchief' dresses. Made of squares of fabric, they transpired, when you came to put them on, to be far more complicated than at first appeared. Many a Parisian soirée of the 1980s was enlivened by his dresses, all in a fluid and original style, in which cutting and sewing were kept to a minimum.

Chantal Thomass

She was the first designer to mainly focus on lingerie, and this set her apart from the rest. Chantal Thomass was the queen of sexy stockings and lace, she won a devoted following for her seductive underwear and for evening gowns that looked like nightdresses and vice versa.

Guy Paulin

Guy Paulin was one of the first designers to promote a severe, plain, and uncluttered look; this was rather unusual for this time, considering the more shocking, outrageous designs of the likes of Mugler and Alaia. His garments were classical in their proportions and made for comfort and simplicity, with their harmonious lines reinforced by a subtle palette of colours and fine materials. He designed many items of clothing from sportswear, to lose fitting suits and cocktail dresses.


First opening a hair salon down Kings Road, Joseph Ettedgui began also to showcase clothing in his windows. First recognised by a fashion editor of The Sunday Times, Michael Roberts, he liked the sweaters in the shop so much that they later appeared in a fashion shoot. This boosted the sales in their salon immensely. He was well known for the shopping experience he gave his customers, with his stylish boutiques.

Carolina Herrera

Starting off as a small designer, she managed to get backing from a company after she showed her first sample dresses to friends at Fifth Avenue. After doing this she attracted attention from buyers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. From then she as a designer grew, she began to design for high profile fashionistas, because of her high quality materials her lines were more expensive than most. She was an extremely well dressed lady herself, and her styles attracted women to her elegant evening dresses and high quality clothes. She designed for high profile celebrities such as Princess Diana and American First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto

A new look was to begin, one which was to shy away from the bold, shocking fashion statements. Breaking the typical 80s fashions were two Japanese designers, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. Showcasing flat shoes, no make-up, reserved, modest and secrecy, all these aspects were the hallmarks of this new 'look'.

Donna Karan

Donna Karen's fashion line, more commonly known as DKNY, was a well established fashion line of the 80s. Most famous for reinventing power dressing with her seven piece collection, which enabled women to mix and match items to form a sexy, fashionable look. Setting up her own label in 1984, her designs won instant popularity among active urban women who greatly appreciated the understated luxury of her clothes. She also was one of the innovators of the 'bridge' line, a collection of clothes less expensive of the high fashion lines, therefore making it more affordable to a wider market.

Ralph Lauren

Beverly Hills was home to the first men's and women's Ralph Laurens clothing boutique. First opened in 1971, because of the affordable prices he offered, the brand became a sensation. The number one of American ready-to-wear, Lauren was equally successful with his sportswear and jeans, which allowed him to reach the widest possible range of social classes and age groups. Most famous for his light weight polo shirts, even today these are a popular fashion statement.

Perry Ellis

The Perry Ellis label was a central success of a new wave of American sportswear. Established in 1978, he was known for using colour and natural fibres to make great clothing. Throughout the 80s the business began to expand creating Perry Ellis Collection and Perry Ellis Portfolio, revenue had risen from $60 million from the beginning of the 80s to $250 million to the late of the 80s.

Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali was one of the main designers who gave us the typical '80s look' we would think of today; sweat bands, shoulder pads, head bands, leotards, leg warmers, etc. She made the jogging look fashionable. She was also the creator of the 'rah-rah skirt'.

Manolo Blahnik

Known for his stylish, classic stilettos shoes, Manolo Blahnik kept simple and elegant shoes on trend. He had a good following from celebrities who describe his shoes as jewellery for the feet; it's not what they are but how they make you feel. They were first made for the designer Ozzie Clark, and have features worldwide in fashion shows for Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, Yves Saint Laurent and others.