Like Cher or Madonna, Valentino Garavani is better known simply as Valentino. Born in northern Italy in 1932, Valentino was infatuated with fashion at an early age, gaining apprenticeships and training with many local designers. After a stint in Paris working under notable fashion designers Valentino started moved to Rome where his signature scarlet dresses that have since became his trademark was born. Then in the sixties, Valentino took a risk that ultimately catapulted him into stardom: he sent Jacqueline Kennedy a series of his pieces. The First Lady was enamored by the designs and even chose to wear one of his dresses when she married her second husband. While currently retired and residing in Rome, he remains a significant figure in the fashion world for his timeless designs and truly inspired taste.
Born in Paris and educated in London, fashion designer Phoebe Philo has been adding clean and chic silhouettes to the French luxury brand, Celine for years now. Creating her minimalist mark at the fashion house, Philo's collections for Celine are modern, sophisticated, and most importantly wearable. Designing signature and instantly recognizable color-blocked coats and bags have won Philo an incredibly dedicated fan following. In June 2011, Philo was awarded the title of "International Designer of the Year" by the CFDA and her loyal fans have even been dubbed the "Philophiles" by the fashion press.
American designer Tom Ford graduated from Parsons The New School for Design with a degree in architecture, but soon realized his love for fashion while interning at Chloe's press office. He has gone on to work for Perry Ellis, completely transform the Gucci brand, and become Creative Director for Yves Saint Laurent. In 2005 he announced the creation of the TOM FORD brand and its first flagship store opened two years later on Madison Avenue in NYC.
Chloe, Fendi, and Chanel have all notably been touched by the hands and soul of the notorious Karl Lagerfeld. He was born in Germany in the 30s (he remains very secretive about the actual year of his birth), moved to Paris at 14 to work as a draftsman, by 17 was working for Pierre Balmain, and Valentino soon to follow. Vogue has called Lagerfeld the "unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment," and today his many ventures include designing everything from shoes to wedding dresses to crystal art collections.
Diane von Fürstenberg began designing women's clothing in 1970 and three years later introduced her iconic knit jersey wrap dress, for which she is most widely known today. Due to its influence on women's fashion, one of her wrap dresses sits proudly in a collection at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2005, she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and named their president.
Confidence, sexy femininity and precise tailoring encompassed McCartney's first runway collection and soon became her signature style. After producing only two collections, she was named the Creative Director of Chloe in Paris in 1997. In 2001, she launched her own fashion house with the Gucci Group (now PPR Luxury Group). Growing up in the English countryside and being a lifelong vegetarian, you will never find fur or leather used in her clothing, accessories or lingerie.
As a high school sophomore, Posen interned with Nicole Miller, at 18 was accepted to London's prestigious Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design, and debuted his first runway show by 21. Growing up in Manhattan's trendy Soho neighborhood, Posen was a fashion fiend from a young age and parlayed his passion into a successful career, producing couture gowns along with the more afforable Z Spoke line for Saks Fifth Avenue and a collection for Target.
As one of the many who passed away before their prime, Alexander McQueen was a true visionary in the fashion world. Born in Lewisham, London, McQueen was the youngest of six children and started constructing dresses for his three older sisters at an early age to satisfy his creative itch. McQueen's early runway collections were controversial and known for their shock factor. Using expert tailoring, drama, extravagance and innovative designs to the runway McQueen's designs were fanciful and rebellious and ultimately earned McQueen four "British Designer of the Year" awards as well as the CFDA's "International Designer of the Year" award in 2003.
With a number of prestigious awards under his belt from the Parsons School of Design, Jacobs moved onto working for Perry Ellis, but was let go from the label after infamously designing a "grunge" collection. By 1994 he had produced his first full collection of menswear and in 1997 was made Creative Director of Louis Vuitton, where he remains today as well as Head Designer for his own label.
Few brands can quite pull off the distinctive yet subdued, sensual yet European kind of simplicity?except, of course, Giorgio Armani. Born in Piacenza, Italy in 1936 Giorgio Armani had a variety of different careers growing up, from photography to medicine. After working for the fashion house Nino Cerruti, Giorgio decided it was high time he branched out, debuting his first women's wear collection in 1974. Said to be always influenced by menswear, Giorgio brought immaculate tailoring and clean cuts to his ladies ensembles. Elegant and fresh, he is famous for his sophisticated pieces that are not only wearable but altogether timeless. Today, owning an Armani suit and separates is a status symbol for both men and women.
When inspiration for your first collection comes from Sophia Loren, you know you have something special. Not afraid to celebrate the curvaceous female form, the masterminds behind Dolce & Gabbana. Stefano and Domenico have created signature styles including corset dresses, gangster pinstripes and sexy black suits. The company was started by Italian designers Domenico Dolce (born 13 August 1958 in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily) and Stefano Gabbana (born 14 November 1962 in Milan). By 2005 their turnover was ?597 million. The two met in Milan in 1980 and worked for the same fashion house. In 1982 they established a designer consulting studio; in time it grew to become ?Dolce & Gabbana?. While they have produced menswear collections, they will always be known for their desire to make a woman look and feel "fantastically sexy," and stand out as Hollywood's number one choice of designer.
Gabriell "Coco" Chanel was born in 1883 in France and spent her childhood in an orphanage where she was taught to sew by nuns. At 20 she opened her first shop in Paris and sold hats, was soon after making clothing, and by the 1920s launched Chanel No. 5 - the first perfume to feature a designer's name. In 1925, she introduced the now legendary collarless suit jacket and fitted skirt. She remained Chief Designer of her line until her death in 1971.
Relatively new in the fashion world, Italian-born Riccardo Tisci is already making quite the impact. Having graduated from London's Central Saint Martins Academy in 1999, he was soon picked up as Creative Director for Givenchy womenswear and haute couture. After success in this position, he was also named as menswear and accessories designer of the Givenchy men's division in 2008. Adding street style (and a touch of Goth) to luxury garments has drawn new attention and fans to the Givenchy Brand. With youthful energy that is at times melancholic, Riccardo Tisci has made this respected French fashion house his own, and there is certainly more to come.
Donatella Versace, younger sister of Gianni Versace, is the current Vice-President and chief designer of the Versace Group. In the 70s she followed Gianni to Florence on his pursuit of knitwear design. Instead of doing public relations for him, she ended up serving better as his "muse and critic." After Gianni's death in 1997, Donatella went on to spread the Versace name throughout Europe and the U.S., making her A-list celebrity friends the image and persona of the brand.
Born in 1932 and trained by the famous Cristobal Balenciaga and Antonio Castillo, Oscar de la Renta (or Oscar Aristides de la Renta Fiallo) first gained international acclaim after he become one of the couturiers to dress First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960's. Combining his Latin American passion and adoration for bright and festive colors and an exquisite eye for luxury fabrics and embellishments, Oscar de la Renta has a truly innate ability to design beautifully feminine garments. Perhaps most well-known for his red-carpet gowns, Oscar's eponymous fashion house continues to dress some of the most notable celebrities and leading women of our time