Fashion is an industry that’s always on the hunt for the next big thing. Yet, in researching a new book about a century of style, “WWD 100 Years, 100 Designers,” executive editor Bridget Foley found some constants.
“So many designers, when they talk about their work talk about women first,” Foley says. “There’s an ongoing idea and a belief among the very best designers that you have to push forward, but also that you also always have to consider what women will wear.”
For all the declarations of trends, including hemlines, silhouettes and embellishments, Foley finds that most garments — be they skinny jeans or pencil skirts — are consistently available year after year, even when they’re not winning headlines.
And, she adds, however modern and urban we like to think black is, women have been wearing it — regularly — since the 1920s.
The power of buzz has been around even longer.
Some of the designers included in the book were chosen because they literally changed the shape of fashion: Paul Poiret, Claire McCardell and Christian Dior, among them. But someone such as Gabrielle Chanel (known, of course, as Coco) really created an entire culture around a brand.
A 1965 WWD quote about Chanel: “Chanel is more than a look — it’s an institution — it’s a belief and a way of life — which this clever and very crafty artiste has done. She knows that her ever hungry Fashion Barbies are women and girls who eat and drink and dance — and love.”
Winnowing down this list of most influential designers to 100 was harder than it sounds, especially balancing new talent like Jason Wu against Dior and Oscar de la Renta, Foley says.
“Is this all good fashion?” she wonders. “I’m not sure it’s all good fashion, but it’s all representative fashion, and much of it is really good.”
Others who made the cut: Giorgio Armani, Cristobal Balenciaga, Andre Courreges, Francisco Costa, Calvin Klein, Charles James, Norma Kamali, Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte, Donna Karan, Madeline Vionnet, and both Gianni and Donatella Versace.