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History of French Fashion Designers

History of French Fashion Designers

France has remained the hub of fashion revolutions throughout history. If we were to list every trend subsequently adopted by the world in later centuries, we would have enough content to fill a book. 

Instead of focusing on the trends that took the French fashion world by storm, discussing French fashion designers and their contribution to the fashion industry is a much better route.

Let’s discuss the most famous and influential fashion designers throughout the history of France. 

Since we could not include every one of them, we have made sure to add a list of the most important ones and highlight their contributions and impact on the fashion industry. 

1. Coco Chanel

Photo of Coco Chanel from the 1920s.
Photo of Coco Chanel from the 1920s
Image by Eleanor Jaekel from Flickr

Coco Chanel’s real name was Gabrielle Chanel. She was born in Saumur, France, in the year 1883.

Chanel’s most significant contribution was not in her ideas but the spirit behind her inventions. As she was not the most conventional female fashion role model, her trends reflected the same. 

Chanel took French fashion by storm and reinvented femininity through her tomboyish female wardrobe. She launched her “little black dress” in the market. It was made of tweed and flaunted much more neutral colors. 

Chanel was on a mission. She hoped to change the attitude towards the female wardrobe as female dressing had never been reinvented for its functionality. She wanted other women to feel as comfortable as she felt in her clothes. 

For the first time, women could breathe freely (quite literally, as Chanel freed them of the corset). Chanel’s business was not focused primarily on women’s dresses. Her main passion was to do with accessories such as hats. 

After Chanel opened her first shop, she normalized the use of the color black. Women didn’t just have to rely on the color when mourning. They could wear it whenever they wanted. 

It was Chanel who encouraged women to dress well, even when they weren’t planning to meet anyone, lest they have an unexpected date with destiny.

Chanel wasn’t merely a fashion designer; she was a legend who forever changed the definitions of femininity for women around the world. 

2. Dior

Dior Fashion Store.
Dior Fashion Store
Image Courtesy: Pxhere

Another popular name amongst French fashion designers is Dior. Christian Dior was born in a small town named Granville in France in 1905. He loved to experiment with designing even as a young boy and wanted to further his passion for creative arts. 

Christian wasn’t always passionate about fashion. He initially had his heart set on Architecture. However, as people lost their confidence in the economy following the era of the Great Depression, Christian shut down his art gallery and became an apprentice for Robert Piguet

Dior slowly worked his way up to working with Pierre Balmain and soon opened a couture house. He was motivated by the depression era. He believed fashion could bring people out of their misery. 

Women were often confined to their homes, and since they were allowed to work, fashion was the one source of expression they had. In the era of rationing, this happiness was not possible. However, Dior wanted to create something affordable yet fashionable to bring back happiness to their lives. 

Dior introduced two collections before 1947. The “New Look” collection was the popular one, and it would soon influence fashion trends all around the world. This collection contained dresses with rounded shoulders, a shapely waist, and A-line skirts that hadn’t been seen before the 40s. 

It didn’t take Dior much time to change the face of French fashion. He proved that you didn’t have to dress conventionally to look beautiful. He encouraged women to laugh in the face of adversity and celebrate their fashion choices, even when people were rationing. 

3. Yves Saint Laurent

Mondrian Fashion by Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent.
Mondrian Fashion by Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent
Eric Koch for Anefo , retouched by Jan Arkesteijn, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent, born in 1936, came into the fashion industry with one goal. He wanted to change the way people perceived women’s clothing. He worked for Dior for many years as a teenager but eventually moved on to his brand in 1966. 

Saint-Laurent partnered with Pierre Berge, gaining popularity and success early in his career. Many of his important pieces were quite sensational in the fashion world. These included jumpsuits, the pea coat, and the female tuxedo. 

Women’s clothing took a turn in 1966 after the first women’s suit was created, and the women’s tuxedo was just a part of that. Many actresses and famous personalities flaunted the beautiful tuxedo throughout the coming decades. 

Laurent taught women that they could step outside the boundaries of femininity and still have access to styles that were just as beautiful. It wasn’t fashion but confidence that set them apart. 

4. Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin Company Logo.
Christian Louboutin Company Logo
Image by Phillip Pessar from Flickr

Louboutin changed the way women walked the red carpet forever. Stilettos were already a thing before Louboutin came along, but he took it one step further. Christian Louboutin’s style outwitted many other French designers already present in the women’s footwear industry. 

Louboutin was no stranger to fame and celebrities as he grew up with stars like Mick Jagger. Soon enough, he stepped into the fashion industry and worked for famous French fashion designers. His interest was in women’s footwear, and some designers listed above heavily inspired him. 

Like all fashion designers, Louboutin wanted to enter the fashion industry with a bang. However, he struggled for many years before getting inspired by the red nail color of his assistant. This sparked the red Louboutin soles we see today.

Unlike in the past few centuries, Louboutin taught his customers to walk with their heads held high. 

5. Hermès

Thierry Hermès.
Thierry Hermès (1801-1878), founder of Hermès
Image Courtesy: Picryl

Hermes is known for his bags all over the world. However, he wasn’t always popular. Hermes, also known as Thierry Hermes, started a harness workshop in 1837. He knew all about designing the best riding gear, and that was what he aimed to do. 

Hermes worked hard for many decades to perfect his saddles and bridles. He was most passionate about the leather bags which would hold food for the horse, room for saddles, and space for other riding accessories. 

Hermes found a gap in the market and utilized it. By 1920, the company had started producing accessories and clothing for the general public. He created the Kelly Bag and the famous Hermes scarves.

He is also known for silk ties, Eau d’Hermes, and the Birkin Bag. This functional bag is probably the first bag that was geared toward a female CEO, being way ahead of its time. 

6. Givenchy

Givenchy Front Store.
Givenchy Front Store
Gunguti Hanchtrag Lauim, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We can’t talk of French fashion designers without mentioning Givenchy. Hubert de Givenchy was born in 1927 and fully immersed himself in the fashion industry by 1944. He started out by assisting Jacques Fath in Paris but soon branched out to Piguet and Schiaparelli. 

Everyone knows Givenchy’s famous couture house, which was opened in 1951. This was for one invention only. Givenchy is known for the “Bettina Blouse” design around the world, which was a minimalistic plain white cotton blouse. 

Givenchy went on to design costumes for Audrey Hepburn, and she inspired him for many more creations to come. Givenchy also launched “Givenchy Gentleman” for men, which affected men’s fashion and how fashion designers viewed the same. 

Givenchy trod the lines between casual wear and formal wear, creating clothes that were ready-to-wear but looked bespoke. 

7. Lacoste 

Rene Lacoste Playing Tennis (On the Right).
Rene Lacoste Playing Tennis (On the Right)
Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-07746 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

We can’t forget Rene Lacoste. Lacoste is a favorite all around the fashion world. It is not just for his tennis skills but his eye for fashion. Rene was popularly known as “The Crocodile” through his tennis skills, and this went on to form his logo.

In many parts of the world, people will refer to the quintessential design as a polo shirt, be it a Lacoste creation or not. This is a great example of a brand identity becoming eternal. Lacoste formed the first polo shirt and marketed it in 1933. This was a comfortable jersey shirt with buttons in the upper half. 

Lacoste went on to launch different products, which included polo dresses, cardigans, and perfumes. 

Fashion Redefined!

Fashion isn’t just defined by the popular choice of the century or decade. It isn’t a trend you should abide by but a personal choice you should relish. Take pride in your individual preferences, as these are what set these fashion designers apart from others in the market. 

The unique quality that popularized the designs created by French fashion designers was not going with the times but against them. Most of the designers listed above saw a gap in the market or negative attitudes that needed to shift. All they did was give the people a push in the right direction.

Redefine the fashion you have abided by and rethink your choices. After all, fashion should mean empowerment and not create chains that eventually bound you to society.  

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