There are so many great designers that shaped the 20th century that I had to continue this series. Fashion not only tells us about the period they were created in, but it also reflects our moods. It can be a staple or symbol of status. For example, a black suit reflects power and sophistication as well as sorrow and grace. It is worn during a professional job interview or at a funeral. It was created for women in the 20th century, as women’s fashion became more comfortable and stylish. Also, fashion in the 20th century became big business for men and women, where “brands” became just as popular as the cut of the dress or jeans. Here are some designers that created signature pieces that made them household names.
- Tommy Hilfiger — When you see Tommy Hilfiger clothes, his signature red, white and blue colors jump out at you. He began his fashion career in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that his clothing line took off. At age 18, he opened his first store, The People’s Place, in his hometown of Elmira, New York, where he sold “hippie” clothes. He had a successful chain, but an economic downturn hit his stores hard and he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1977. He bounced back when he met Indian entrepreneur Mohan Murjani in 1984. Hilfiger was given the financial backing he needed to start his own label and went on to build a lifestyle clothing empire.
- Vera Wang — Known for her wedding gowns, Wang did not set out to be a fashion designer. After college, Wang was hired at Vogue as a rover. She worked her way up to become the magazine’s youngest fashion editor. In 1987, she left Vogue to work for Ralph Lauren. The switch to fashion designer happened when she was planning her own wedding. She was an older bride and noticed the styles were geared towards younger women. This pushed Wang to start her own wedding boutique and design gowns that were elegant and classic. She branched out to engagement rings, dinnerware, cosmetics, eyewear and a clothing line.
- Ralph Lauren — Lauren’s passion for fashion began as a teenager. He combined the classic lines of 1940s clothing (he admired Cary Grant and Fred Astaire) with “preppy” looks. He began his fashion career in the 1960s as a salesman for Brooks Brothers. Lauren first designed neckties for Beau Brummell under the Polo label. In the next decade, he designed suits for women with a men’s cut. The iconic polo shirt with the polo player logo was designed in 1972. As with many fashion designers, Lauren expanded his empire to include fragrances, home decor, shoes and dinnerware.
Originally published on lilawalter.com on April 30, 2019.