What makes a fashion designer truly one of the greats? Trends come and go, but legacy lasts forever. And in the fashion industry, lasting impact means pushing further than anyone has gone before. For these 20 fashion icons, from Edith Head to Coco Chanel, breaking boundaries is their favorite pastime; ordinary isn't an option.
1. Vivienne Westwood
In contrast to the life she’d later lead, Vivienne Westwood’s early days were modest. Born into a working family, she herself trained to be a teacher as a young adult. Still, everything changed when she met Malcolm Mclaren, who would become her partner and introduce her to an entirely new world. In 1971 he opened a clothes store, which is where Westwood first showed off her flair for design.
Westwood’s clothing designs soon came to define the burgeoning punk era, but she continued to develop and innovate from there. Nowadays, she’s considered to be one of Britain’s greatest designers. Her legacy includes bringing the corset back into fashion, establishing the notion of underwear working as “outerwear,” and the invention of the “mini-crini.”
2. Giorgio Armani
Giorgio Armani didn’t waltz straight into the fashion industry; his background is in medical school and the military. By the middle of the ’70s, though, he’d started to develop his own line of clothing, which really took off in 1980 after his designs appeared in the film American Gigolo. It was only up from there, with the Italian’s design business steadily becoming a bona fide empire.
Armani clothes have a very distinct “look.” The colors tend to be quite restrained — grays, navies, and beiges —sometimes with some understated patterns, such as dots and stripes. The distinction between men and women’s wear has never been particularly stark, an approach considered especially bold back in the ’80s. Gender fluidity wasn’t exactly a talking-point in those days.