YEAR IN REVIEW: A Crash Course on Fashion History

  • December 5, 2018

Over the course of the last year, we over at Lifestyle Asia have been releasing numerous fashion heritage stories about our favorite luxury brands. As we reach the end of year (and begin our “Year in Review” features) we look back at seven interesting fashion stories of top international designers we’ve covered. Included in our write-ups below are links to the original stories, for those interested in having a “crash course” in fashion history.

Coco Chanel in her iconic style
Coco Chanel in her iconic style

Coco Chanel

Born in a small French town, Coco Chanel wasn’t always the luxury designer she is now known to be. She worked as a performer in a nightclub before capturing the fancy of a rich gentleman that ultimately helped her set up her business. Year later, she invented revolutionary garments for women, including the jersey dress (she made out of an old t-shirt) and the little black dress. Behind the glamour, there were also many scandals. Associated with the Nazi party, Chanel fell from the graces of the fashion world before having a big American comeback in the 1950s.

RELATED READS: How Coco Became Chanel

Balenciaga fitting one of his mosnters
Balenciaga fitting one of his “monsters”

Cristobal Balenciaga  

Cristobal Balenciaga is now one of the most influential designers of all time. Contemporary Christian Dior once said “he was the master of us all”. A very private person, Balenciaga was known for his eccentricities and very controlling nature, which later inspired Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 film Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day-Lewis in a role based on Balenciaga. A tortured artist who understood construction and beauty, he was the designer of European royalty and socialites, who liked to call his models “the monsters.”

RELATED READS: The Mad Genius of Cristobal Balenciaga

Edith Head with her eight Academy Awards for Costume Design
Edith Head with her eight Academy Awards for Costume Design

Edith Head

Although not a fashion designer like everybody else on this list, Hollywood costume designer Edith Head is one of the most influential people in fashion. She is the winner of eight Academy Awards, and was nominated 35 times, more than any other woman in history. Head dressed everybody in Golden Age Hollywood, from Audrey Hepburn to Elizabeth Taylor, and is also credited for minutely helping Givenchy kick start his career (they worked together in 1954’s Sabrina). Head is best known known for her elegantly constructed movie costumes that were often mass-produced by department stores after women went crazy for them.

RELATED READS: Have You Heard of Edith Head, the Costume Designer with 8 Oscars?

Gianni Versace is one of fashion's all time great designers
Gianni Versace is one of fashion’s all time great designers

Gianni Versace

Gone too soon, the legendary Gianni Versace made his mark in the fashion world with his sexy silhouettes and bright contrasting fabric choices. In our most recent fashion essay, we delve into Versace’s life, from his early beginnings learning how to sew with his seamstress mother in Italy, to his shocking murder in front of his Miami mansion in 1997. The latter inspired the Emmy-winning television series The Assassination of Gianni Versace, starring Edgar Ramirez as the famed designer and Darren Criss as his murderer, Andrew Cunanan.

RELATED READS: Gianni Versace: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Hubert de Givenchy in his workshop; IMAGE: courtesy of Robert Doisneau/Rapho
Hubert de Givenchy in his workshop

Hubert de Givenchy  

In our very first fashion heritage story on this website, we looked into the relationship of French couturier Hubert de Givenchy and Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn. Their partnership began in 1954, where Givenchy collaborated with Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head to create Hepburn’s looks for the classic film Sabrina. After that, Givenchy was Hepburn’s go-to designer. He made her outfits both for the silver screen and for personal use. Their friendship lasted till Givenchy passed away in 1990. What was left behind is a legacy like no other, films filled with the most beautiful of garments, and a multi-million-dollar business.

RELATED READS: Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn: A Love Story

Halston quickly rose to be one of America's most influential designers
Halston quickly rose to be one of America’s most influential designers

Roy Halston

A revolutionary designer of the 1970s, we explored the iconic figure’s rise and decline in fashion. He started off at Roy Halston Frowick, to eventually being referred to as simply Halston, one of the 20th century’s most influential designers that dressed the It-Girls of the party scene (like Liza Minnelli, Catharine Deneuve and Bianca Jagger). However, Halston’s reckless life of partying (he was a frequently sighted at the infamous Studio 54-night club in New York City), led to the demise of his prestigious brand.

RELATED READS: The Rise and Fall of a Man Named Halston 

Yves Saint Laurent (Photograph courtesy of theredlist.com)
Yves Saint Laurent (Photograph courtesy of theredlist.com)

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent is definitely one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture. Bullied as a child, Saint Laurent moved to Paris at the age of 17, where he pursued his education at a local design school. By the age of 21, he was the head designer for the House of Dior, succeeding Christian Dior himself. After his time at the French fashion house, Saint Laurent branched out on his own, and by the time he died in 2008, he accumulated a net worth of $500 million through his namesake label.

RELATED READS: The Cult of YSL: How Yves Saint Laurent Climbed His Way to the Top of Fashion