Fashion designers, unquestionably, are some of the most influential people in society, especially for the elite and high class. Here are some of the most famous and the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century.
- Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. Born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, Coco spent her early years of life in the orphanage of a Roman Catholic monastery where she learned how to sew. A classic rags-to-riches story, she left school in 1901 at the age of 18 to work with a local tailor. During this time, she began to design hats, which attracted the attention of the elite, including her lover French millionaire Ettiene Balsan--her gateway to high Parisian society. In 1910, she started her boutique. After World War I, she entered the spotlight on the fashion scene by using common fabrics and plain designs to create elegant and unique minimalist styles. Chanel died in 1971, yet her name continues to live in the fashion world. Still today, her famous perfume, Chanel No. 5, enjoys popularity. Chanel, being famous for introducing pants to women's fashion, is the only person in the haute couture field to be named by TIME Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
- Calvin Klein. Born Calvin Richard Klein, he was one of several designers raised in the Jewish immigrant community, amongst Robert Denning, Ralph Lauren, etc. He studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Though he did not graduate, the New York fashion institute considered him as one of their notable alumni, awarding him an honorary Doctorate in 2003. Calvin Klein started designing coats in 1968. After a year, he appeared on the cover of Vogue. He designed wardrobes to answer the needs of women to dress for any occasion. He launched his first company in 1968, and since then has diversified his product line to include clothes, perfumes and jewelries.
- Ralph Lauren. Notable for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing line, he started in humble beginnings as a road salesman for a neck-wear manufacturer. In 1967, he launched his Polo ties, but his pinnacle of fame and success started when his design was used in the 1974 movie of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic "The Great Gatsby" starring Robert Redford. Presently, according to Forbes Magazine, Ralph Lauren is the 224th richest person in the world, with estimated riches of $2.8 billion.
- Yves Saint Laurent. Born in Algeria, this French designer is considered as one of the greatest and most influential persons in the fashion world. Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, most popularly known as Yves Saint Laurent, is considered the pioneer of ready-to-wear fashion. He updated 1920's fashion when he first conceptualized the RTW scene. In 1966, Yves made another fashion mark when he introduced power suits for women, specifically for the career woman, and smoking jackets for men. Saint Laurent was honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and became their first living designer to be given an award. Yves died on June 1, 2008 due to brain cancer.
As artists, fashion designers turn their creations into powerful forces in the society's culture. Because of their designs, their names are known worldwide and will continue being known through the years.