Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel got the nickname “Coco” from a cabaret song she performed to earn money in the Moulins district. She learned to sew in a convent school in Correze, but had always known that the life of a model mother and wife was not for her. As a true suffragist, at the beginning of WWI she stripped women of chemises, bustles and corsets, liberating their silhouettes and allowing them to breathe in muted, modest and slightly masculine clothes. She was the first designer to use jersey and fabrics previously used only for undergarments on a large scale and her tweed jacket serves as a monument of fashion in the wardrobes of the most stylish people in the world. Who would have though that Chanel’s designs, which were considered scandalous and avant-garde a hundred years ago, would be the pinnacle of classic style and elegance today.
While Coco Chanel created the little black dress, no-one did more to popularize it than the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn. The development of the actress’s unique style was largely influenced by the French fashion house Givenchy, which was responsible for costumes in film hits like Funny Face and the aforementioned Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn signature feminine dresses straight from the Roman Holiday and cropped cigarette trousers in black are back in 21st century collections.
The French model, singer and actress was the face of the social and moral revolution which swept through Europe in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Bardot wore clothes which accentuated her perfect figure. She showed off her beautiful legs with miniskirts and dresses, and posed for bold photo shoots in two-piece swimsuits – she is credited for popularizing the bikini. However, the item of clothing which puts her on this list is the Bardot, a balconette bra with detachable straps named after her.
Every international runway star should thank Eleanor Lambert. Why? Because it was her idea to organize the first New York Fashion Week in 1943. Lambert was a shrewd businesswoman, who worked in PR and represented artists the likes of Jackson Pollock and Isamu Noguchi. She made use of her sense of style and large network of contacts to bring Paris’s high fashion to New Amsterdam. In 1962, she created one of the most important fashion institutions in the world, the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America).
Before the energetic, confident and uncompromising Anna Wintour became a living legend of fashion, she worked for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and the scandalizing Viva, which was full of refined eroticism. After she came back to London in 1986, she became the editor-in-chief of the British Vogue and changed the face of the magazine forever. Wintour created the phenomenon which today is often referred to as the Fashion Bible. As editor-in-chief, she completely changed the magazine’s profile, more specifically – its target audience. Wintour’s intuition told her that the magazine shouldn’t be catered towards a closed group of spoiled trust fund kids, but towards strong, independent women who have their own money to spend and are interested in the world of business. She wanted to create a guide for the working women, who despite being busy want to be up to date with the latest trends in fashion, art and culture. Today, Anna Wintour is not only a style icon, but a true fashion dictator, who’s never wrong.
The US has always been jealous of the UK because of… the royal family. Suddenly, the aristocratic Kennedy family entered the political stage and Americans became obsessed with their life and style. When John F. Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States, the world’s eyes turned to the charming, warm and extremely elegant Jackie Kennedy. Women around the world were inspired by the classic, unique style of the first lady. They copied her hairstyle, wrapped scarves around their heads, wore oversize sunglasses and suits consisting of a jacket and a simple knee-length skirt. To this day, Jackie Kennedy remains to be an unattainable ideal of elegance and style.
Her photographs appear on covers of magazines the likes of Vanity Fair, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar UK. As a fashion photographer and portraitist, Leibovitz was one of the first women to make it in the men’s world. Her career took off when her photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared in Rolling Stones. However, what really solidified her position was the photograph of a naked, pregnant Demi Moore, which appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in August 1991.
She was Vogue’s editor-in-chief for 10 years, during which she completely changed the form of its fashion shoots. When she was in charge, Vogue presented bold couture fashion, usually in collaboration with the controversial Terry Richardson. In the ‘90s, Carine Roitfeld coined the phrase “porno chic” – a style which was a reference to pornographic films from the 70s. After years, she admitted that the only thing she really appreciated about porno chic was the chic.
It was her – or in fact the funny and stylish Carrie Bradshaw she portrayed – who made the world go crazy for Manolo Blahnik shoes. Sarah Jessica Parker is often confused with the confident columnist from Sex and the City, whose outfits dazzled the audience. Although Sarah Jessica Parker is very different from the character she played, there are two things that they both love – fashion and New York. Parker has always graced the red carpet with refined and original outfits. She made history with a pink dress from Narciso Rodriguez, which was actually a subtle maternity look. Today, SJP is the undeniable icon of New York style.
Although her latest album Joanne is less eccentric that some may have expected, Lady Gaga went down in fashion history for her artistic, pioneering outfits. The singer’s looks have always been bold and original – the meat dress, the Kermit the Frog outfit or her fashion tribute to David Bowie. Without a doubt, Lady Gaga likes to prove that fashion is the most avant-garde art of all.