The fashion industry has seen tremendous growth since its birth in the 18th century. Ideas spread from the European fashion capitals including Paris to the United States in the 19th century with the introduction of the textile industry from Britain. Back then, dressmakers and designers learnt the trade through an apprenticeship system and designers used to tailor to each specific client by going to their home where the customer could make every decision. Some of these traditions are still visible today as some of the world’s most iconic designers started their fashion journey as apprentices.
The British designer Vivienne Westwood is considered to be one of the most unconventional and quirky designers of our generation. She was born Vivienne Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire, in 1941. She started her working life in a factory before enrolling at a teacher training school. She has always claimed that her childhood was dominated by the industrial revolution rather than art, literature and theatre. After meeting her husband, Malcolm McLaren, an art student and future manager of the Sex Pistols, Westwood found herself at the heart of punk rock movement, which culminated in her opening a boutique shop on Kings Road in 1971. She then dressed the Sex Pistols before moving onto various styles when the punk era started to fade.
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The iconic American designer Calvin Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1942. After studying fashion in New York he went on to be an apprentice for a suit manufacturer. He finally established Calvin Klein Ltd in 1968 thanks to a $10,000 loan from a friend and savings. The business has now expanded to include home wear, fragrances and cosmetics as well as clothing, which are now creatively directed by Francisco Costa.
The luxury fashion brand, which was founded in 1854, is now one of the most searched for in the world. Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in a small Hamlet in France. His working-class ancestors included carpenters, joiners and farmers. After his mother died when he was only 10, he left for Paris at the age of 13 after several years of family problems. After his two year long journey, a teenage Vuitton found work in Paris as an apprentice for a box-maker and packer – a very respectable craft. In 1852, Napoleon’s wife, Eugenie de Montijo, hired the young Vuitton as her personal box-maker and packer. This would prove to be an excellent gateway to the wealthy aristocracy. He then went on to open his own shop and to sell trunks which proved popular. After the devastation of the civil war, Vuitton managed to open up another shop on Rue Scribe in the heart of new Paris. His son Georges took over after his death in 1892 to continue the luxury leather and lifestyle fashion brand we see today.
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We are now seeing a new crop of fashion designers emerging through the ranks including Marissa Webb, Brood, jewellery designer Tomasz Donocik and British footwear designer, Zoe Lee. Lee’s journey started in Toronto where she was born to a Japanese mother and Canadian father. She graduated from Central St. Martins and the Royal College of Art where she went on to be tutored by the famous luxury footwear designer Manolo Blanhik. Lee soon began working at Vivienne Westwood in 2003 before launching her first line of women’s shoes in January 2012 which can be found in Mayfair and online. Her latest collection focuses on the importance of texture and the projection of the crafted silhouette.
Jenny Booker is a freelance copywriter from London. Her passions include fashion photography, art and mango sorbet.
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