The late Yves Saint Laurent often said he wished he’d invented blue jeans; for Karl Lagerfeld, it was the white shirt.
When WWD asked designers from around the world during the recent round of fashion weeks to name the one thing in fashion they wish they had invented, the answers were often predictable — jeans and the trenchcoat came up repeatedly — but also varied, ranging from the humble aglet to socks and Spanx.
Here’s what they had to say.
Adam Lippes: Havaianas. They’re the white T-shirt of shoes. Everyone wears them and anyone can afford them. That I love.
Albert Kriemler, Akris: A double-face jacket.
Alessandro Dell’Acqua, No. 21: I would love to have invented the pencil skirt that has become No. 21 ultimate iconic. For me it represents a strong contrast between the rigor of the shapes and an extremely feminine attitude that allows me to play with both highly feminine and masculine materials. Every woman should have one in her wardrobe, since there is always the right occasion to wear it!
Anna Sui: I wish I had invented Liberty prints on Tana Cotton. Probably my all-time favorite fabric and type of print! Some of my personal favorite pieces of clothing are made from this. And I have used it for so many collections!
Antonio Marras: I wish I’d be remembered in the history of fashion as the one who invented the parka. This means that I’d have been immortal and that, being alive, I’d be the same age of dinosaurs. The parka has been used si
nce the dawn of time, when Inuit hunters had to cover themselves with layers of animal furs to protect themselves from the cold. The word parka actually comes from the Russian language, where it means furs of animals. What I love most about the parka is its revolutionary use: it went from being a typical garment of the American Army to a cult item representing the fight against the system.
B Michael: I wish I invented the black turtleneck. It’s the ultimate, timeless wardrobe item; it’s gender-neutral, classic, bohemian, international, instant chic, iconic…We would all love to know such a person.
Brandon Maxwell: LBD.
Chitose Abe, Sacai: I do something that’s the opposite. I like to take those items and alter them into something that’s not that piece anymore. I’ll take a suit and alter it so that it’s no longer a traditional suit. In a way, I’m the opposite thinking of that question.
Christian Lacroix: Working clothes like Oshkosh — so clever and practical. I adore, and still wear since more than 40 years!
Christian Louboutin: Denim and flip-flops.
Christian Siriano: I wish I invented the little black A-line dress. Something that women will wear for generations that always is elegant but powerful.
Christopher Bevans: Clothing that can be scanned and purchased IRL. What if we had a way to purchase garments people are wearing in real time by scanning the garment or by taking a photo of the garment the person is wearing? And what if we were able to buy it right then and it’s shipped straight to us because it’s connected to our Apple Pay and the brand can ship it to you same day just like Amazon Prime? That’s something I’ve actually done. When you say inventing a fashion piece, there’s always functionality and garment construction. That can be innovative, but I think of inventing in fashion to solve problems.
Christopher John Rogers: I try to look forward. I’m so happy that I’m making the things I’m making, with the team that I have. I don’t think that would be possible if the people that made the things before me didn’t make those things. So I don’t really know. Maybe ice cream. Having free, unlimited ice cream would be fun.
Claire Sullivan, Vaquera: Low-rise jeans. They stuck in my head but I think it’s crazy that no one had thought of that [before Alexander McQueen].
Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga: A color — black, because it makes anything more fashionable.
Dries Van Noten: I don’t need to invent something. I don’t consider myself as an inventor. I think I create things. For me, it’s just fun that you have all those options to create. For me, color and print stay the most important tools I have, like a painter has his tubes of paint. I play around with that. For me, it would be limiting to be connected always with one certain garment.
Gabriela Hearst: The brooch. I don’t know if it’s invented really, but Elsa Schiaparelli getting to work with Alberto Giacometti and Salvador Dalí making brooches and jewelry, I would have loved to have done that. Schiaparelli was the best, working with Armenian refugees from her first collection — talk about a woman who was really forward-thinking.
Guillermo Andrade, 424: I wish I invented the plastic aglet, simple, straight to the point and lasting impact across so many product categories. Imagine the royalties on that patent!
Heron Preston: Socks, obviously.
Idris Balogun, Winnie NYC: Without question, I would say the blazer, an architectural marvel in the fashion industry, the construction, tailoring and craftsmanship is second to none. The beauty of striking a pattern on cloth, cutting, sewing and hand finishing has always fascinated me and is a pillar for my work till this day. As a young boy on the row, I saw how this one garment kept an entire street bustling with new characters every day, I saw the heritage, and significance of a well-tailored suit.
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Proenza Schouler: The one thing we couldn’t live without, are both actually wearing right now, and wish we would have invented (!!!) is the perfect black, crew-neck, cotton T-shirt…a perennial classic in our eyes.
Jason Wu: I wish I invented Spanx…! I mean, I really do!
Jean Paul Gaultier: Jeans — the only piece of clothing that gets better with age… like people.
Jonathan Anderson: The cashmere sweater. There’s nothing better.
John Galliano, Maison Margiela: A trench coat. It seems synonymous with Maison Margiela and the gentlest quality. The double-breasted…The trench has given me so much inspiration.
Julien Dossena, Paco Rabanne: I would have liked to have invented the slip dress. I find it’s a very pretty piece that evokes a certain sensuality and, at the same time, a relaxed comfort. I really like that it is extremely delicate, originally intended to be worn underneath other clothing, but now has become something that can be worn on the outside.
Joey Gollish, Mr. Saturday: I wish I’d invented the trench coat. The combination of utility, elegance and versatility has stood the test of time and trend like no other. Plus, I probably own like 15 of them.
Kevin Germanier: I wish I’d invented the New Look. Every single season I go back to this iconic silhouette. The jacket-and-skirt combo is such a celebration of femininity after such a dark period. It was a genius move, and [to] have taken that risk at that time. Not such a practical “thing”; however, it is showing the power of fashion.
Kim Jones, Dior Men: White T-shirt, or jeans — the two genius things that everyone has to have…. Those two things are the pinnacle of design for simplicity and functionality. I actually have a pair of Levi’s from 1905.
Lamine Kouyaté of Xuly Bët: The shirt…or the T-shirt, that’s genius, such a great invention. It’s simple, it’s pragmatic and you can put slogans on it.
Lorenzo Serafini, Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini: I wish I’d invented the white T-shirt. It’s so hard to find the perfect one because it’s all about tiny details.
Marc Jacobs: I would have to say “the sneaker,” only because my first choice (the T-shirt) and second choice (blue jeans) have already been taken.
Marc Keiser, Keiser Clark: I wish I’d invented the leather biker jacket. The leather biker jacket is an American classic. Since its creation in the early 1900s the leather biker jacket has transcended generations coming in and out of style but always persisting as an American staple. Its utilitarian-military roots reinforce a rugged individualism that continues to speak to each generation and a wide variety of counter-cultures and subcultures…There’s just something forever rebellious and badass about it.
Mark Badgley and James Mischka: We wish we had invented the Little Black Dress. It’s a huge part of our business and we love doing them. That’s how we started our company. Our first collection was 12 Little Black Dresses and one red one. So actually, the Little Black Dress invented us.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior: Denim jeans, no doubt. Because it’s the most democratic, practical, functional object in the world.
Massimo Giorgetti, MSGM: I wish I’d invented the classic gray mélange fleece tracksuit.
Matthew Williams: The pin, zippers and scissors.
MI Leggett, Official Rebrand: I wish I invented the fake body shirt [a T-shirt printed with another person’s torso] because it draws attention to the often painful differences between our ideal bodies and our actual bodies, but in a lighthearted way. This resonates with me deeply as a non-binary/transmasc person, but it’s also something that practically anyone can identify with.
Michael Kors: Aviator sunglasses. They’re chic, cool and sexy, and they look good on everyone —whether you’re 17 or 77. From Brad and Zendaya to J.Lo and Jolie, they’re the ultimate punctuation point. And no one rocks them like Joe Biden!
Natacha Ramsay-Levi, Chloé: Shoulder pads.
Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton: Trousers. [Fashion editor] Polly Mellen once told me that with my trousers, you look great when you enter a room, but you look even better when you exit.
Olivier Rousteing, Balmain: The double-breasted jacket, because I always think it’s the chicest thing to wear when you go out.
Paul Andrew, Salvatore Ferragamo: The white T-shirt, which has slowly become my personal style signifier over the years, my favorite being the organic cotton crewneck from Sunspel. The casual elegance of this iconic garment is perfect in almost all of life’s sartorial situations.
Paul Smith: I’m not sure that there is anything I’m desperate to have invented, but one of my proudest and best achievements in fashion has been creating my “Suit To Travel In,” which is 100 percent wool, and doesn’t crease.
Phillip Lim: I wish I designed the sneaker — an item of fashion that we all have. I am a believer in design that has purpose, so a sneaker is a perfect marriage of form and function. It is something we all stand in to navigate present day.
Pierpaolo Piccioli, Valentino: Jeans. I always loved denim and Levi’s.
Pierre Davis: I wish I invented the black leather motorcycle jacket. It’s classic and versatile, but can also be interpreted in such an avant-garde way and always looks fabulous. It has this protection armor feel to it that I’m obsessed with.
Prabal Gurung: Right now, there is nothing more current or important than comfort and community. Pieces that look and feel effortless to wear have become the ultimate luxury, so I wish I had invented Lycra, which is a crucial element in lounge-worthy, comfortable clothes. Also, I wish I had invented Instagram! Not only did it completely change the face of the fashion industry, but it also helped everyone stay connected during the pandemic. People could enjoy all my creations from the comfort of their home.
Rhuigi Villaseñor, Rhude: I wish I invented cosmetics. ‘Cause it’s needed by a lot and transports people into a new way of being creative and into a new world.
Rick Owens: Platforms: I wish I had thought of something ridiculous like that.
Rok Hwang: I wish that I had invented the trench coat and the classic Macintosh.
Roksanda Ilincic: The color wheel. For me, color and what it represents, is central to my work. It isn’t simply what it brings aesthetically, but how it has the power to evoke emotions and bring unique narratives that enrich the end design.
Roland Mouret: I would have loved to have designed the famous green dress worn by Keira Knightley in the film “Atonement.” The color, the drape, the fluidity as she walks — it resonates closely with my style and adds so much to the scene. [The creator of the dress was costume designer Jacqueline Durran].
Stella Jean: What I wish I’d invented is definitely the women’s tuxedo, as Yves Saint Laurent beautifully designed it.
Stella McCartney: The zipper. There’s obviously a utilitarian element to it, and a really fierce element to it. It says sexy, fierce, strong. It does a job. It’s pure and simple and f—ing kickass. What a great piece of design. And it’s one thing. Levi’s — that’s a million things. A zipper is in a pair of Levi’s and in everything. It does something; it has a reason to live. Yes, I want to have invented the freakin’ zip. Who doesn’t need a zip?
Stefan Ayon, Stay Made: I wish I had invented the color black. It’s basically the absence of all color. Black means so much — piety, sexy, the difference between black nun outfit and lingerie. There’s femininity and masculinity in that color. There’s power and softness.
Tamara Ralph, Ralph & Russo: The corset. Ever since I was learning draping in school and stitching clothes as a little girl, corsetry has always fascinated me. I have always loved the construction, it’s so technical and difficult.
Teddy Vonranson: That’s easy: as an American designer, I wish I had invented the blue jean! I am not sure Mr. Strauss and Mr. Davis knew what they were getting into when they established the first patent for blue twill work pants with reinforced metal rivets. But besides being a very lucrative achievement, the blue jean has become the most popular clothing item worldwide next to the T-shirt and has transcended and evolved decade after decade with each twist and turn in fashion and style.
Tory Burch: I wish I’d invented the Seventies tracksuit — retro, sporty, cool and practical. Something I am very familiar with since COVID-19.
Tia Adeola: I wish I invented the blazer, but specifically the first blazer designed and fitted for women. There’s nothing more powerful than a woman rocking a garment that was originally intended for men and looking confident and chic in it.
Tomo Koizumi: Mine would be the ballet tutu skirt because it’s so perfectly cute!
Vera Wang: One word…leggings. As a competitive figure skater, a student at School of American Ballet, a physically engaged fashion designer, and a weekend athlete, comfort has always been first and foremost in my mind, my personal style and my life. Leggings were always the basis of my wardrobe, whether I layered them with great outerwear, delicate tops and pieces, tailoring or as underwear! It did horrify my daughters growing up, but now, the entire world “lives” in leggings and incredible ath-leisure pieces so I guess I can truly say, I wish I had invented Lycra first, but leggings for sure!
Veronica Etro, Etro: The shirt is the item that I’ve always wished I’d invented. The shirt is so versatile, it’s masculine and feminine at the same time, it’s elegant yet sexy. It’s formal, but is also perfect for the holidays and it can be customized and reinvented many times while remaining an ultimate radical garment.
Virgil Abloh: A hat made of clouds.
Wes Gordon, Carolina Herrera: The white T-shirt. Everyone looks their most beautiful and sexy and fresh in a white T-shirt, man or woman. I’m reading the Slim Keith biography right now — don’t ask me how I crossed paths with this book. I’m reading about this all-American, classic beauty, this original California woman, and this style. It’s a way to be dressed while totally setting the stage for your personality and your character. I also think of Carolyn Bessette, and all these iconic images of [chic people] in a white T-shirt.
Zac Posen: I wish I had invented the zipper, the snap, or Velcro!