Through his alter ego/nom de plume, The Countess Louise J. Esterhazy, John B. Fairchild kept a sharp eye on designers and their doings throughout the decades. In advance of the 2000 millennium, the Countess took stock and compiled her own “Fashionary” of the designers who mattered most.
Goodness knows, I’ve spent several lifetimes at fashion shows perched on those way-too-small gilt chairs, trying to read the designers’ runes. Sometimes it’s enough to make even the most voracious fashion chronicler wonder about the point of it all. But over the years, there HAVE been designers who have set one’s heart (or something, at least) aflutter, and I’m often quizzed about them. Here is my primer of the 74 designers who, one way or another, have covered the world’s bodies (and, to be safe from all those egos, I’ve done it alphabetically).
Alaïa, Azzedine: Influential in fashion, even if he claims that his entire life is about his “children” — his five dogs and three Persian cats.
Armani, Giorgio: Revolutionized women’s and men’s styles some time ago.
Balenciaga, Cristóbal: The designer’s icon.
Balmain, Pierre: Prettified women of a certain age.
Beene, Geoffrey: His own bag.
Blass, Bill: Sporty Americana.
Bohan, Marc: Always the right chic.
Cardin, Pierre: Licensed to kill.
Castelbajac, Jean-Charles de: Paris sportswear.
Cavanagh, John: He chic-ified his English clients.
Céline: Michael Kors to the rescue.
Chanel, Coco: The fashion queen of the century.
Chloé: Stella McCartney.
Clark, Ossie: He made London swing.
Courrèges, André: Sixties smash.
De la Renta, Oscar: Socially dressed.
Demeulemeester, Ann: Favorite of the fashion nuns.
Dior, Christian: Simply Dior.
Dolce & Gabbana: Eccentrically trendy.
Elbaz, Alber: Good luck at Saint Laurent.
Ellis, Perry: Collegiate chic.
Fath, Jacques: Glamour, glamour and bows.
Fendi: Fur enough.
Ferragamo: A growing empire.
Ferré, Gianfranco: A big man for big women.
Galanos, James: California’s hero.
Galliano, John: The greatest show on earth.
Gap: Beware! Four stars — with stylists.
Gaultier, Jean Paul: Paris’ Second Coming?
Givenchy, Hubert de: Le Grand One, and Audrey Hepburn.
Gres, Alix: Those scissors around her neck cut perfect clothes.
Gucci: Hard style.
Halston: An American icon.
Hermès: A chic horse.
Hilfiger, Tommy: Rah, rah — Wall Street loves him.
Jacobs, Marc: Sportswear’s best for Louis Vuitton.
James, Charles: Architectural cuts.
Karan, Donna: Great bodies for not-so-great ones.
Kawakubo, Rei: Japanese “noh” theater.
Klein, Calvin: The professor of trends.
Lacroix, Christian: His own romance.
Lagerfeld, Karl: The Kaiser.
Lang, Helmut: He’s it — now.
Lanvin: An institution.
Lauren, Ralph: He made Polo a worldwide trademark.
Mandelli, Mariuccia: Krizia’s roar in the fashion jungle.
Margiela, Martin: Pretentious influence.
McCardell, Claire: The mother of American sportswear.
Missoni: Fashion rainbow.
Miyake, Issey: Kabuki.
Mizrahi, Isaac: Hollywood galore.
Molyneux, Edward: England’s glory.
Montana, Claude: Sportswear opera.
Moschino, Franco: Fun.
Mugler, Thierry: Tough chic.
Muir, Jean: An underrated, but perfect, Miss.
Norell, Norman: An ode to Balenciaga and Chanel.
Oliver, Andre: Cardin’s chic side.
Ozbek, Rifat: Turkey’s delight.
Prada, Miuccia: Now the queen of Italian fashion.
Pucci, Emilio: The father of Italian fashion.
(Mc)Queen, Alexander: A cheat for a Q, but there isn’t anyone else even close. The king of Celtic technicians.
Rykiel, Sonia: Staying power.
Sander, Jil: Precision engineering.
Saint Laurent, Yves: Forever an icon.
Trigère, Pauline: Cut up.
Ungaro, Emanuel: Perfection of a Balenciaga disciple.
Versace, Gianni: Triumphantly vulgar.
Westwood, Vivienne: Joy to the eccentric.
X, Miss: The pseudonym for Mr. Dior in the days of the Orbach’s copies.
Yamamoto, Yohji: The best of the Japanese.
Zoran: His cashmere cult.
Well, class, there are no more letters. But there are plenty of other designers. One could say there are too many to mention. So I won’t — and it’s up to you to guess why.
— Louise J. Esterhazy