80s/90s Fashion Designers

80s/90s Fashion Designers

Miuccia Prada

Miuccia Prada, born Maria Bianchi, is arguably one of the most influential contemporary fashion designers. She started her career at the end of the 70s, inheriting her grandfather’s luxury leather goods company which he founded in 1913. She took over in 1978 upon meeting her husband who had a rival leather goods company. He became her business partner and she designed. Before settling into her career, she had previously studied to be a mime for five years at the Teatro Piccolo, did her PhD in political science and was a member of the Italian Communist Party. She was also involved in the women’s rights movement in Milan where she spoke out for reproductive rights and accessible childcare. In an interview for Vanity Fair in 2019, she said: “To be a leftist feminist and doing fashion, I felt so horrible and so ashamed.” feeling that her politics didn’t align with the industry.

In 1985 Prada launched her first successful handbag design, which was a line of black, finely woven nylon. Her choice to use nylon as the material was inspired by her visit to a factory that specialized in the production of military tents and parachutes made from weaving the super thin thread on 19th century machines. The military grade nylon was water resistant, and Miuccia saw it as a great alternative to leather that was light, practical, and long lasting.

By 1989 she had introduced her first women’s RTW collection.

The first backpack was dubbed the “Vela” and featured a flap top, D-ring strap closure, drawstring opening, no lining or branding, and was available in black or brown nylon. A mid-sized version was introduced shortly after, named the “Rucksack” and featured an exterior pocket as well as what would become her signature metal triangle label.

The addition of the logo label cemented the Rucksack as an “anti-status status symbol”, redefining what luxury goods could be. She began incorporating the same nylon in her RTW clothing as well. Perhaps this was the beginning of the quiet luxury trend!

Miu Miu, named after her own nickname, was introduced in 1993. It first showed at Milan Fashion Week and then in 1994 at New York and London Fashion Weeks. The line was meant to be a less expensive womenswear line that was inspired by her personal wardrobe.

She also introduced Prada menswear in 1993.

Prada has always been devoted to supporting artists, and in the mid 90s she founded Fondazione Prada, a contemporary art institute that is a stand-alone exhibition space.

In 2011, Prada hired women filmmakers to create a series of shorts for an ongoing project called Miu Miu Women’s Tales. Dressing their actresses in Miu Miu, the directors (which included a few well known names like Ava Duvernay, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Miranda July and Chloë Sevigny) were given total creative freedom.

Miuccia has continuously set the trends we see dominate each season, from the resurgence of the classic nylon bags, to puffy headbands or the micro-est of mini skirts and belt tops. She is credited with coining the term “ugly chic”, thanks to her memorable SS 1996 runway show in which she used clashing 70s shades of chartreuse greens, browns, orange and lilac. It was both loved and hated. The clothing was described as stiff and unflattering. This contrasted Tom Ford’s sleek collection for Gucci, and ultimately made her stand out even more. So much so that Madonna wore a chartreuse trouser suit from the collection to the VH1 Fashion & Music Awards in 1995. She won for Most Fashionable Artist.

The runway show featured all the top models of the day, including Amber Valetta, Kate Moss, Shalom Harlow, Carolyn Murphy and Kristy Hume.
Fashion journalist Tim Blanks referred to this show as Prada’s “turning-of-the-tide pretty/ugly collection”. The show shocked fashion journalists, comparing it to the way Dior’s New Look shifted the fashion landscape in 1947. Designers like Marc Jacobs, Jonathan Anderson and Edward Meadam were all inspired by Prada’s unabashed styling throughout their careers.

Azzedine Alaïa

Azzedine Alaïa (born Alaya) was born in Tunisia in 1935. He was raised by his grandparents, with his twin sister who was a key inspiration for his fashion pursuits. The French midwife who delivered him, Madame Pineau, introduced him to fashion and painting, and would buy him issues of Vogue. She enrolled him at the School of Fine Arts of Tunis when he was 15, which was underage. He studied sculpture and then his sister taught him to sew so he could do her sewing homework. He worked for dressmaker Mme. Richard, to help pay for school supplies. Through Mme Richard, he met Habiba Menchari, who was famous for her lectures on the emancipation of women in Tunisia. She encouraged him to go to Paris and with the help from a Tunisian friend and client of Dior, he got an internship with Dior at his workshop.


He moved to Paris in 1957, during the Algerian War, and Dior fired him four days after he started because it was frowned upon to hire North Africans. However, this didn’t stop Alaïa from being accepted into France’s upper echelon of society. He reached out to Habiba’s daughter Leila, who helped him get an apartment. He was then introduced to the Tunisian wife of a French architect. She helped him furnish his apartment and they invited him to their salons frequented by famous artists. He began to make her and her friends dresses and met French poet Louise de Vilmorin at the salon. She introduced him to her circle of friends by inviting him to the salons she hosted, where he met more fabulous women like Cécile de Rothschild. He was very shy, and broke at the time, which she knew, but she accepted him and would send a chauffeur to pick him up.

He continued to privately dress high society women while working for designers. Leila was a fit model for Guy Laroche and introduced Alaia to him. He then worked for Laroche from 1958-59.

Rothschild brought Greta Garbo to him, and she asked him to make her a large coat. Courrèges’ little gabardine coats were popular at the time so he thought her coat was unfashionable. She requested three more and he kept the patterns. “I learned everything I know from women. I never took any courses in design, and my periods working with couture houses, from Dior to Guy Laroche, were too short. So it was women like Garbo, and especially Louise de Vilmorin, who taught me everything”

In the late 70s, he met Thierry Mugler with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. Mugler asked him to design tuxedo suits for his FW 79/80 collection. He was tapped by Charles Jourdan to design knitwear, and came up with a series of very tight garments that Jourdan refused, so Alaïa kept them.  

In 1980 he produced his first RTW collection, and his tight dresses were being worn by all of the big time fashion editors which received a lot of attention.

Bergdorf Goodman asked to carry his line in 1982. The New York Times later considered his line’s arrival one of the landmark events that altered the cultural landscape of the city. 

In the late 80s, Alaïa paid forward the kindness he received during the war to the teenage girls who would eventually become supermodels in the 90s. Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell all walked for him.

His friend at Elite would invite him to his model search contests, and Alaïa asked if he could hire the girls to model for him. He let them stay with him because they were so young and their parents did not want them staying at hotels. Naomi Campbell lived with him for a year! He was very protective of them all, and he would advise them not to do mediocre runway shows. Rather than payment, they asked for his clothes and this symbiotic relationship catapulted everyone’s profile.

Through the 90s and 2000s he continued to maintain his status as one of the top designers, only showing when he felt like it and not relying on making It bags and perfumes.

His name was part of a pop culture moment in 1995 thanks to Clueless. Cher Horowitz was reluctant to get down on the ground when being robbed at gunpoint because she was wearing a red Alaïa dress. The gun wielder wasn’t empathetic. “You don’t understand, this is an Alaïa!” “It’s like a totally important designer!”.

Marc Jacobs 


Jacobs was born in New York in 1963 and grew up in New Jersey. He worked at an avant-garde clothing boutique as a teenager. He studied at Parsons School of Design and won the Perry Ellis & Chester Weinberg Gold Thimble Award and Design Student of the Year in 1984. He designed and sold a line of sweaters as a student. He also designed a collection for Reuben Thomas while still a student. 

He formed Jacob Duffy Designs with his business partner Robert Duffy after graduation. He designed the first Marc Jacobs collection in 1986 backed by Onward Kashiyama USA, Inc. He was the youngest person ever to receive the CFDA’s Perry Ellis award in 1987. In 1988, Jacobs and Duffy joined Perry Ellis womenswear as creative director/vice president and president after Ellis’ untimely death. He won womenswear designer of the year from the CFDA in 1992. 


He designed a now historic ‘grunge’ collection for SS ’93 inspired by the style of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, who allegedly burned the pieces he sent them from the collection. He dressed Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other 90s supermodels in a layered mix of floral dresses, stripey t-shirts, Doc Martens , Converse and flannel shirts. He was one of the first designer’s to bring grunge to the runways. It was a critical success but commercial failure, leading to his dismissal.

Steven Meisel shot a story for US Vogue in December 1992 called ‘Grunge & Glory’ based on the collection with styling by Grace Coddington.

Jacobs Duffy Designs launched Marc Jacobs International Company LP in 1993. In 1994, he produced his first menswear collection. In 1997, he became the Louis Vuitton creative director where he started a RTW clothing line. 

Marc by Marc Jacobs was introduced in 2001, which ran until 2015. 

The Marc Jacobs brand has fine arts driven and avant-garde advertisement campaigns, often featuring a group of cultural icons and artists, in lieu of traditional fashion models.

The documentary “Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton” was released in 2007. 

He hosted a Met Gala in 2009 with Kate Moss. 

Jacobs was on Time magazine's "2010 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world”.

He made his acting debut in 2012 in the film Disconnect. 

He became the creative director of Diet Coke in 2013.

In 2013, It was revealed that the faux fur used in many of his garments was actually raccoon dog fur from China. 

He left Louis Vuitton in 2014. 

He directed a short campaign film starring Jessica Lange in 2014.

He won another CFDA womenswear award in 2016 and MTV presented him with their first Fashion Trailblazer award in 2019. 

He reissued his Perry Ellis grunge collection in 2018. He was also sued by Nirvana LLC for using the Nirvana logo without permission in his designs. He claimed that he had invented grunge in the 90s and counter sued. 

He released a polysexual line of clothing called Heaven in 2020.  

we have this 90s grey silk dress available in the store that is very reminiscent of a dress worn by Kate Moss for his Perry Ellis grunge collection. Click the picture to go to the product page. 

Karl Lagerfeld 


Karl Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg in 1933. He befriended Yves Saint Laurent in 1955 when they both entered a fashion competition, Lagerfeld winning best coat design and Saint Laurent winning best dress design. Pierre Balmain was a judge at the competition and he hired Karl as his assistant. 

In 1958, Karl became the artistic director of Jean Patou. He worked at Tiziani and designed freelance for many brands including Charles Jourdan, Krizia and Valentino. Fendi hired him in 1965 for their fur line, remaining with the brand until his death. 

He worked alongside Gaby Aghion at Chloe from 1966 before taking over the brand in 1974. He toyed with styles from the 30s and 50s. In the 70s, his work with Chloe made him a world renowned designer, contributing to the Big Look or Soft Look of the decade. His work in the 80s joined other designers in showing heavily structured designs with tight skirts and large shoulders harkening back to the 40s and 50s. His love of the 18th century was on display during both phases with elements like lace, bicorn millinery styles and button sided spats/leggings. 

He was hired by the then dying house Chanel in 1983 and brought it back to life.

He made great use of the double C logo, as well as gold chains, multi tier pearl necklaces and quilting. He made the 80 year old house one of the hottest of the 1990s. He reinvented the classic Chanel tweed suit with a mini skirt, bringing it up to date. 

In 1984, he founded his own Karl Lagerfeld brand to channel “intellectual sexiness”. 

In 2002, he collaborated with Diesel to release a limited edition line of denim jeans.

In 2006 he launched ‘K Karl Lagerfeld’, a line of jeans and t shirts for men and women. 

Vogue made a documentary about him in 2007 called ‘Lagerfeld Confidential’. That year, Fendi became the first brand to host a fashion show on the Great Wall of China. 

FIT awarded him the Couture Council of Fashion Visionary Award in 2010.

In 2013, Chloe Sevigny appeared at the ’60 years of Chloe’ event in New York wearing a violin dress which Karl had designed for the brand in 1983.

In 2015, he was presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards. 

Lagerfeld was recognized for his signature white hair, black sunglasses, fingerless gloves, high starched detachable collars and his cat Choupette which he designated 1.5 million dollars to in his will. 

He died in early 2019 from pancreatic cancer. 

The final Chanel collection completed before his death had an alpine theme of après-ski clothing.

Lagerfeld was memorialized on 20 June 2019 at the Grand Palais with "Karl For Ever", a celebration of the designer's life, which featured a career retrospective highlighting his tenures at Chloé, Fendi, and Chanel.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art honoured the designer with a retrospective of his work called Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty which included more than 150 objects. This was the theme of the Met Gala this year, with celebrities turning out in droves donned in his vintage designs and designs inspired by his work. 

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