60s & 70s Fashion Designers Spotlight

60s & 70s Fashion Designers Spotlight

Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo

Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo was born Jorge Alberto Imperatrice in Argentina in 1933. He studied architecture, industrial design and ceramics in Florence, Italy. He even studied with Picasso for 6 months, which led to an apprenticeship with Disney in Hollywood in the mid 60s. However, after only 15 days, he quit the apprenticeship and moved to New York. He first worked there in textile and interior design before moving onto jewelry. Diana Vreeland noticed it and he was featured in Vogue. She hired him as a stylist and this resulted in the iconic 60s shots of Veruschka wrapped in fur in the desert and Twiggy with psychedelic flower makeup around her eye. 

He opened his own ready to wear business in 1966. 
The CFDA writes:
“Di Sant’ Angelo showed his first collection in 1968, a whirlwind tour through the styles of the Incas, Aztecs, Navajos, and Eskimos. Kaleidoscopic prints, feathers, tie-dye, and suede fringe reflected the ease and flamboyance of the times. His successive collections were filled with ideas and references from around the world—Greek goddesses, Amazonian queens, peasants and princesses.”

He experimented with knits and collaborated with textile mills and leather makers. He cited various cultures as inspiration in his work and is remembered for contributing to the hippie look of the time. 

He designed couture collections as well as more affordable lines and won the Coty award in 1968 and 1970. 

His most important contribution to women’s fashion was his use of stretch fabrics in designs that wrapped and clung to the body.
His business grew throughout the 1970s with Angelica Huston, Isabella Rossellini and Bianca Jagger as fans. 

He eventually licensed out his name and this resulted in overly commercial fashions that didn’t possess his signature style. His influenced waned in the late 70s and early 80s before a comeback in the late 80s. He won a CFDA award in 1988. Unfortunately his comeback was short lived as he died from lung cancer in 1989. 
He was given a plaque on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York.

Oscar De La Renta 

Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932. He studied painting in Madrid at 18, while illustrating clothing for newspapers and magazines for money. Francesca Lodge (the wife of a US ambassador) saw some of his sketches and commissioned him to design a dress for her daughter. The dress went on to appear on the cover of LIFE magazine. 
He was soon apprenticed to Cristobal Balenciaga. In 1961, he moved to Paris and became an assistant to Antonio del Castilllo at Lanvin. Diana Vreeland of Vogue advised him to work at Elizabeth Arden in New York, which he did for 2 years before leaving for the house of Jane Derby. Jane died in 1965 and Oscar took over the label, renaming it Oscar De La Renta. 
He quickly came to represent casual luxury to society women. He was one of the first to make the maxi dress popular in the late 60s, replacing the mini. 

He became well known for dressing Jackie Kennedy and indeed many subsequent First Ladies.  
He designed Russian folk, Indian and Middle Eastern inspired collections in the late 60s and early 70s, leaning into bohemian styles. They were decidedly romantic and feminine looks with silk prints and ruffles abounding. 

His designs often had a Spanish or Caribbean influence, inspired by flamenco dancers, the tropics emerging in printed motifs as well as embellishments reminiscent of Matador costumes.
Oscar was a lifelong gardener and floral motifs were also prominent throughout his work. 
He married Francoise de Langlade, editor of French Vogue, in 1966. Through her, he dressed every It girl in town. 
He won the Coty award in ’67 and ’68 and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in ’73, when he was also elected the organization’s president. 
His first wife sadly passed away in 1983 and he remarried in 1990. Socialite Annette Engelherd was his second wife. 
He received the CFDA lifetime achievement award in 1990 and designed haute couture for Balmain from 1993 to 2002. 
He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and died of complications in 2014 at the age of 82. 
In 2014, the George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted an exhibit titled "Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style" which shared the designer's creations for Mrs. Bush and America's First Ladies.
*Photos from the late 60s/ 70s era. 
Sources: Oscardelarenta.com, fashionhistorain.net, businessoffashion.com, Thecut.com, bushcenter.org, Vogue.com


Roy Halston Frowick was born in Iowa in 1932 and moved to Indiana as a teen. He enrolled at the school of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1952 and worked as a window dresser while studying. He opened a hat business in 1953. His hats were bought by such famous names as Hedda Hopper and Gloria Swanson. He moved to New York in 1957, working for milliner Lilly Daché and becoming co-designer there within a year. He then went on to become head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman. 
He received a lot of attention after Jackie Kennedy wore one of his pillbox hats to JFK’s inauguration in 1961. 

He moved on to designing clothing when hats went out of fashion. He opened a boutique on Madison Avenue in 1968 and his ready to wear line launched in 1969. He became known for simple, minimalist designs that were also glamorous and comfortable. He told Vogue that he got rid of "...all of the extra details that didn't work—bows that didn't tie, buttons that didn't button, zippers that didn't zip, wrap dresses that didn't wrap. I've always hated things that don't work." This was the same sensibility that his contemporary Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo had. 
He became known for using the new fabric Ultrasuede in his designs, as well as cashmere and jersey. He redefined American fashion and created a relaxed urban style for women. 

He told the New York Times in 1972 that “pants give women the freedom to move around they've never had before. They don't have to worry about getting into low furniture or low sportscars. Pants will be with us for many years to come—probably forever if you can make that statement in fashion."
He earned a legion of loyal celebrity followers and fostered a close friendship with Liza Minnelli. He was frequently photographed at studio 54 with her and Andy Warhol. 

He earned 30 million dollars in his first few years in business. 
He sold his business in 1973 but remained as principal designer. He also participated in the famous Battle of Versailles fashion show that year. 
Vogue credited Halston for popularizing caftans (which he made for Jackie Kennedy), jersey halter top dresses and polyurethane in fashion. 

His entourage of models became known as ‘Halstonettes’, a term dubbed by André Leon Talley. He was one of the first designers to hire models of varying ethnic backgrounds. Pat Cleveland and Alva Chinn were two such models. 
In 1974, he was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame. 

He was one of the first designers to create a ‘unisex line’, with items like fur coats, argyle sweaters and leather jackets.
He designed uniforms for the US Olympic team in 1976 and for Braniff International Airways in 1977.
Halston debuted the ‘swinger dress’ in his 1977 RTW collection. He said that “the cut has the prettiest movement of any dresses I have made recently. It flows a little more — it’s easy to walk in, and easy to run in.”

In 1979, Halston and 27 of his Halstonettes went on an international tour to promote American fashion, all dressed in streamlined sportswear in complimentary colours. 
He licensed his designs to JC Penney in 1983 in an affordable line called ‘Halston III”. No other high end designer had ever licensed their designs to a mid-price retail chain. The result was that his brand identity became ‘cheapened’ and Bergdorf Goodman dropped him from their store. 
He began losing control of his business and the ownership of Halston Limited changed hands numerous times until he was fired because of his drug use and banned completely from having any involvement. The line continued on with various designers until 1990 when the clothing line was discontinued. 
He sadly passed away in San Francisco in March 1990 from Kaposi’s Sarcoma, an AIDS-defining illness. He was 57. Liza Minnelli sponsored a tribute to him at the Lincoln Center. 
He has been the subject of a number of documentaries and retrospectives, and most recently a Netflix mini series.

At the time of his death, Revlon owned his brand and continued Halston perfumes to the present day. The clothing portion relaunched in 1997 and has changed hands and designers more times than we can count. 
Halston, the designer, is remembered as defining disco-era American fashion. 

Christopher McDonnell

Christopher McDonnell received a fashion degree from the Royal College of Art in London. His first job was working with the fashion team for the magazine Queen. In 1967, he launched his own label with a couple of friends as business partners, originally called Marian-McDonnell.

His first collection earned a double page spread in American fashion magazine Women’s Wear Daily. He consequently was more well known in the States initially. He cited a main inspiration as Balenciaga. The label became known for woollen and jersey knitwear as well as its use of silk and tweed. He had a French approach to tailoring. 
In 1970, as part of the short lived group ‘London Designer Collections’, McDonnell showcased his work alongside Mary Quant, Ossie Clark and other members of the London fashion scene.

In 1971, he was chosen along with 10 other UK designers for an exhibition at the Louvre. The outfit he designed comprised of a tweed tunic, tapestry patterned sweater, blouson short pants with leggings and a doeskin cape. 
By late 1971, he was teaching at the Royal College of Art.
In 1973, his business partnership dissolved and he established Christopher McDonnell Ltd.

He also developed a diffusion line for raincoat makers Quelryan that year. The line consisted of embroidered cotton, velvet and seersucker coats.
A 1973 article in the Guardian newspaper noted that "He has a feeling for fabrics, whipping up the luxury naturals...in pure silk, raw silk, heavy linens, cottons, natural wools and cashmeres...His day clothes provide the perfect balance of the tailored and the dressmakery."
He sold his business in 1974 to the bank Slater Walker. 
In 1975, his business was singled out as one that was likely to survive the arrival of cheaper mass market brands. 

Slater Walker withdraw from the brand in 1976 and left him completely broke and the business under new ownership. 
He collaborated with coat maker Andre Peters on a designer collection. He then worked abroad for two years before returning to the UK in 1980 and working for the couturier Mattli. 
He later became a fashion tutor at the Savannah College of Art and Design. 



Adolfo Faustino Sardiña was born in Cuba in 1923 to an Irish mother and a Spanish father. After his parents died, he was raised by his aunt who brought him to fashion shows in Paris. He served in the Cuban army before immigrating to New York in 1948. He became an apprentice milliner, working for Erik Braagaard, Bergdorf Goodman, Balenciaga and Chanel. He worked as chief designer for hat company Emme from 1953-58. He won the Coty award for millinery in 1955. His hats featured frequently on the cover of Vogue. 

 Vogue Adolfo Hat

Bill Blass helped him open his first salon in New York in 1963 and he began designing clothing as well as hats. Here, he established his customer base with people like the Duchess of Windsor, Betsey Bloomingdale, Babe Paley, Nancy Reagan and CZ Guest. 


Adolfo created many of the masks and headpieces worn by guests at Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball in 1966. 

The heyday of hats was over but luckily his clothing turned out to be even more exciting! It was extravagant and elaborately ornamental. His 1960s "fun and fantasy" looks included richly embellished bolero jackets, organdy blouses, and evening ensembles made from antique patchwork quilts which were worn by the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt. He won another Coty award in 1969.


He switched his design approach at the start of the 70s, offering more understated clothing like fur trimmed cardigans, knit dresses, pyjama suits and ballgown skirts paired with sweaters. His knits were easily adaptable to the separates revolution that was happening at the time. Adolfo's "Chanel jackets" and knit daywear became best-selling designs from the early 1970s onwards, and a design signature throughout his career.

He launched lines of menswear, scarves and perfume in the late 70s. 

In the early ’80s, Sardina was described by a Saks Fifth Avenue executive as “the designer, who has captured the mood and times of America. This is his moment.”

He became a member of the CFDA in 1982. 

Nancy Reagan wore Adolfo creations to both of President Ronald Reagan’s inaugurations in 1981 and 1985.


He retired in 1993 but continued to receive an income from his licensing agreements. His perfume alone brought in 5 million dollars in 1995. 

He passed away in 2021 at the age of 98. 

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