France has a rich history of producing cutting-edge fashions and history-making fashion designers. Paris became known as a fashion capital in part because of the host of haute couture designers that call Paris home.
Pierre Cardin is known for his avant-garde style and most famously launched the bubble dress silhouette in 1954. He first started in the fashion industry as a design assistant to Christian Dior. In 1959, Cardin created a fashion line for the French department store Printemps, which was not well-received by the French haute couture community. He licensed his name to more than 800 products during his career.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel began her illustrious fashion career as a hat designer in France. During her lifetime, she popularized several enduring fashions: the “little black dress,” tweed suiting, quilted handbags and the iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance. Chanel is also credited with making suntanning fashionable for women. She lived in the Ritz hotel in Paris until her death in 1971. Seven years later, in 1978, the Chanel line produced its first ready-to-wear collection.
Before getting into the fashion industry, Christian Dior opened an art gallery and sold fashion sketches on the streets of France. He was initially hired as a dress designer, and is most popular for designing what became known as the “New Look” for women: cinched waists and full ballerina-length skirts. Dior is known for embracing licensing, a practice in which he sold other companies the right to use his name on products that they manufactured.
Jean Paul Gaultier never received formal design training. In search of design work, he sent his fashion sketches to various designers and was hired as Pierre Cardin’s assistant in 1970. Gaultier became known for his risque, edgy work. In the 1990s, Gaultier produced tour costumes for Madonna, including the well-known “cone bra.” He designs his own ready-to-wear and couture lines, as well as a separate clothing line for the French fashion house Hermes.
Before becoming a fashion designer, Christian Lacroix studied art history and originally intended to be a museum curator. The pinnacle of his fame occurred during the 1980s. He is most well-known for designing the short “pouf” skirt and for his use of rose prints. Lacroix closed all of his fashion shows with a model in bridal fashion. He received a 1987 Council of Fashion Designers of America award as an influential designer, In 1988, he began a ready-to-wear collection.
Jeanne Lanvin began her fashion career as a hatmaker and went on to create the oldest Parisian fashion house, Lanvin, in 1889. Inspired by her daughter, Marguerite, she became known for the coordinated mother/daughter outfits and exquisite dresses that she designed. Lanvin traditionally used floral prints, textured fabrics and extensive embellishments in her work.