TOP FASHION DESIGN HOUSES
The Chanel Headquarters
At MFH we try to instill in our young designers the importance of knowing the history of their craft. If this is
what they aspire to be, then know who are considered the best and their origins. Study their design styles
then go on and develop your own signature style.
In the paragraphs below we attempt to chronicle the beginnings and accomplishments of some of the most
famous houses in the history of fashion design.
The House of Chanel, more commonly known as CHANEL
Coco Chanel; born Gabrielle Bonhuer “Coco” Chanel August 19, 1883 – Saumur,
It is very difficult at best to convey the many accomplishments of Coco Chanel and her fashion empire in a
short space. She is arguably the most important figure in the history of 20th Century fashion. Chanel had a
modernist philosophy and she revolutionized haute couture fashion by replacing the traditional corseted
silhouette with the comfort of simple menswear inspired suits and long lean dresses. This influence on haute
couture was such that she was the only person in the field of fashion design to ever make TIME Magazines
100 most influential people of the 20th century list.
In 1909, Coco Chanel opened a millinery shop, under the name of ‘Chanel Modes’, at Rue Cambon in Paris.
Her hats were worn by famous French actresses who helped establish her reputation.
In 1913, Chanel introduced women’s sportswear at her new boutique in Deauville, France. Her line of jersey
clothing during WWI was a reaction to the lifestyle changes of that time. Coal was scarce and women took on
factory jobs while men were away at war. They needed clothing that was warm and would stand up to various
1915 was when Chanel’s clothing became known throughout France for prioritizing freedom of movement and
a variety of different designs. This was when she affirmed the house’s style of authentic, fluid and
comfortable lines. She then opened her first couture house in Biarritz, France to introduce her other fashion
In 1921 was the introduction of ‘Chanel No.5’ perfume. Considered the number one selling perfume in the
world, it pushed her into millionaire status and may have marked the true beginning of the unstoppable
Chanel empire. The perfume was created in 1921 by Ernest Beaux at the request of Chanel who described it
as “a woman’s perfume with the scent of a woman”. Its Art Deco bottle became a permanent collection piece
at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959. Chanel No. 5 was the first synthetic perfume to carry the
name of a designer. Another of her famous quotes is, “This perfume is not just beautiful and fragrant, It
contains my blood and sweat and a million broken dreams”.
All of Chanel’s clothes had the famous Chanel symbol on them. The symbol itself however, was not designed
by Coco Chanel. It was given to her by the owner of the Chateau d Cremet (located on the outskirts of Nice in
the south of France).
In 1923, Chanel told Harper’s Bazaar that “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”. Chanel always kept
the lines she designed simple, comfortable and revealing. She took what were considered poor fabrics like
jersey and upgraded them. Chanel also had influence in helping create the image of the 1920’s flapper. The
term flapper in the 1920’s referred to a “New Breed” of young women who wore skirts, bobbed their hair,
listened to the new Jazz music and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior.
The influential ‘Chanel Suit’, launched in 1924, was elegant outfit composed of a knee- length skirt paired with
a trim, boxy jacket, traditionally made of woven wool with black trim and gold buttons, worn with large costume
– pearl necklaces.
In 1925 came the signature cardigan jacket.
In 1926, Chanel introduced ‘The Little Black Dress’, greeted by Vogue as the ‘new uniform of the modern
woman.’ It’s blank-slate versatility allowed it to be worn for both day or night occasions. The Black Chanel
dress was strapless, backless and more than a little risqué for its time. It quickly became a must have in
virtually every woman’s wardrobe and premiered in the third ever edition of Playboy. This added to the
controversy surrounding Chanel.
In 1926 Coco Chanel popularized Classic Tweed Suits.
When World War II began in 1939, Coco Chanel closed her shops because she believed it was not the time
for fashion. She took up residence in the Hôtel Ritz Paris which would be her home for more than 30 years.
During the Nazi occupation of Paris, Chanel was criticized for having an affair with Hans Gunther von
Dincklage, a German officer and spy who arranged for her to remain in the hotel. In 1945 she moved to
Switzerland but returned to Paris in 1954, the year in which she also returned to the fashion world. As a
result of her relationship with a Nazi spy, her new collection did not have much success with the Parisians.
However, it was much celebrated by Americans who had become her biggest buyers.
In 1957 Chanel received the Fashion Oscar at the Fashion Awards in Dallas Texas.
In 1955 Chanel introduces the quilted bag with shoulder strap.
In 1955 Chanel launches her first eau de toilette for men – Pour Monsieur.
Always imitated over the years, Coco Chanel’s designs were manufactured across more price categories than
any other designer in the high fashion world. She was the one to introduce costume jewelry to the world of
fashion using a variety of accessories such as necklaces, chains or pearls of several strands. A bag with
golden handles, an elegant pearl necklace and a tailleur dressed in black are the symbols of elegance and a
status that forever marked the history of fashion. From her return in 1954, Coco Chanel remained the chief
designer of her empire until she died on January 10, 1971 in Paris, France.
Founder: Thomas Burberry 1835 – 1926
Thomas Burberry was born in Dorking, Surrey England. He trained as an apprentice to a draper. In 1856, He
opened his own drapery business called T. Burberry and Sons in Basingstoke, Hampshire.
In collaboration with the owner of a cotton mill, Burberry produced a waterproof coat based on the close
weave and loose style of an agricultural smock. This cotton cloth, named “Gaberdine”, was proofed in the
yarn before weaving, then closely woven and proofed again.
In 1891, Burberry established a wholesale business in London. His specialty was making Gaberdine clothes
for active leisure and for the sports field. Most popular was the smock-like “Walking Burberry” cut on straight,
easy – fitting lines with a fly-front and Raglan sleeves.
In 1902, Burberry established “Gaberdine” as a trademark and in 1909 “Burberry” was established as a
trademark for the company’s coats.
During World War I, Burberry designed coats for the British Royal Flying Corp(later the RAF). The military
style version of The Burberry became the Trench Coat of the first World War. It was made with a deep back
yoke, epaulets, buckled cuff straps, a button – down storm flap on one shoulder and storm pockets. After the
war, the Trench Coat became a part of civilian life. Known as “A Burberry”, it has been copied world wide.
During the 1920’s, Burberry introduced it’s famous checked fabric, which has been an instantly recognizable
trademark ever since.
In the 1960’s, Burberry made a it’s way into the fashion scene and the famous check was seen on umbrellas,
luggage and scarves.
In the 1980’s, Burberry made an effort to revitalize its brands and trademarks. This included retail expansion
opening stores in New York and other major cities.
In 1997, American store executive Rose Marie Bravo, gave up her $1-million a year job at Saks Fifth Avenue
in New York, to become CEO of Burberry. She turned a dormant raincoat company into a worldwide fad.
Burberry’s checked bikinis, shirts, bags, hats and bandannas began to sell so well that in 2001, Bravo
announced the highest profits in Burberry’s 100 – year history.
In 2002, despite a very difficult financial year, Burberry posted an 18% gain in annual revenue. Rose Marie
Bravo was rewarded with a $ 6 million pay bonus.
August 4, 1821 - February 27, 1892 was born in Jura France. In 1835, he moved to Paris. The trip to Paris
was over 400 kilometers (249mi) the entire distance traveled on foot. Through a number of jobs working for
the French Aristocracy, Vuitton developed expert knowledge of what made a good traveling case. It was at
this time that Vuitton began to design his own luggage at age 14 and began setting the foundation for the LV
In 1854, The Louis Vuitton Malletier (Trunkmaker) was founded on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris. In
1858 Monsieur Vuitton introduced his flat – bottom trunks with Trianon canvas. To counter the counterfeiters
of his look, Vuitton changed the Gray Trianon to a beige and brown stripe design in 1876. By 1885, the
company opened its first store in London, England on Oxford Street. After the death of Louis Vuitton in 1892
the company’s operation was passed to his son Georges Vuitton, who began a campaign to build the
business into a worldwide corporation. He decided to exhibit the company’s products at the Chicago world’s
fair in 1893.
In 1896 the legendary Monogram Canvas was launched with the worldwide patents on it. The patents proved
to be successful at stopping the counterfeiting. By 1914, the Louis Vuitton building opened on the Champs –
Ély sées. It was the largest travel goods store in the world at the time. Stores also opened in New York,
Bombay, Washington, London, Alexandria and Buenos Aries as World War I began.
In 1930 the Keepall bag was introduced. In 1932 the Noé bag was introduced, made originally for champagne
vintners to transport bottles. Soon followed the Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag (both are still manufactured today).
In 1936, Georges Vuitton passed away and his son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton took control of the company.
During the Vichy Regime, the Vuitton family actively supported Nazi Germany (for financial benefit of the
company), while it wielded heavy influence in France.
In 1959 The Louis Vuitton Company revamped its signature Monogram Canvas to make it more supple
allowing it to be used for purses, bags and wallets. This move expanded the line.
1963 was when the brand made its way to the big movie screen as Audrey Hepburn is seen carrying the bag
in the film Charade. In 1966, the Papillion was launched (a cylindrical bag still popular today). By 1977, LV
owned two stores with annual revenue up to 70 million francs ($10 million USD).
In 1978 LV opened the first stores in Tokyo and Osaka Japan.
In 1983, LV joined with Americas cup to form the Louis Vuitton Cup, a preliminary competition for the famous
At this time, Louis Vuitton would expand its presence in Asia with the opening of stores in Taipei, Taiwan
(1983) and Seoul , South Korea(1984).
1985 is when the Epi leather line is introduced. 1987 marked the beginning of LVMH. Moët et Chandon and
Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and brandy respectively, merged with Louis Vuitton forming
a luxury goods conglomerate.
By 1989, Louis Vuitton was operating 130 stores worldwide. In the early 1990’s Yves Carcelle was named
president of LV.
1996 was the centennial celebration of the Monogram Canvas in seven cities worldwide. After the 1997
introduction of the pen collection, Louis Vuitton made Marc Jacobs its Art Director in 1998. In March of 1999,
Jacobs designed and introduced the company’s first prêt-á-porter clothing line for men and women. That
same year, the Monogram Yernis line, The LV scrapbooks, and the Louis Vuitton City Guide were launched.
The close of the 20th century marked the released of the mini monogram line (1989), the opening of the first
store in Africa in Marrakech, Morocco (2000), and an auction at the International Film Festival in Venice Italy
where the vanity case “amfAR” designed by Sharon Stone is sold with proceeds going to The Foundation for
In 2001 Stephen Sprous, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, designed a limited-edition line of Vuitton bags
which feature graffiti written over the monogram pattern. The graffiti reads Louis Vuitton and certain bags
bore the Keepall and Speedy names.
In 2002, the Tambour watch collection is introduced and the LV building in Tokyo is opened.
In 2003, Takashi Murakami and Marc Jacobs created the new Monogram multicolor canvas range of
handbags and accessories.
2003 also saw the opening of Louis Vuitton stores in Moscow, Russia and New Delhi, India. In 2004, Louis
Vuitton celebrated its 150th anniversary worldwide.
Later in 2004, the brand inaugurated stores in New York(Fifth Avenue), Sao Paulo and Johannesburg. Louis
Vuitton also opened its first global store in Shanghai.
In 2005, Louis Vuitton reopened its Champs – Ély sées store (reportedly the largest LV store in the world)
and released the Speedy Watch collection.
In 2006 more inaugurations took place in houses located in New York and Taipei.
The last several years have seen publication of the “Louis Vuitton Icons” book, the monogram mini lin line,
and the Damier Azur line.
Over the years, the Louis Vuitton Company has carefully cultivated a celebrity following and has traditionally
employed supermodels and actresses to advertise its products. Print ads in magazines, selected press and
billboards in cosmopolitan cities have been the typical vehicles used for advertising campaigns.
Antoine Arnault, director of the communications department, has recently decided to enter the world of
television and cinema with the 90 second commercial themed “Where will life take you” ? It is translated into
13 different languages and is the first Louis Vuitton commercial ad ever.
Founder: Guccio Gucci 1881 – 1953
The House of Gucci; Florence, Italy 1921
Gucci is considered one of the most famous, prestigious, and easily recognizable fashion brands in the
The House of Gucci, better known simply as Gucci, is an Italian iconic fashion and leather goods label,
associated with leather goods for more than 100 years. In 1898 Guccio Gucci left Florence Italy to go to
London, where he worked as a maitre d’hotel at the Savoy Hotel. He was fascinated by the look of the
glamorous luggage used by the guests.
In 1905 he returned to Italy to start was selling saddles and saddlebags. He was very successful.
In 1922 Gucci opened his first store for leather goods and accessories decorated with an equestrian motif. In
1932 Guccio Gucci created the loafer shoe with a gilded snaffle. These are the only shoe’s to have found a
place in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
In 1938, a Gucci boutique was opened in Rome followed by a Milan boutique in 1949. Boutiques followed
worldwide run by Guccio’s four sons Aldo, Ugo, Vasco and Rudolfo.
In the 1950’s, Gucci’s “Flore” scarf was popularized by Grace Kelly.
In 1983, Rudolfo died of cancer and Maurizio his son, inherited his share and took over running the
business. In 1989, Maurizio became president of Gucci. He had a 50% share in the company. The other
50% was sold to Investcorp of Bahrein.
In 1990, designer Tom Ford was asked to join Gucci and together with Dawn Mello, the Executive Vice
President, they cut expenses by reducing products and reorganized the company completely.
By 1992, GUCCI was doing better financially and Ford’s design of a snaffle clog was a hit.
In 1995 Maurizio Gucci was murdered. His wife was convicted of his murder.
1995 was when Tom Ford introduced the “Jet Set” collection with velvet hipsters and satin bodysuits in jewel
colors. It was the sexiest of the season. Under Tom Ford left Gucci in 2003. Following Ford’s departure, the
Gucci group retained three designers to continue the success of the company’s flagship label.
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Chanel No. 5 1921