The Top Designer brands have dressed the rich and famous for decades, whether that’s royalty, the Hollywood elite or the rich and powerful.
The big names in luxury living continue shape and influence how and what we wear season after season.
What makes the designer brands so appealing is their exclusivity, the world of haute couture does not come cheaply and if you want to wear the very best then you better be prepared for the price tag!
The luxury brand market continues to grow year on year even through some of the toughest financial trading conditions for other retail market segments.
With no sign of slowdown in the appetite for designer brands let’s take a look at some of the biggest names in fashion and luxury goods.
Gucci is a luxury fashion house founded in 1921 Florence, Italy by Guccio Gucci. Under Guccio’s son, Maurizio Gucci, Gucci became world renowned, but, in the 1990’s, the brand lost respect as a high end luxury brand due to mass production of its products.
However, in 1994, Tom Ford was named creative director and subsequently launched a line of sexually provocative women’s wear that became extremely popular.
This brought the brand back into the spotlight of its previous grandeur. Gucci has since dipped its brand into every aspect of the fashion industry including handbags, jewelry, shoes, makeup, and fragrances.
2. Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton Malletier is a French fashion brand founded by Louis Vuitton in 1854. They have become best known for their luxury trunks, jewelry, handbags, sunglasses, shoes, and ready-to-wear, and have been named the world’s most valuable luxury brand six times.
Initially, the brand created stack-able trunks used for voyages which were later emulated by many other luggage makers.
In the 1940’s, Louis Vuitton began incorporating leather into most of its products, and it wasn’t until Marc Jacobs became artistic director in 1997 that the brand introduced its first clothing line and then subsequently created its first ever piece of jewelry.
Prada, founded in 1913 by Mario Prada, is an italian luxury fashion house that specializes in leather handbags, shoes, perfumes, and ready-to-wear. Prada quickly became a favorite among the European aristocracy and in 1919 became an official supplier to the Italian royal family.
Mario’s granddaughter, Miuccia Prada, expanded the brand in the 1970’s to become international alongside Patrizio Bertelli who introduced an innovative business model based on direct, internal control over the process. This shot Prada into the spotlight to become a premium status symbol and one of the most influential fashion houses in the world.
Founded in 1946, Christian Dior is a French luxury brand founded by Christian Dior. In the late 1940’s, Dior revolutionized women’s wear in their New Look collection, and is largely credited with reviving the fashion industry in France. However, after the founder suddenly died in 1957, the brand considered shutting down, but persisted due to its status in the fashion industry.
Yves Saint Laurent became the new creative director and continued the company’s success with several more collections, easing the transition. Dior is mostly known for its women’s offerings such as makeup, fragrances, accessories, leather goods, and haute-couture, though it also has products for men and children.
Balenciaga is a french luxury designer brand founded by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1917. Originally, Cristobal opened his first boutique in Spain with the Spanish royals wearing his designs, but the Spanish Civil War forced him to move to Paris.
During the 1960’s, Balenciaga was known as an innovator for its unique use of fabrics. In 1968 the brand closed and Cristobal died a few years later. The brand reopened in 1986 under new ownership and has since achieved its previous status as a fashion house.
Balenciaga is known for its couture with Cristoboal renowned as the “master of couture”.
Fendi is an italian luxury fashion house and is known for its fur and leather goods, though they also sell eyewear, fragrances, accessories, and shoes. Founded in 1925 Rome, Italy by Adele and Edoardo Fendi, the brand opened as a fur and leather shop and remained a family-controlled company until 1999.
That year, Prada and LVMH bought fifty-one percent of Fendi, although Carla Fendi remained chairwoman until 2008 and Silvia Fendi still remains as the creative director for accessories and men’s lines. Since then, LVMH has bought out Prada’s shares and become the majority shareholder of the company.
7. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney was launched in London in 2001 by Sir Paul McCartney’s daughter, Stella McCartney in a joint venture with Gucci. Modeled after Stella’s vegetarian lifestyle, the brand has never used leather, fur, or feathers in its products.
This stance has received a great amount of attention which has led to several collaborations such as a collaboration with Adidas where they designed jackets that read “suitable for sporty vegetarians” on the sleeve.
In 2016, Stella bought Gucci’s stake in her company, making her the independent owner. Stella McCartney is known for its animal-friendly products, particularly its athleisure, lingerie, and jewelry.
Givenchy is a French luxury fashion and perfume house known for its haute-couture, perfumes, and cosmetics. Founded in 1952 by Hubert de Givenchy and Javani Robert Durfy, Givenchy launched its brand with a collection that received immediate critical acclaim from Vogue magazine and put the brand in the spotlight.
Two years later, the brand became the first high fashion designer to create a luxury ready-to-wear clothing line. In 1988, Givenchy joined the conglomerate LVMH. Since Hubert retired in 1995, Givenchy had a high turnover of designers until Ricardo Tisci took over and revived the brand.
9. Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen is a British luxury fashion house that was founded in 1992 by Lee Alexander McQueen. In its early years, Alexander McQueen was known for its shock tactics and controversy, staging unconventional runway shows.
In late 2000, Gucci bought fifty-one percent of the company with Alexander McQueen appointed as creative director until his suicide in 2010. The company launched a lower-priced line titled McQ that carries ready-to-wear for men and women.
Sarah Burton has since taken over as creative director and has continued the brand’s success. The fashion house is known for its ready-to-wear, jewelry, and cosmetics.
10. Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent, known as Saint Laurent, is a French luxury fashion house founded by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in Paris.
It is considered one of the most prominent fashion houses in the world, known for its tuxedo jackets for women, leather goods, shoes, and ready-to-wear. Due to declining share prices, the fashion house was sold to Sanofi, a pharmaceuticals company, in 1993.
Then, after years of drug abuse, the founder Yves closed the couture house in 2002 until it was revived in 2015 under the creative direction of Hedi Slimane.
11. Giorgio Armani
Giorgio Armani is an italian luxury fashion house founded by Giorgio Armani in 1975 Milan, Italy. In the 1980’s, the brand transformed women’s professional clothing with its collection of chic pantsuits.
Giorgio Armani stopped using animal fur in its collections in 2016, commenting on the availability of equivalent alternatives. Since its inception, the brand has formed several sub-brands in order to focus on specific aspects of different markets.
While Giorgio Armani is sought after for its leather goods, fragrances, haute couture, and ready-to-wear, it has diversified its products to span multiple markets outside the fashion industry.
Burberry, founded in 1856 Basingstoke, England by Thomas Burberry, is a British luxury fashion house. It currently designs ready-to-wear, eyewear, fragrances, and cosmetics, though they are most known for their line of trench coats.
Originally, Burberry focused its sales on outdoors attire and created gabardine, a completely breathable and waterproof fabric exclusively made for the brand.
Then, in the 1960’s after Burberry shifted from a family-run company to be owned by Great Universal Stores, the brand shifted to begin producing collections that included finer clothing for men and women as well.
13. Tom Ford
Tom Ford is a fashion house founded by Tom Ford in 2006 after he left as creative director of Gucci. The brand initially launched with a line of menswear, eye-wear, and accessories.
Tom Ford has received a lot of controversy in its short time as a brand, such as the release of the “Penis Pendant Necklace” which received heavy backlash from Christians, claiming it was similarly shaped to the crucifix. The brand is best known for its menswear lines and suit designs which have been featured in several films and music videos by celebrities.
DKNY is a New York City-based fashion house that was founded in 1984 by Donna Karan. Its first collection, Seven Easy Pieces, debuted in 1985 and was a women’s collection. Their first menswear collection wasn’t launched until 1991.
A diffusion line was founded in 1989 under the brand, focusing on more affordable clothing for younger people. Their beauty line, which specializes in fragrances, was launched in 1992. In 2001, the company was bought by LVMH and launched a home collection that same year which sold bedding and bedding accessories. DKNY is renowned for their fragrances, menswear, and women’s wear.
15. Hugo Boss
Hugo Boss is a German luxury fashion house that specializes in producing accessories, footwear, fragrances, and clothing. The fashion house was founded in 1924 by Hugo Boss in Metzingen, Germany.
Due to the poor economic state of Germany at the time, Hugo Boss was forced into bankruptcy until its creditors agreed to give the company a few sewing machines and the opportunity to start again.
During the second world war, the company backed Adolf Hitler, becoming a fervent supporter of the National Socialists and created uniforms for them. Years later in 2011, the company issued an apology for the actions taken during that time.
Valentino is an Italian clothing company founded in 1960 by Valentino Garavani, though it wasn’t until 1962 that its first fashion line debuted in Florence, Italy. Valentino rose in popularity by designing specialty wedding dresses for major celebrities across the world.
The fashion house was sold to the Italian conglomerate HdP in 1998 and was then later purchased by Qatar in 2012. After backlash concerning animal abuse in the alpaca industry, the company announced it would no longer use alpaca wool in its products. Valentino is known for its fragrances, accessories, clothing, watches, and eye-wear.
Hermes is a French luxury fashion house that specializes in making leather, lifestyle accessories, fragrances, jewelry, and ready-to-wear. Hermes was founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermes as a harness workshop, dedicated to serving European noblemen.
Later, in the 1920’s, Hermes finally expanded into the fashion industry, introducing accessories and clothing collections for the first time.
Despite its name becoming established in the world of fashion, the company’s success started declining in the 1970’s. New designers and a refocus on silk, leather goods, and ready-to-wear eventually brought the company out of its steady decline.
Kenzo is a french luxury fashion house that was founded in 1970 Paris by Kenzo Takada. The company started with the name “Jungle Jap”, but was later changed after a New York fashion show, as the American market considered the name too pejorative.
It initially became known for having an Asian and Japanese-influenced style that merged with European construction. In 1993 the company was acquired by LVMH, maintaining Kenzo Takada as the creative director. Kenzo is known for its men’s and women’s wear, though it also designs fragrances, children’s lines, and home collections.
19. Golce & Gabbana
Dolce & Gabbana is an italian fashion house that is known for its handbags, clothing, fragrances, and accessories. Originally founded in 1985 by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the brand launched with their first women’s collection which used the founders’ friends as models since it didn’t have the funds to hire real models.
After the first collection failed, Dolce’s family helped fund their second collection in 1986 which began to get enough traction for them to open their own store that same year. In 1992, the company launched their first menswear and then perfume, for which they have become renowned for.
Berluti is a french fashion house that, though it also makes bags and accessories, specializes in menswear, particularly shoes that boast exotic animal skins on its products like kangaroo leather and alligator skin.
Established in 1895 by Alessandro Berluti, the brand focused on crafting elegant and creative footwear for men. These shoes gained recognition for their use of distinctive and vibrant colors from the animal products they used. The company was eventually acquired by LVMH in 1993. After years of focusing on footwear, Berluti finally launched its first ready-to-wear menswear collection in 2012.
21. Ermenegildo Zegna
Ermenegildo Zegna, or Zegna, is an italian luxury fashion house founded by Ermenegildo Zegna in 1920 in Northern Italy, focusing on menswear. After flourishing during the second world war, Zegna expanded its business to ready-made suits and other finer clothing for men and used its newfound success to establish their distribution abroad.
In the 1990’s, the company began full verticalization, allowing them to integrate production from beginning to end, and became the first luxury brand to enter the China market and then the Indian. Zegna is known for its menswear collections, fragrances, accessories, and leather goods.
Lacoste is a french fashion house that specializes in clothing and sportswear. It was founded by tennis player Rene Lacoste and Andre Gillier in 1933. The brand’s logo is a green crocodile, an homage to the nickname Rene’s fans used during his tennis days.
They began by producing revolutionary tennis shirts with the crocodile symbol on the front which became the first company to have their brand name appear on the outside of an article of clothing. Christophe Lemaire shifted the brand in the 2000’s to a more modern look which surged in popularity. In 2012, Lacoste was purchased by the Swiss group Maus Freres.
23. Paul Smith
Paul Smith is a British fashion house that was founded in 1970 by Paul Smith. The initial shop that was opened sold Paul’s original designs alongside established clothing labels out of a warehouse in Nottingham, England. In 1976, the brand showed its first men’s collection in Paris, receiving great attention.
Paul Smith later launched a womens wear collection in response to reports of women purchasing the menswear lines for themselves. The brand is still independently owned with Paul Smith still having a majority of the company. Paul Smith is predominantly known for its mens and womens wear collections.