Sunday School: Fashion A to Z

Sunday School: Fashion A to Z

Sunday School: Fashion A to Z

To better appreciate fashion’s next-gen figures, study up on this curated dossier of trailblazing talents, from the living legends to the late-and-great leaders who laid the groundwork for today’s industry power players. Come back every Sunday for new lessons!

To better appreciate fashion’s next-gen figures, study up on this curated dossier of trailblazing talents, from the living legends to the late-and-great leaders who laid the groundwork for today’s industry power players. Come back every Sunday for new lessons!

Text: Devin Barrett

Text: Alexandra Ilyashov

Text: Lisa Mischianti

Azzedine Alaïa

The inimitable Tunisia-born couture designer was revered for his sculptural designs that deftly showcased the body. Alaïa’s offerings peerlessly telegraph sexuality, celebrating rather than objectifying the female form. Having studied sculpture as a teenager, much of his inspiration was culled from his fine arts background. Considered by many to be the arbiter of the supermodel, he populated his catwalks with the biggest personalities long before talents like Gianni Versace were doing so. Alaïa also launched lifelong friend Naomi Campbell’s career when she was just 16. He was prescient in his unapologetic bucking of the traditional fashion system and its (ever-expanding) calendar of collections, eschewing seasonality in favor of timeless, meticulously crafted pieces. Although he passed away in Paris in November 2017, he’s left behind a truly legendary career and an immense void in the fashion industry. PHOTOGRAPHY JEAN-PAUL GOUDE (V6)

Geoffrey Beene

The Louisiana-bred designer initially set out to be a doctor, but dropped out of medical school and headed to California. Out West, Beene made his foray into the fashion industry thanks to a merchandising and window display gig at a boutique. In the late 1940s, he studied fashion in both New York and Paris, and then worked for a slew of American fashion houses throughout the ’50s. In ’63, Beene launched his eponymous fashion house (one of the first American designers to do so). Beene explored design and draping innovations through his work, which highlighted the female body in innovative ways. He was an early adopter of the now ubiquitous diffusion line business approach, debuting Beene Bag in ’74. Some of his best-known sartorial creations include novel takes on the jumpsuit and the bolero. He’s also credited with conceiving the structured paper-doll silhouette of the ’60s. Two decades later, Beene went in the opposite direction entirely, exploring weightlessness via sophisticated illusion seams and delicate materials like chiffon and lace. In 2004, Beene passed away at his NYC home at the age of 77.  PHOTOGRAPHY TERRY RICHARDSON (V4)

Claude Montana

With his strong-shouldered, boldly constructed pieces rendered in vibrant colors, this French fashion designer exploded onto the scene in the late ’70s. His eponymous label, the House of Montana, epitomized the tastes of the time, quickly becoming an industry darling with its highly anticipated runway shows. By the early ’80s, Montana had expanded into menswear with Montana Hommes, and he remained wildly in-demand for the rest of the decade. In the early ’90s, he designed couture for Lanvin—earning two Golden Thimble awards—and married model and muse Wallis Franken. But as the ’90s progressed, popular aesthetics changed, seeing the House of Montana lose traction and eventually go into receivership in 1997 (just one year after his wife’s tragic death). In the years that followed, Montana exited the fashion scene. Yet, over the course of the decades since his departure from the industry, his vision has continued to influence design heavyweights like Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci, and Olivier Theyskens. PHOTOGRAPHY VICTOR VIRGILE/GAMMA-RAPHO VIA GETTY IMAGES

Donyale Luna

In 1963—when she was only 14—the Detroit native was discovered by photographer David McCabe, who lensed the likes of Twiggy and Andy Warhol. The following year, Luna started working with Richard Avedon, later signing a contract with the famed photographer. In 1966, Luna became the first black model on the cover of British Vogue, in an image captured by renowned rock photographer David Bailey, who shot legends such as the Beatles. One of the very first black supermodels, Luna’s career was cut tragically short: In 1979, she died from an overdose at the age of 33. Yet, Luna remains an important pioneering figure. TIME LIFE PICTURES/PIX INC./THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

Edie Sedgwick

A prototype and pioneer of the contemporary It Girl concept, Sedgwick was a model, actress, and socialite in 1960s New York City. A Warhol muse and member of his Factory set, she appeared in a variety of his films, including Poor Little Rich Girl (a reference to the fact that Sedgwick came from a wealthy, well-to-do family). Following this period, she also became entrenched in the inner circle of musician Bob Dylan. Famed for her charming allure and her signature black tights, leotards, minidresses, and chandelier earrings—plus those wide eyes and that cropped silvery-white haircut—she was proclaimed a “Youthquaker” by Vogue. The product of a tumultuous past, she died of an overdose in 1971 at the young age of 28. Nevertheless, she remains an enduring icon. MARON FILMS/SUGARLOAF FILMS INC/RONALD GRANT ARCHIVE/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO


Dubbed the “daytime Studio 54,” this legendary concept store/cult label is a pillar of pop culture history. Founded in the late 1960s by Italian designer Elio Fiorucci, by the mid-’70s it had locations in London, Milan, and Manhattan—the last of these being an iconic outpost on 59th and Lexington. The store offered playful, irreverent fashions fit for a night out, the earliest iterations of designer stretch denim, and cheeky, collectible merchandise adorned with its cherubic logo. But Fiorucci also transcended retail: It was a haunt for artists, designers, creatives, and notables of every stripe. Madonna famously launched her career there; Andy Warhol was a regular; Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jackie O could be spotted shopping its racks. In 1984, Fiorucci’s doors closed, but it saw a relaunch in 2017 under the ownership of Janie and Stephen Schaffer. ARCHIVAL FIORUCCI PUBLISHED ORIGINALLY IN V5

Gianni Versace

During his 25-year career, Gianni Versace created a legacy of sensual, boundary-pushing designs. Hailing from the Southern Italian coastal town of Reggio Calabria, the designer often infused Grecian, Italian Baroque, and Estruscan themes into his unapologetically outré collections. Launching his career in 1972, Versace injected edge and eclecticism into the then fusty fashion sphere via scintillating silhouettes and bold patterns. In July 1997, the designer was murdered outside his Miami Beach home at age 50. Following his death, Gianni’s sister, Donatella Versace, took over the reins of her late brother’s brand. This year, the 20th anniversary of Versace’s death was commemorated on the house’s Spring ’18 runway with a dazzling finale of ’90s supermodels Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, and Helena Christensen donning Gianni’s signature lamé gowns. GIANNI AND DONATELLA VERSACE, PHOTOGRAPHED IN V5


This influential fashion photographer has lent his surrealist aesthetic to fashion editorials, album art, striking still lifes, and more for the past half-century. Born in Shanghai, China to Japanese parents, Hiro spent his childhood in China, his teen years in Japan, and then moved to the U.S. to take photography classes. After training under Richard Avedon, Hiro had a decades-long stint as the sole contracted photographer at Harper’s Bazaar beginning in 1957. His work, also appearing in French Vogue and Mirabella, was praised for its distinctive palette, masterful light play, and unorthodox composition, and was celebrated with three concurrent retrospectives in 2016. PHOTOGRAPHY HIRO, MODEL MARIA BEADEUX (V14)


Born in Somalia, Iman was discovered by photographer Peter Beard while she was studying at Kenya’s University of Nairobi. In the 1970s and ’80s, she quickly went on to grace a multitude of runways and editorials in major glossies—her first major shoot was an Arthur Elgort-lensed Vogue spread in 1976—and helped pave the way for models of color. As Iman’s career took off, she contended with (and was quite vocal about) being pitted against one of the only other prominent black models of the time, Beverly Johnson. In 1994, post-retirement, she launched her own eponymous make up line. Iman was married to David Bowie for 24 years, until his untimely passing in 2016.  PHOTOGRAPHY INEZ & VINOODH (V5)

Jerry Hall

One of the first supermodels of the 1970s, Hall was the prototypical blonde bombshell. The Texas-born beauty got her start at age 17 in Paris and her first big break courtesy of being lensed by Helmut Newton. After a relationship with British musician Bryan Ferry, Hall and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger started dating—they stayed together for two decades and had four children. Hall was synonymous with an unabashedly glamorous late-’70s and ’80s aesthetic: She and Jagger were fixtures at Studio 54 during its brief but illustrious run. Over the years, she has made a foray into the realm of acting and her career has included parts in the Tim Burton-directed Batman, an on-stage production of The Graduate, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. PHOTOGRAPHY KARL LAGERFELD, FASHION AMANDA HARLECH (V100)

Katharine Hamnett

During the ’80s, Hamnett emerged as a fashion designer and passionate activist for a variety of causes: gay rights, anti-nuclear proliferation, environmental issues, and anti-war efforts. Hamnett’s signature protest tees were emblazoned with phrases like “Choose Life,” “Stop Acid Rain,” and “U.S. Go Home,” the last of these being created for feminist anti-nuke protesters. She also designed ready-to-wear collections with politically charged themes, like “Post Materialism” and “Cancel the Third World Debt.” Additionally, Hamnett’s  provocative ad campaigns helped establish today’s  advertising code. In September 2017, the ardent activist released a sustainable seasonless collection, much of which is based on original patterns from her archive. Some of Hamnett’s newest T-shirt designs include “Cancel Brexit” and “Stop Killing Whales.” She has also recently launched a “Choose Love” tee—a riff on her “Choose Life” design—in tandem with British nonprofit Help Refugees.  PHOTOGRAPHY PETER LINDBERGH COURTESY KATHARINE HAMNETT

Lauren Hutton

Polly Mellen

This legendary stylist and fashion editor got her start as a Lord & Taylor salesgirl. During stints at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, the Connecticut native helped shape iconic imagery under the tutelage of Diana Vreeland and Grace Mirabella. Over the course of her lengthy editorial career, kicking off in the 1950s with a fashion editor role at Mademoiselle, Mellen developed long-running relationships with celebrated photographers like Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, and Irving Penn. After parting ways with Vogue in the early ’90s, Mellen spent eight years as creative director at Allure before retiring in 2001.  PHOTOGRAPHY INEZ & VINOODH (V22)

Norma Kamali

Known for her quintessentially contemporary pieces—like the sleeping bag coat and heeled sneakers—the native New Yorker originally aspired to be a painter and attended FIT. (She also briefly worked at an airline in order to snag the employee discount on flights.) She opened her own boutique in 1968, which stocked a range of British brands. Later, she started designing her own eponymous line. Kamali also helped popularize big shoulder pads circa the ’80s and was way ahead of the curve on the athleisure trend—she and Donna Karan were early pioneers of stylish yet comfortable dressing. In 2016, Kamali was honored with the CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award.  PHOTOGRAPHY INEZ & VINOODH FASHION JOE MCKENNA(V43)

Oliviero Toscani

Beginning in the 1980s, the groundbreaking photographer has been responsible for decades of incredibly iconic and controversial advertising campaigns for brands like Benetton and Esprit. For the former brand, he lensed indelible images that reflected, and often challenged, timely cultural issues from 1982 to 2000. Seen here is one of his best-known pieces, of a priest kissing a nun. Other subjects addressed in his striking shots include AIDS patient s, political prisoners, and death row inmates—a far cry from traditional fashion advertising castings. In 2015, Toscani released a book of his work, More Than Fifty Years of Magnificent Failures, chronicling his game-changing advertising imagery as well as editorial shoots for titles like Vogue, Elle, and i-D. He rekindled his relationship with Benetton in 2017.  PHOTOGRAPHY OLIVIERO TOSCANI COURTESY BENETTON

Pierre Bergé

The prominent business partner and former lover of Yves Saint Laurent, Bergé hailed from coastal France and moved to Paris as a teen with ambitions to be a journalist. He met Saint Laurent in 1958 and the couple founded the fashion house in 1961, unveiling its first fashion collection in 1962. Bergé and Saint Laurent split up romantically in the ’80s, but remained lifelong business partners up until Saint Laurent’s passing in 2008. Bergé took an innovative approach to building a successful fashion business, recognizing the lucrative appeal of ready-to-wear and making savvy sales and investor decisions. After Bergé’s influential and contentious run in the fashion industry (he was widely considered quite a polarizing personality), he was appointed by President François Mitterrand in 1988 to helm Paris’s opera houses. In September 2017, Bergé passed away at the age of 86. PIERRE BERGÉ, PHOTOGRAPHED IN V17.

Mary Quant

In 1960s London, Quant made a name for herself by being one of few high-end designers to directly address the youth-fashion tastes of the time. As the owner of her own shop during this era of liberation and rebellion, she noticed that her clients were looking for ever higher hemlines, so she began to craft garments that fit the bill. As a result, she is credited with the creation of the modern-day miniskirt (and later became a champion of hot pants). The miniskirt undermined conservative norms and helped change the trajectory of women’s fashion, and it remains an enduring wardrobe staple today. In 2015, Quant was made a Dame for her significant role in this fashion movement. KEYSTONE PICTURES USA / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Richard Avedon

In the ’60s and early ’70s, the iconic American fashion and portrait photographer was on staff with Harper’s Bazaar. This was followed by a lengthy jag as Vogue’s lead photographer, where he shot the majority of the fashion glossy’s covers in the early ’70s through the late ’80s. Avedon also lensed an array of impactful fashion ads over his career, including his decade-defining ’80s imagery for Calvin Klein Jeans starring Brooke Shields. In addition to this, he also maintained an exceptionally close 18-year relationship with the house of Versace. Beyond his expansive oeuvre of fashion photography, Avedon shot enormously significant portraits of a range of culturally pivotal figures across a variety of disciplines, from Allen Ginsberg to Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Parker. These are best encapsulated in his 1964 coffee table tome, Nothing Personal. PHOTOGRAPHY HIRO (V14)

Stephen Burrows

The New Jersey-born designer studied at FIT, later launching—with friend Roz Rubenstein—his own brand for department store Bonwit Teller in 1969. After Burrows’s ready-to-wear designs debuted, he was introduced to Henri Bendel’s president, Geraldine Stutz, and went on to work with the luxury retailer for decades. In 1970, a shop-in-shop dubbed “Stephen Burrows World,” filled with the designer’s color-saturated pieces, opened at the Fifth Avenue department store. In the ’70s, Burrows’s work was featured in the “Battle of Versailles” catwalk sartorial showdown between French and American designers (like Oscar de la Renta and Halston). Burrows helped pave the way (albeit gradually) for more diversity in the fashion industry and is widely considered to be the first African-American designer to achieve international fame and recognition. His pieces were beloved by the Studio 54-frequenting disco set and his celebrity clientele has included the likes of Diana Ross, Cher, Farrah Fawcett, Barbra Streisand, and Liza Minnelli. Among his newer fans, he can also count Taylor Swift, Oprah, and Naomi Watts. In 2006, Burrows received the “Board of Directors Special Tribute” from the CFDA. More recently, Burrows made his vibrant, slim-cut designs more accessible thanks to a 2010 collaboration with big-box behemoth Target. PHOTOGRAPHY CHARLES TRACY (V17)

Penelope Tree

The face of the Swinging ’60s, Penelope Tree’s modeling career took off after an electrifying appearance at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, where she caught the attention of photographer Richard Avedon. With her round eyes, defined cheekbones, and almost otherworldly aura, it didn’t take long for Tree to become a muse to Avedon and other photographers, like Cecil Beaton and David Bailey—the latter of whom became her live-in boyfriend in London. Tree’s unique fashion sense made a mark on the era, with Bailey lauding her as among the originators of the “Flower Power” phenomenon. Her impact was even felt by the Beatles: When asked to describe Tree in three words, John Lennon is famously said to have replied, “Hot, hot, hot, smart, smart, smart!” PICTORIAL PRESS LTD/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Ultra Violet

All purple everything, from hair to makeup to clothes, became the signature monochrome look of Isabelle Collin Dufresne, a.k.a. Ultra Violet. A French artist and actress, Dufresne moved to New York as a teen and developed a close relationship with famed surrealist Salvador Dalí, who later introduced her to Andy Warhol. Throughout the 1960s, Dufresne was adopted as one of Warhol’s “superstars” at his legendary Factory. She appeared in a number of Warhol’s films, beginning with The Life of Juanita Castro, and ran with his notorious crowd. Before her death in 2014, she distanced herself from the Warholian lifestyle of her youth, but she will always be remembered as a legendary iconoclast. JACK MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES


Thanks to her willowy, 6-foot-tall frame and sultry aesthetic, the German model ushered in a new paradigm of beauty in the 1960s. She scored her first Vogue cover in 1963 (she went on to grace 11 covers of the magazine over the course of her career) and shot with talents like Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon. Born a countess in East Prussia (now Russia), she moved to New York when she was 22 to pursue a modeling career, changing her name from Vera to Veruschka. Over the years, she had a string of on-screen roles in both American and German shows and films. She still makes catwalk cameos, and starred in  Acne Studios’ Resort 2018 lookbook. EVERETT COLLECTION INC / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.

Vivienne Westwood 

One of the most significant British fashion designers of the 20th century, Dame Westwood is all but synonymous with the birth of the punk fashion movement. Beginning with her early days in the ’70s dressing the Sex Pistols alongside her one-time partner Malcolm McLaren, she brought subversive, provocative elements to the forefront of fashion. In 1981, she staged her debut runway show “Pirate,” and has continued to push boundaries and innovate. (She is credited with reviving the corset, debuting underwear as outerwear, and even inventing the “mini-crini” skirt). Bold political messages have always been and continue to be a defining element of Westwood’s work and these days, she has her sights set on causes like climate change.  PHOTOGRAPHY WARREN DU PREEZ & NICK-THORNTON-JONES FASHION VICTORIA BARTLETT (V10)


The 1980 musical film starring (and featuring music by) Olivia Newton-John flopped cinematically. But in the vein of Saturday Night Fever, the campy spectacle of a flick featured excellently over-the-top costumes and memorable music that are emblematic of a particular decade. In Xanadu’s case, the getups capture a certain strain of bohemian, dreamy, fairy-esque dressing (akin to Stevie Nicks’s style at the time) that was popularized between the glammed-out disco days of the ’70s and the excess and power suiting of the ’80s. EVERETT COLLECTION, INC./ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Yohji Yamamoto

The avant-garde Japanese fashion designer is renowned for his tailoring, oversize shapes, predilection for the color black, and masterful draping. Raised in Tokyo, Yamamoto went to law school, but subsequently decided it wasn’t the right field for him. Instead, he opted to help out in his mother’s dress shop. After she encouraged him to get formal training, he attended Bunka Fashion College (an alma mater shared by equally important talents like Junya Watanabe and Kenzo Takada). After spending a year in Paris, Yamamoto returned to his hometown to launch his own ready-to-wear label and accrued a spate of buyers throughout Japan. Over the past three decades, the designer has expanded his brand to include a handful of diffusion lines at varying price points, including his duo of primary lines, Yohji Yamamoto and Y’s. He also frequently collaborates with other brands, including his Y-3 range for Adidas and a pair-up with Hermès.  PHOTOGRAPHY NICK KNIGHT COURTESY SHOWSTUDIO

Zandra Rhodes

Wonderfully loud textile designs (and a signature shock of neon hair) became Zandra Rhodes’s calling card. When her early textile work was deemed too wild by traditional British manufacturers, she decided to go ahead and craft her own dresses from her fabrics, making the prints integral to the garments’ design. After a joint venture with Sylvia Ayton, Rhodes set up her own West London shop in 1969. The same year, she took her collection to New York where Diana Vreeland soon championed her garments in Vogue. With this success, she started selling to Henri Bendel, followed by Neiman Marcus and Saks. Since then, her unconventional and storied work has been worn by everyone from Freddie Mercury to Princess Diana.


Credits: Typography: Alex Trochut


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