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Your cheat sheet to understanding 14 of the most famous fashion labels

Lisa Fogarty


Lisa Fogarty

Lisa Fogarty has written numerous articles for USA Today, The Stir, Opposing Views and other publications. She has covered everything from red carpet events to the discovery of toxic PCBs on school windows. She lives on Long Island, N.Y....

The not-so-couture girl's guide to fashion designers

Find out what makes 14 of the world's top fashion designers stand out above the rest.

Fashion Week is a magical time in which we celebrate the future of fashion (two seasons from now, to be exact) and get to discover what colors, fabrics, cuts and unusual pieces a select few fashion designers in New York, Milan, Paris and London predict will capture our attention and hearts months from now. It's a whirlwind of sartorial art but, for anyone who feels completely removed from a universe in which $1,000 velvet pants are the norm — and that's, like, 99.9 percent of us — it can also be baffling.

The not-so-couture girl's guide to fashion designers
Image: SheKnows

You may have found yourself wondering: Who on earth do these designers have in mind when they roll out aqua snakeskin maxi skirts? Who wears that to the office?

But fashion is often meant to be inspirational, not aspirational, and some looks aren't designed to be taken literally. What's more: There are plenty of designers whose visions align with those of your typical, fashionable woman next door — whether she has the bankroll to collect every thread on the runway is another story (and that's where H&M and Zara come in, thank our lucky stars).

Here's a guide to 14 fashion designers who should be on your radar — and helpful info about the styles they're known for and any other juicy gossip you may need to know.

1. Michael Kors

What is he known for? Michael Kors takes classic American style — think tailored menswear slacks for women, sweaters and unpretentious wool pea coats that stand the test of time — and turns them up a few lavish notches by incorporating lush details like fur collars, floral appliqués on a white lace tea-length dress or perfect poet sleeves that add feminine energy to an otherwise plain, starched white shirt. He never strays too far from his classic style, but also blesses you with an abundance of interesting details each season that leave you wanting more, more, more. And his clothing makes you feel so darn happy.

Where does he show? New York

Who are his fans? Jennifer Lopez, Emma Roberts, Heidi Klum, Natalie Portman... um, everyone?

More: 8 Times celebs rocked '80s fashion trends with modern flair

2. Carolina Herrera

What is she known for? The Venezuelan-American designer favors elegant dresses that show off a woman's shape and look thoroughly modern and fresh, though are never exactly what you'd call cutting edge. Expect a parade of pretty at her shows, with the most sumptuous of fabrics and dresses of all lengths and styles (with longer hemlines and straight fits usually winning the prize).

Where does she show? New York

Who are her fans? Political queens: Her clients have included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' daughter Caroline (she designed her wedding dress) and Michelle Obama.

3. Public School

What are they known for? Public School is the brainchild of two friends named Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. It's a relatively new label that has been showing in New York for just three seasons, but whoa, the buzz. The pair began designing menswear and their masculine approach to women's wear — their pre-fall 2016 collection featured a sleek reinterpretation of the tuxedo jacket, worn over a long, shimmery dress, pants and men's dress shoes — is perfect for a new generation of dressers, who are breaking gender barriers in order to develop unique personal styles.

Where do they show? Usually New York, though they took their pre-Fall 2016 collection all the way to Dubai.

Who are their fans? Ciara, Hailey Baldwin, Olivia Culpo... expect that number to shoot through the roof soon.

4. Stella McCartney

What is she known for? Aside from being Paul McCartney's daughter (which isn't even the first thing that pops to mind when you think of her, which just goes to show how successful she has become), Stella makes serious dressing look easy, a quality prized by British women. She loves clothing that moves freely with the body and understands that women feel their sexy best when they're comfortable. Her trademark looks include the most body-flattering trousers known to (wo)man and seriously cute vegan shoes and bags.

Where does she show? London, of course!

Who are her fans? Celebs love Stella, and some of her biggest fans include Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liv Tyler, Kate Hudson and Kate Moss.

5. Anna Sui

What is she known for? It seems like Anna Sui has helped to spearhead every Boho Glam movement that ever was and is constantly deriving inspiration from '60s and '70s rock and roll, space, art and all things beautiful. Intergalactic prints, high-waisted denim trousers, mod shorts and jacket combos and psychedelic faux fur stoles are the norm on Anna Sui's runway and she'll forever be known for her carefree and artsy, but shockingly wearable, pieces.

Where does she show: New York

Who are her fans? Blake Lively, Sofia Coppola, Patricia Arquette and Naomi Campbell.

Random tidbit: Sui's 2009 limited edition collection for Target was inspired by the TV show Gossip Girl.

6. Alexander Wang

What is he known for? Alexander Wang does cool, hip, downtown street style like no one else. In his capable hands, even tailored cigarette pants and a crop top look like something you could wear on the most stylish coffee run of your life. He tends to favor tough, sporty looks with a bit of an edge and even when he's in the mood to celebrate flirty ruffles (Spring 2014), he grounds them with voluminous pants, minimal makeup and third-day matted hair because he's the king of not looking like you're trying too hard.

Where does he show? New York.

Who are his fans? Rihanna, Blake Lively, Kate Moss and Nicki Minaj.

7. Self-Portrait

What is he known for: Everyone is talking about designer Han Chong's new label, which showed for the first time in New York in September 2015. In addition to being "affordable" (you can score a dress for $485, which isn't chump change, but is several hundreds of dollars less than you'd spend on your average high-profile design label), Self-Portrait stands out with ultra-feminine clothing that also manages to incorporate elements of androgyny. Every one of his dresses, which are often crafted from lace, are pretty, but never precious.

Where does he show? New York

Who are his fans? Young Hollywood is having a love affair with Self-Portrait and Kristen Stewart, Lucy Hale and Reese Witherspoon can't get enough.

More: 17 Ways to rock ankle booties this fall: Inspiration from fashionistas

8. Marc Jacobs

What is he known for? Remember '90s grunge? It's quite possible tartan skirts styled with band T-shirts and beanies would have stayed underground if not for Marc Jacobs, a designer who is credited (and sometimes lambasted) for making grunge high-fashion back in 1992. Jacobs, who worked for Perry Ellis back then, was fired for sending models like Kate Moss down the runway in expensive grunge ensembles. It didn't hurt his career for long: He made a name for himself as a designer for Louis Vuitton before breaking free in 2013 and focusing on his own clothing line, which often includes narrow tea-length skirts, ladylike suit jackets, faux fur and an array of prints. He's the master of plaid, of course, but isn't shy about taking on everything from horizontal stripes to bold florals to the vintage image of 3-D moviegoers he splashed across a balloon skirt in his Spring '15 collection.

Where does he show? Where else but his hometown? New York.

Who are his fans? So, so many celebs: Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Elle Fanning, Anna Wintour and Zooey Deschanel, to name a few.

Random tidbit: In 2013, news came out that some of Jacobs' "faux fur" jackets used dog hair from dogs in China.

9. Givenchy

What is he known for: Riccardo Tisci is the designer behind one of the most iconic fashion labels in history and he more or less stays true to its sexy, strong, but elegant origins — in a way Audrey Hepburn's character in Breakfast at Tiffany's would have appreciated (her entire amazing wardrobe in the 1961 classic was Givenchy). Little black dresses have a hint of bondage appeal, skinny black cigarette pants are only hotter with the addition of a mock corset top, and Tisci remains the only designer to date to mix "Victorian" and California "chola" influences in a way that makes perfect sense (see: Fall '15).

Where does he show? Ooh, scandal. Givenchy was a fixture in Paris until last season, when Tisci showed for the first time in New York.

Who are his fans? The Givenchy woman has to be confident and strong as nails. Count Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Julia Roberts and Uma Thurman as fans.

10. Creatures of the Wind

What are they known for? If their name doesn't give it away, designers Christopher Peters and Shane Gabier love, love, LOVE cool, laidback '70s styles like maxi skirts and dresses, floral jumpsuits and crochet tops. But they're not married to costumes and what makes them refreshing is the way they effortlessly combine '70s groove with punk fishnet tights, sexy pencil skirts and serious leather pants. They're a lesson in how not to get caught up in one style or decade.

Where do they show? New York

Who are their fans? Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez.

11. Jason Wu

What is he known for? Stately elegance. When he isn't designing evening gowns fit for a modern-day queen (one who isn't above walking a few city blocks to get to her final destination), he's gifting wealthy women with cashmere coats and sweaters, fur-trimmed stoles, snakeskin-printed sheath dresses and trousers that fit like a glove. Wu defines modern, American luxury.

Where does he show? New York

Who are his fans? Michelle Obama made Wu a household name after he created her two ethereal inauguration gowns, but he's also a hit among celebs like Zoe Saldana, Reese Witherspoon, Diane Kruger and Jessica Alba.

12. Narciso Rodriguez

What is he known for? Clean, sharp, body-conscious designs (the man loves a good bodysuit) that are sexy, but never overdone or obvious. Long, fluid coats over roomy trousers and second-skin tanks, otherwise simple black-and-white slip dresses that feature one dramatic detail (like a deep V-neck), and the talented ability to weave a billion beads onto a dress or T-shirt and not make them look contrived. Rodriquez is a master of proportions.

Where does he show? New York

Who are his fans? Anna Kendrick, Claire Danes, Amy Schumer.

13. Rag & Bone

What are they known for? Designers David Neville and Marcus Wainwright have a way with sportswear and can throw together a satin slip dress and cropped military jacket layered over a long-sleeve tee like nobody's business. There isn't a fabric in existence they won't take on with a defiant attitude, and one of the reasons they're such fashion darlings is because they are bold in their styling choices and have taught us that even sweatpants can be sexy (if you know what to do with them).

Where do they show? New York

Who are their fans? Some of Taylor Swift's favorite trademark crop tops and booties are from Rag & Bone. Hilary Duff, Khloé Kardashian and Sienna Miller also love the label.

14. Victoria Beckham

What is she known for? At first, a lot of folks thought the former Spice Girl was creating clothing for giggles and probably never thought she'd last this long and manage to impress fashion heavyweights like Anna Wintour. But people like her because they get to watch her evolve, from the days when she mostly designed tiny black dresses that you could picture Posh Spice wearing, to her latest Spring 2016 collection — which featured very un-Beckham-like ankle-length tartan and white dresses that promise a summer of picnics and running through fields of flowers. With each passing season, you get the feeling Beckham always had good design in her, and is slowly letting it seep out. She'll probably never escape the association with a sexy dress, but Beckham is showing us that seductive comes in all hemlines and shapes.

Where does she show? New York

Who are her fans? Cameron Diaz, Demi Moore, Blake Lively, Beyoncé and Michelle Williams.

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