The Most Popular Fashion Designers in History

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It is worth noting that some of the designers on this list, such as Miuccia Prada, came from families with a fashion, retail, or textile legacy. Nearly all of the designers have a middle-class or upper-class background, an advantage to helping them gain popularity.

Some of the older names on this list, such as Thierry Hermès and Louis Vuitton, became popular for making luxury goods for the wealthy in the 19th century. Their names have endured as luxury and aspirational brands well into the 21st century.

Movies became a major part of the culture in the 20th century, and an increasingly affluent middle class aspired to dress like film stars. Fashion designers augmented their popularity by dressing movie stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Jennifer Lopez. Oleg Cassini, who first gained notoriety for designing costumes for film legends, leveraged his fame into a friendship with Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore Cassini’s trademark pillbox hat when she was first lady.

Some designers have embraced controversy to raise their profile, such as Alexander McQueen — the subject of a new documentary — who was accused of misogyny because of his eyebrow-raising runway shows that depicted women covered in blood. Other designers have raised awareness about issues such as the exploitation of women, climate change, or abuse of animals. Designers such as British designer Katharine Hamnett do more than wear their opinions on their sleeve — she created a fashion niche of putting political opinions on T-shirts.

That kind of agitation keeps these arbiters of fashion in the public eye. So in keeping with the spirit of author Oscar Wilde — that there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about — here are 24/7 Wall St.’s most popular fashion designers in history.

In order to make our selection of the most popular fashion designers of all time, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed fashion industry sources and media reports. Popularity was based on name recognition, the number of Wikipedia pageviews, influence on fashion, legacy, and enduring fame.