35 Designers You Need to Know Now

From up-and-comers to household names, these fashion designers from around the globe are making major waves (and turning major heads on the runway) this season. Brush up on their signature styles, their major milestones, and their famous fans — just in time for you to become one.

By

September 2, 2011 11:00 AM
Share
chris benz
Jeff Gentner/Getty Images
Back Next

Chris Benz

Designer: Chris Benz
Launch: 2007
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Jessica Szohr, Greta Gerwig, Susan Sarandon
Signature Style: Preppy tomboy
chris benz
Joe Corrigan/Getty Images (left); Neilson Barnard/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Chris Benz

Fascinated by the progressive palette of his native Seattle, Chris Benz's lines are a blend of muted and neutral tones with sudden pops of color, which work beautifully with his slouchy-yet-sophisticated take on sportswear. Always growing, however, his recent lines have taken inspiration from locales both old and new. Whether it's 1960s Paris to modern-day Southern gentility in Georgia, he finds new ways to present timeless looks.
jason wu
Andy Kropa/Getty Images
Back Next

Jason Wu

Designer: Jason Wu
Launch: 2006
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Michelle Obama, Diane Kruger, Rachel Weisz
Signature Style: Effortlessly elegant
jason wu
Thomas Concordia/WireImage (left); Chris Moore/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Jason Wu

Moments before he catapulted to household-name status, he was ordering a Domino's pizza before sitting down to watch the inaugural ball coverage on TV. When First Lady Michelle Obama wore his one-shouldered white chiffon-and-Swarovski-crystal dress, Wu's knack for timeless formalwear really began to shine. Not just a full-length gown designer, Wu's more recent collections have played with bright colors and feminine accents, including oversized bows and silk headscarves.
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
Back Next

Diane von Furstenberg

Designer: Diane von Furstenberg
Launch: 1972
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts
Signature Style: Liberating wrap dresses
Chris Moore/Catwalking
Back Next

Diane von Furstenberg

Perhaps best known for introducing the world to her knitted jersey wrap dress in the '70s, she's been lauded as an icon of female liberation whose styles have greatly influenced women's fashion over the decades. From Gloria Steinem to Mary Tyler Moore, some of society's biggest names in the feminist movement gravitated to her garments. Now, she continues to fuse that era's hippie sensibilities with more modern graphic prints and feminine silhouettes.
Jerritt Clark/WireImage
Back Next

Christian Siriano

Designer: Christian Siriano
Launch: 2008
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Christina Hendricks, Alexa Chung, Heidi Klum
Signature Style: Show-stopping gowns
Thomas Concordia/WireImage (left); Karl Prouse/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Christian Siriano

The Project Runway alum happens to be the youngest winner to come out of the hit reality competition show. Since his 2008 victory, he has also become the most successful. Although some of his runway looks aren't quite wearable, his love of high-drama, fantasy-driven collections — which always seem to include lots of tulle, ruffles, and eclectic fabrics — have kept people interested. Plus, he works overtime, designing everything from Payless shoes to Victoria's Secret makeup to household sponges to create a "fierce" brand.
Brian Killian/WireImage
Back Next

Anna Sui

Designer: Anna Sui
Launch: 1980
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Sofia Coppola, Drew Barrymore, Stevie Nicks
Signature Style: Underground toughness meets boho glam
Karl Prouse/Catwalking (left); Frazer Harrison/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Anna Sui

Although she didn't make her runway debut until 1991, the designer — who comes from a generation of subversive, underground style-setters — has created a following that's more than 30 years in the making. The flea-market junkie, known for her bold prints and patchwork aesthetic, has taken inspiration from rock-and-roll (think: the New York Dolls), the wild west, and 17th-century English paintings to create some of the industry's most energetic shows.
George Pimentel/WireImage
Back Next

Alexander Wang

Designer: Alexander Wang
Launch: 2007
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Mary-Kate Olsen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Megan Fox
Signature Style: Urban chic mixed with '80s flair and '90s grunge
Chris Moore/Catwalking
Back Next

Alexander Wang

Sure, he was a Parsons dropout. Big whoop. Now, he's one of the coolest new designers and a bona fide critical darling. His label is the embodiment of several generations rolled into one — the good, edgy stuff from the '80s and '90s without all the ultra-neon nonsense — and exudes a casual, nonchalant attitude.
Dave M Bennet/Getty Images
Back Next

Rag & Bone

Designers: Marcus Wainwright and David Neville
Launch: 2002
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Angelina Jolie, Victoria Beckham, Jude Law
Signature Style: British-inspired work wear
Karl Prouse/Catwalking (left); Thomas Concordia/WireImage (right)
Back Next

Rag & Bone

Named after the English "rag and bone" man who traveled the streets and acquired discarded scraps, rags, and bones (get it?), the label was created by British transplants who brought their tailoring influences — and skinny ties! — stateside. Now, their brand has grown to include handbags, denim, and children's clothing for those fashionistas-in-training.
AFP/Getty Images
Back Next

Miu Miu

Designer: Miuccia Prada
Launch: 1993
City: Milan
Famous Fans: Mischa Barton, Lindsay Lohan, Camilla Belle
Signature Style: Skin-baring, edgy takes on grown-up styles
Chris Moore/Catwalking
Back Next

Miu Miu

Miu Miu, the nickname of founder Miuccia Prada, launched as a sister label to the highly refined Prada signature line and quickly became known for being the more affordable, much wilder version. The designer bravely pulls together contrasting looks, from high-waisted Lolita dresses to sheer nude mesh insets. No wonder Lohan is a fan.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Back Next

Band of Outsiders

Designer: Scott Sternberg
Launch: 2004
City: Los Angeles
Famous Fans: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Kanye West
Signature Style: Quirky twists on classic staples
Chris Moore/Catwalking (left); Amy Sussman/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Band of Outsiders

The brand, which has collaborated with the likes of über-preppy Sperry Top-Sider and Manolo Blahnik (swoon!), is perhaps best known for its menswear — tailored suits and sharply cut shirts with a sporty undertone. Since 2007, however, the designer has been shaking things up with his new vintage-inspired women's line, Boy.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford/Getty Images
Back Next

Thakoon

Designer: Thakoon Panichgul
Launch: 2004
City: New York City
Famous Fans: America Ferrera, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Obama
Signature Style: Light, ethereal silhouettes
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images (left); Chris Moore/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Thakoon

The Thai-born, Nebraska-raised designer has quickly become known for blending distinctly different influences into his whimsical yet sporty lines. From billowy organza to silk-linen gowns, his eye for styling and detail have made him an insanely popular brand. So popular, in fact, that he designed a line for the Gap and later created a sold-out, limited-edition line at Target.
Eric Ryan/Getty Images
Back Next

Lanvin

Designers: Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver
Launch: 1889
City: Paris
Famous Fans: Kate Moss, Jennifer Aniston, Sophia Coppola
Signature Style: Ultra-voluminous couture mixed with luxurious textiles
Victor Boyko/WireImage; Tony Barson/WireImage
Back Next

Lanvin

The oldest French fashion house in operation, the label was founded by Jeanne Lanvin, who started out as a milliner before fitting Parisian elite. She's perhaps most famous for creating the unfitted flapper dress — which she first designed for her young daughter, lucky girl — in the 1920s. Now, helmed by Elbaz since 2001 (Ossendrijver debuted the menswear line in 2006), House of Lanvin is a favorite among high-fashion magazine editors and celebrities looking for consistently exquisite pieces.
Ben Hider/Getty Images
Back Next

Vena Cava

Designers: Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock
Launch: 2003
City: Brooklyn, New York
Famous Fans: Rachel Bilson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rita Wilson
Signature Style: Sophisticated spin on vintage style
JP Yim/WireImage (left); Ben Hider/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Vena Cava

These up-and-comers first met at the ripe old age of 17, and as legend (or Google) has it, created their first line of 12 looks on the living room floor of their apartment. Now, they've set up shop in the industrial Gowanus neighborhood, home to a host of indie brands. Each season, their collection — sometimes inspired by japonismo and sometimes Egyptian history — evolves while staying consistent to their arty vision.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford/Getty Images
Back Next

Altuzarra

Designer: Joseph Altuzarra
Launch: 2009
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Rachel McAdams, Kim Kardashian, Leighton Meester
Signature Style: Dreamlike design meets functional tailoring
Heathcliff O'Malley/Catwalking (left); JP Yim/WireImage (right)
Back Next

Altuzarra

This Paris-born newcomer studied ballet for eight years before finding his love of fashion. His debut last year showcased a romantic look at the professional woman, with body-conscious lines and contrasting panels. Although he's still very green on the Fashion Week turf, he is already looking at his next big project: a potential furniture line.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Back Next

Victoria Beckham

Designer: Victoria Beckham
Launch: 2009
City: London
Famous Fans: Leighton Meester, Katherine Heigl, Elle Macpherson
Signature Style: Sophisticated, figure-flattering silhouettes
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images (left); Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Victoria Beckham

The former Spice Girl has worn enough designer clothes in her lifetime that it only seemed natural for her to start designing them herself. But despite her celebrity status, she has paid close attention to the real-life, day-to-day needs of her customers, and she's honed in on this more and more with each season. She's now offering up fewer of the body-hugging hourglass dresses and more of the well-draped investment pieces that mix femininity and masculinity to provide a classically edgy look.
Bryan Bedder/WireImage
Back Next

Ralph Lauren

Designer: Ralph Lauren
Launch: 1968
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Sarah Jessica Parker, Blake Lively, Rebecca Romijn
Signature Style: Preppy polo shirts in a rainbow of vibrant colors
Fernando Calfat/Getty Images
Back Next

Ralph Lauren

For decades, this household name has provided the unofficial uniform for the nation's preppy elite. Perhaps known most for his Polo label, the designer has created a collared shirt empire. But more than just tweed blazers, tennis skirts, and rugby shirts, he has found success in formalwear (we love a good Ralph Lauren tux), home furnishings, and — no doubt due to his vibrant color spectrum — even paint.
Nick Harvey/Getty Images
Back Next

Erdem

Designer: Erdem Moralioglu
Launch: 2006
City: London
Famous Fans: Tilda Swinton, Nicole Richie, Claudia Schiffer
Signature Style: Romantic, highly detailed feminine frocks
Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage
Back Next

Erdem

This Montreal-born newcomer is inspired by everything from productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream to flower gardens, and his recent collections showcase that pastel-tinted aesthetic to a T. What's more, he has become known for his custom-designed graphic prints.
Nick Harvey/WireImage
Back Next

Céline

Designer: Phoebe Philo
Launch: 1945
City: Paris
Famous Fans: Madonna, Lucy Liu, Kylie Minogue
Signature Style: High-end separates for the girl next door
Karl Prouse/Catwalking (left); Dominique Charriau/WireImage (right)
Back Next

Céline

Céline didn't come to prominence until the 1960s, when it transformed from a children's custom shoe business to a ready-to-wear collection of couture sportswear. Madame Céline Vipiana held the reins until Michael Kors took over from 1997 to 2004. Now, the brand's line of body-hugging skirts, soft knits, and charming accessories make for a distinct city-girl look.
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage
Back Next

Peter Som

Designer: Peter Som
Launch: 2002
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Liv Tyler, Claire Danes, Ginnifer Goodwin
Signature Style: Quirky yet classic sportswear
Thomas Concordia/WireImage (left); Chris Moore/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Peter Som

Inspired by his architect parents and the hippie-era of his San Francisco upbringing, the designer finds beauty in both the elegant and in the odd … and blends them together to create fresh, clean garments that have made him known early on as "the next Michael Kors." Which makes sense, seeing that he apprenticed for both Kors and Calvin Klein while studying at Parsons in the '90s.
Antonio de Moraes Barros/WireImage
Back Next

Christopher Kane

Designer: Christopher Kane
Launch: 2007
City: London
Famous Fans: Carey Mulligan, Lily Allen, Rihanna
Signature Style: Unexpected combinations of colors and textures
Danny Martindale/WireImage (left); Chris Moore/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Christopher Kane

The Scottish designer has one stellar mentor: Donatella Versace. In addition to a consultancy gig with the famous Italian designer, he's lately been collaborating with her on her Versus line. That doesn't mean he isn't coming up with his own good ideas. (For example, even though 3-D is popular at the movie theater, it wasn't until his spring 2009 collection that the multidimensional look hit the runway.)
Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet
Back Next

Balenciaga

Designer: Nicolas Ghesquière
Launch: 1918
City: Paris
Famous Fans: Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Connelly, Kate Moss
Signature Style: Radical experimentation with avante-garde futurism
Chris Moore/Catwalking
Back Next

Balenciaga

Some of the most daring, postmodern looks to hit the runway in recent years have been during Balenciaga shows. Despite the brand's nearly century-old namesake, setting some of the industry's biggest trends — sci-fi shapes, unpredictable proportions, reinterpreted tribal prints, outrageous footwear — has been its steadfast mission ever since Ghesquière arrived in 1998.
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage
Back Next

Proenza Schouler

Designers: Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez
Launch: 2002
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth
Signature Style: Modern takes on bustiers and corsetry
Karl Prouse/Catwalking
Back Next

Proenza Schouler

The two designers (self-proclaimed "dorks," though that's really hard to believe...) have had a storybook start: They met in design school and partnered on their graduation project before going into business together. In addition to a new eyewear line, the duo's collections include menswear-inspired coats, color-blocking, and a liberal use of deep colors, including bronze, navy, military green, and the ever-so-current "greige."
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Back Next

L.A.M.B.

Designer: Gwen Stefani
Launch: 2006
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Penelope Cruz, Lucy Liu, Kelly Osbourne
Signature Style: Harajuku girl meets urban street style
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Back Next

L.A.M.B.

The singer named her first collection after her first solo album, Love.Angel.Music.Baby., and the line has been heavily influenced by the same things that inspired her music: a ska-inspired fusion of South American stylings, Japanese trends, and Afro-Caribbean beats. From wild prints to drop-crotch trousers, Stefani tries it all with her light-hearted line, which also includes fragrance and accessories.
Antonio de Maraes Barros/WireImage
Back Next

Chanel

Designer: Karl Lagerfeld
Launch: 1909
City: Paris
Famous Fans: Nicole Kidman, Ashley Olsen, Audrey Tautou
Signature Style: Tailored tweed skirt-and-cardigan-jacket sets
Dominique Charriau/WireImage (left); Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Chanel

From that traditional tweed to Chanel No. 5 perfume (one of the best-selling fragrances of all time) to those quilted chain-link leather purses, the looks that have come out of Coco Chanel's namesake are some of the most iconic in fashion history. When Karl Lagerfeld joined the brand in 1983, he helped revive its elite status while also infusing a new level of sexiness into the conservative-yet-feminine style.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Back Next

Rodarte

Designers: Kate and Laura Mulleavy
Launch: 2005
City: Pasadena, California
Famous Fans: Chloë Sevigny, Michelle Obama, Cate Blanchett
Signature Style: Meticulously designed flirty dresses
Chris Moore/Catwalking
Back Next

Rodarte

The Mulleavy sisters — who tagged their line after their mother's maiden name — are known for their meticulous attention to detail. The delicate and delectable fruits of their labor? Otherwordly gowns with hand-stitched petals and hand-dyed silk tulle. Recently, they brought such whimsy to the masses (and to the White House!) with an exclusive, affordable line for Target.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Back Next

Prabal Gurung

Designer: Prabal Gurung
Launch: 2009
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Zoe Saldana, Rachel Zoe, Oprah Winfrey
Signature Style: Architectural design meets draping
Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images (left); Karl Prouse/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Prabal Gurung

Extremely new to the scene, the designer — born in Singapore and raised in Nepal — has honed his skills with jobs interning for Donna Karan, working with Cynthia Rowley's design team, and design directing at Bill Blass. Now, the designer finds inspiration in everything from product design (his mom's '70s-era YSL Rive Gauche perfume inspired an entire collection!) to packaging.
Marc Susset-Lacroix/WireImage
Back Next

Isabel Marant

Designer: Isabel Marant
Launch: 1989
City: Paris
Famous Fans: Cameron Diaz, Kirsten Dunst, Rachel Bilson
Signature Style: Ultra-feminine bohemian dresses
Nathalie Lagneau/Catwalking
Back Next

Isabel Marant

In a direction opposite of many established designers, Marant began creating accessories before migrating into ready-to-wear collections five years later. But thank God she did, because her diaphanous, loose-fitting knits and tailored, feminine jackets have given women more diversity in their wardrobes.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Back Next

Burberry

Designer: Christopher Bailey
Launch: 1856
City: London
Famous Fans: Emma Watson, Kate Beckinsale, Mena Suvari
Signature Style: Trademark check-patterned trenches
Chris Moore/Catwalking
Back Next

Burberry

Founded by Thomas Burberry, the brand was created to provide sturdy outerwear to the likes of the first South Pole explorers and WWI soldiers fighting in the trenches (get it now?). Since then, Queen Elizabeth gave it the royal seal of approval and Audrey Hepburn brought it to prominence in Hollywood when she wore the label in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Now, more than just coats, Burberry Prorsum has introduced its clientele to more opulent colors and a sexy edge.
Stan Honda/AFP
Back Next

Michael Kors

Designer: Michael Kors
Launch: 1981
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Ellen Pompeo, Jessica Simpson, Mary J. Blige
Signature Style: Reboots of classics with wide appeal
Karl Prouse/Catwalking (left); Frazer Harrison/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Michael Kors

The Long Island native doesn't need to be a Project Runway judge to remain an impressive force in the American fashion landscape. But it certainly can't hurt. Aside from his TV fame, he's developed a niche within said landscape with his athletic-looking street wear — even seen in his more formal pieces.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Back Next

Preen

Designers: Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi
Launch: 1996
City: London
Famous Fans: Amy Winehouse, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chloë Sevigny
Signature Style: Victoriana meets futuristic design
Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images (left); Karl Prouse/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Preen

At the start, the Britain-based pair sold wares modeled after Victoriana and punk rock, but they've quickly transformed their collections into clothes with more futuristic elements. With a Topshop partnership and a line for the younger set, they are as established as they come. (And, how adorable is this? They're a couple!)
Charles Eshelman/Getty Images
Back Next

3.1 Phillip Lim

Designer: Phillip Lim
Launch: 2004
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Scarlett Johansson, Kate Hudson, Alexis Bledel
Signature Style: Accessible pieces with extraordinary embellishments
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Back Next

3.1 Phillip Lim

If it wasn't for some start-up cash from his fabric supplier friend, Wen Zhou, back in 2004, the Thailand-born designer might not have a label now available in more than 26 countries. Nearly every piece in his womenswear line is touched up with something extra, whether it's pearls on a shift dress, military epaulets on a khaki trench, or Swarovski-crystal-adorned headbands. But...why the 3.1? When he and Zhou went into business together, they were both 31 at the time.
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage
Back Next

Louis Vuitton

Designer: Marc Jacobs
Launch: 1854
City: Paris
Famous Fans: Madonna, Rihanna, Kanye West
Signature Style: Classic looks with playful, jagged edges
Dominique Charriau/WireImage
Back Next

Louis Vuitton

One of the longest-lasting names in the industry, Vuitton first went into business of luxury luggage — trunks, hatboxes, and eventually the trademark brown-and-tan checked satchels. It wasn't until Marc Jacobs joined the label that its ready-to-wear lines emerged. Now, the brand couples prim-and-proper concepts with more outrageous accents, such as graffiti, antigravity designs, and urban textures. Still, LVMH (as it's now called after merging with Moët et Chandon and Hennessy) will perhaps always be best known for its iconic LV monogrammed canvas.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Back Next

Tory Burch

Designer: Tory Burch
Launch: 2004
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Hilary Duff, Paris Hilton, Angie Harmon
Signature Style: Hippie chic meets the Hamptons
John Parra/WireImage
Back Next

Tory Burch

When Oprah Winfrey gives you an on-air endorsement (she called her "the next big thing in fashion" on her show in April 2005), it's hard not to succeed. Burch, who counts her parents as style icons, was clearly inspired by a love of '60s and '70s fashion: Bold prints and ethnic detail on tunics and caftans are a staple of the eclectic line. Which makes sense, if one is to believe the rumor that as a kid, she paired tie-dyed tees with Hermès scarves.
Roger Kisby/Getty Images
Back Next

Richard Chai

Designer: Richard Chai
Launch: 2004
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Christina Ricci, Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker
Signature Style: Minimalism with a surprising juxtaposition of fabrics
Jemal Countess/Getty Images (left); Heathcliff O'Malley/Catwalking (right)
Back Next

Richard Chai

The man who helped launch Marc by Marc Jacobs and resurrect TSE began his eponymous line of highly tailored numbers to high praise. The designer, who employs Old World techniques (read: hand stitching), creates casual clothes that pair such disparate fabrics as silk and wool or twill and crinkly crepe.
Jamie McCarthy/WireImage
Back Next

Nanette Lepore

Designer: Nanette Lepore
Launch: 1992
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Freida Pinto, Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria
Signature Style: Playful, free-spirited frocks
Scott Gries/Getty Images (left); Frazer Harrison/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

Nanette Lepore

While starting out in a penthouse office in the garment district of New York, the Ohio native's studio served as an incubator for poets and painters to share ideas, so it's no wonder where her bohemian collections — both youthful and gypsy-like — took some inspiration. In recent years, she has gotten even more girly, with bold colors and whimsical accents of lace and ruffles.
Desiree Navarro/FilmMagic
Back Next

ADAM

Designer: Adam Lippes
Launch: 2006
City: New York City
Famous Fans: Kelly Ripa, Oprah Winfrey, Clémence Poésy
Signature Style: Easy, comfortable knitwear and trousers
Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images (left); Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images (right)
Back Next

ADAM

His first label was called Adam+Eve, but when shoppers were accidentally clicking on a sex-toy shop by the same name, the former Ralph Lauren PR rep decided to simplify things. Simplification is the same tact he uses in creating his ready-to-wear lines, which are known for their accessibility to real women of all shapes and sizes.