Best of French Designers: From Coco Chanel to Pierre Balmain

France got a lot to offer, one of those things is Paris! Paris is one of the biggest fashion capitals in Europe and worldwide and birthplace of many fashion designers. Two times a year the Paris Fashion Week takes place and shows the worlds and Paris best fashion designers.
Let’s take a look at Paris’s and France best designers.

Pierre Balmain – Sophisticated & Elegant High Fashion since 1945

Pierre Alexandre Claudius Balmain was born in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in 1914. He died in 1982 and founded the internationally known fashion label Balmain, which exists till today. Pierre Balmain began in 1933 with the study of architecture at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris, which he did not finish. From 1934 he turned to fashion and worked until 1938 for Edward Molyneux. From 1939 he worked for Lucien Lelong with wartime interruptions. Immediately after the war, he opened his first studio in the Rue François 1er in Paris in autumn 1945. In 1946, he created his first perfume in Élysée 64-83, named after his telephone number. 1948 Balmain hired the Dane Erik Mortensen as a design assistant, who became his life partner. In 1949, the first men’s fragrance was added to Eau de Verveine-citronelle. The range of Balmain’s home was later extended, as in most fashion houses, to wristwatches and other accessories.

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Coco Chanel – The founder of Chanel Nº 5

Gabrielle, Coco ‘Chanel, born as Gabrielle Chanel on August 19, 1883 in Saumur, Pays de la Loire and died January 10, 1971 in Paris was an internationally known French fashion designer and entrepreneur. Coco Chanel founded the Chanel fashion empire in the early 1910s and is considered to be an outstanding figure in fashion history. She became the only person in her profession to be named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People of the Twentieth Century by Time magazine in 1999 because of her influence on the fashion world, especially haute couture of the Century. From 1913 she was a pioneer of a then almost revolutionary, functional women’s fashion with a calf-length skirt or airy pants, loose belted top and short haircut for self-confident, modern women. In the 1920s, Coco Chanel created the “little black dress”, which is still a classic in women’s fashion. In 1922 she launched the perfume Chanel Nº 5, which is considered the best selling in the world. From the mid-1950s, her Chanel costume with a loose, mostly boarded tweed jacket and a flared skirt became world famous. Coco Chanel’s legacy, Chanel, a global company, is today one of the largest and most important in the fashion industry.

Jean Paul Gaultier – Never trained, still successful

Jean Paul Gaultier was born April 24, 1952 in Arcueil and is a French fashion designer and founder of the same named company. Gaultier never trained as a fashion designer. However, he started to send his fashion sketches to famous fashion designers as a very young man. Pierre Cardin was impressed by his skills and hired him as an assistant in 1970. From 1971, he worked as an assistant to chief designer Michel Goma in the haute couture house of Jean Patou and after 1973 as assistant to Angelo Tarlazzi, Goma’s successor.

Hubert de Givenchy – Youngest designer of the Parisian fashion scene

Hubert de Givenchy was born on 27 February 1927 in Beauvais, his full name was Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy. The international popular fashion and cosmetic brand were founded by Hubert de Givenchy, 1952 in Paris. He designed his first works in the fashion industry in 1945 for Jacques Fath in Paris, then followed designs for Lucien Lelong, Pierre Balmain, and Christian Dior. Finally, he worked from 1947 to 1951 for the avant-garde designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1952 de Givenchy opened his first studio at the Plaine Monceau in Paris and organized a collection for Bettina Graziani, the top model of the time. Here he steered an innovative course against the more conservative collections from Dior. At 25, he was the youngest designer of the emerging progressive Parisian fashion scene. His first collections were made for financial reasons from rather simple materials but always caused a stir in the trade press.

Pierre Cardin – First major Designer for Men

Pierre Cardin was born in 1922 as Pietro Constante Cardin in San Biagio di Callalta, Italy. He is a French designer and one of the inventors of futuristic fashion from 1963. He went to Paris in 1944 and began his fashion career at the House of Paquin and is thus considered today as the longest in fashion businessman in the world. In 1946 Cardin then made the costumes for Jean Cocteau’s film “La Belle et la Bête” during his three-month employment at Elsa Schiaparelli’s house. After that, he actually wanted to start at the very prestigious Cristóbal Balenciaga but got no employment and therefore began in 1947 at Christian Dior’s atelier. There he designed the “New Look” for women, which was characterized by wide-flared, lavishly cut skirts, narrow shoulders and tight waists. In 1950, he became the first couturier to found his own haute couture company, which produces high-quality ready-to-wear clothing (prêt-à-porter) for the global market. Thus, fashionable clothing and processing quality clothing was also affordable for a wider audience. His women’s fashion from this period distinguished itself in spite of elegance, above all by simplicity and everyday practicality. A decade later, Cardin was the first major fashion designer to design lines for men.

Christian Lacroix – Museum curator and then Designer

Christian Lacroix was born in Arles, France on May 16, 1951. In the early 1970s, Lacroix met his future wife, Françoise Rosenthiel, an Hermès consultant, who opened the door to the fashion industry. He has been married to her since 1974. Rosenthiel’s friends included PR manager Jean-Jacques Picart, who worked for many French haute couture fashion companies. Through Rosenthiels and Picart’s mediation, Lacroix worked from 1978 as a character assistant in the fashion department of Hermès, took in 1980 a job with the French designer Guy Paulin and drew from 1981 to 1987, the haute couture collection of the house Jean Patou. For the Japanese designer Jun Ashida, who also equipped members of the imperial family, Lacroix was since 1980 incidentally active. In 1986, Lacroix was awarded for his work at Patou with the French Dé d’Or and received by the Council of Fashion Designers of America the special prize as the most influential foreign designer. Between 1987 and 2009, Lacroix was chief designer of his own fashion brand “Christian Lacroix”.

Thierry Mugler – Dramatic, futuristic designs, narrow waists

Thierry Mugler was born in Straßburg, 1948. He is the founder of the fashion and cosmetic empire Thierry Mugler SAS with head office in Paris. In 1973 he created his first collection under the name Café de Paris. Mugler founded the fashion company Thierry Mugler in 1974. He opened his first boutique in Paris in 1978 at the Place des Victoires. In the same year, Mugler presented menswear for the first time. For a television appearance, David Bowie’s with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias 1979 Mugler designed their stage costumes. Dramatic, often futuristic designs, emphasizing slim waistlines and accessories like metallic bras, huge shoulder pads, studs, and latex were Mugler’s hallmarks. His high-priced ready-to-wear fashion of the following two decades was most elegant, exalted and at the same time austere, with dominant colors, without many patterns.

Christian Louboutin – The Shoes with the Red Soles

Christian Louboutin was born in 1963 or 1964 in Paris and is a French shoe and bag designer. Above all, his modern and exclusive shoe designs are known, which are characterized by high heels and red soles. Christian Louboutin’s interest in women’s shoes was sparked as a child. First, he tried his designs and drawings in the dancers of the Paris Variety and parties to accommodate and sell them shoes. Since this did not work, especially for reasons of money, he started his apprenticeship with Charles Jourdan, Maud Frizon, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. His real career began with his own shop near the Place des Victoires in Paris, which soon became very popular. For one thing, because of the celebrities who went shopping there and offered coffee to all customers for free. The final breakthrough came when American company Neiman Marcus included his shoes in their program.

Emanuel Ungaro – From Balenciaga to his own Empire

Emanuel Ungaro was born in Aix-en-Provence,1933 and is an internationally known designer. His company exists till today but since 2004 he is not the chief anymore. Emanuel Ungaro began his career as a son of Italian parents in the early 1950s as a simple tailor in Aix -en- Provence. He created clothes for his sisters, who had the opportunity to wear them at festivities of the upper classes in Italy and to make known Ungaro’s skills in this way. Ungaro then worked as a stylist, moved to Paris and moved in 1955 as a designer to Cristobal Balenciaga. In 1958 he was promoted to chief designer at Balenciaga, but left the company in 1964, to found his own, named after him Haute Couture fashion label in Paris the following year together with his then partner, the textile designer Sonia Knapp. Knapp remained until the end of the 1980s Ungaros business partner. Ungaro also worked for Courrèges in the early 1960s, where he created futuristic models.

Christian Audigier – From 5th Avenue to Discounter

Christian Audigier was born 1958 in Avignon and died in 2015. He was a French designer who lived in the U.S and was famous for his clothing line “Ed Hardy”. At the age of 16, he was discovered by a jeans label because he was very successful as a seller. Christian Audigier designed for several major labels, including Diesel, Lee, Levi’s and Von Dutch. As head designer of Von Dutch, he made the breakthrough. Among other things, he set with baseball caps, actually typical trucker fashion, a fashionable trend. Audigier has been inspired by the fashion of White Trash and Rock’n’Roll. He gave celebrities his “Ed Hardy” shirts for free and got free promotion, that’s how his brand got famous but at the end, you were able to buy the high-end shirt in discounters like Walmart. In 2011 he sold the fashion label Ed Hardy, based on the work of Don Ed Hardy.

You want to see more designers? Check out designers from New York.