The Top 10 Fashion Designers Ruling the Fashion World Right Now
The world of fashion is ever-changing, but some designers manage to remain at the forefront year after year. These visionaries have redefined fashion, created iconic brands, and transformed the industry again and again. Their designs continue influencing pop culture and what people wear around the world.
This article will count down the top 10 fashion designers who are making the biggest impact in 2023. These talented individuals have dressed celebrities and royalty, taken the runway by storm, and built fashion empires. Their names are synonymous with impeccable style and cutting-edge trends.
The ranking considers factors like longevity, influence, business success, and talent. It provides a look at the recent work of both long-standing designers and fresh faces shaking up the scene. While subjective, the list comprises the heavy hitters who sit at the top of global fashion today.
From Karl Lagerfeld to Marc Jacobs, this diverse group of superstar designers dictates what’s hot each season. Their visions translate into major economic power and influence culture well beyond the industry. Read on for a close look at the lives, careers, and latest inspirations of the top 10 fashion designers right now.
1. Karl Lagerfeld
No designer has influenced the fashion industry quite like Karl Lagerfeld. The iconic German designer is best known for his reign at Chanel, which lasted over 30 years. However, Lagerfeld also served as creative director for Fendi and his own eponymous fashion house.
Lagerfeld’s career began in 1955 after winning a design competition. He got his start at Balmain before becoming head designer at Chloé. In 1983, he took over creative leadership at Chanel, radically transforming the brand into the powerhouse it is today. Lagerfeld modernized Chanel’s classic tweed suits, adding glamor and freshening the label’s image.
In addition to runway collections, Lagerfeld collaborated with brands like H&M and Chanel created fragrances like Chanel No. 5. Celebrities and fashion editors adored him for his signature personal style, including gloves, sunglasses, and a ponytail.
Even in his 80s, Lagerfeld remained one of fashion’s most prolific designers. He had an insatiable curiosity and work ethic, photographing campaigns, designing costumes, and collaborating on special projects. Lagerfeld passed away in 2019, leaving a legacy as one of the most iconic designers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
2. Miuccia Prada
As the backbone behind one of fashion’s most influential brands, Miuccia Prada has carved out her place among the industry’s elite designers. Born in 1949, Prada took over her family’s luggage business in the late 1970s and transformed it into a luxury fashion powerhouse.
Prada’s collections are known for minimalist, elegantly tailored pieces as well as opulent, avant-garde designs. Her aesthetic balances simplicity and extravagance, often using black and neutral colors accented by daring accessories and textures.
Some of Prada’s most iconic designs include '90s menswear-inspired women’s looks, industrial-influenced accessories, and unusual materials like lace and rhinestones stacked onto basics. She also made luxury backpacks a status symbol.
Along with clothing, Prada oversees an empire that includes Miu Miu (a fashion line launched in 1992), footwear, handbags and other accessories, fragrances, eyewear, and more. Celebrities like Rihanna, Katie Holmes, and Cate Blanchett often wear her sharply-cut runway looks.
Now in her 70s, Prada still oversees all of the label’s collections. She continues influencing both high fashion and street style with her forward-looking vision and fusion of innovation and luxury.
3. Valentino Garavani
Valentino Garavani, better known simply as Valentino, is often called the “King of Couture.” The iconic Italian designer founded his namesake fashion house in 1960 and has dressed glamorous stars ever since.
Valentino’s opulent gowns made him a favorite among Hollywood celebrities in the 1960s. His signature red carpet looks still exude timeless elegance today. Valentino’s designs stand out for delicate lace, intricate beading, and luxe fabrics like silk and satin.
Besides ball gowns, Valentino creates flowing, feminine daywear with high-end details. His styles often incorporate capes, bows, and ruffles while relying heavily on the color red. In the 1990s, Valentino expanded into handbags, accessories, fragrances, and menswear as well.
Even after retiring in 2008, Garavani remains closely involved with the house he built. Valentino himself has won numerous design awards, including a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Now in his late 80s, his couture still garners celebrity fans and critical acclaim.
4. Ralph Lauren
As one of the biggest names in American fashion, Ralph Lauren has exemplified aspirational lifestyle dressing for over 50 years. He founded his company in 1967 and quickly became known for luxury menswear. His signature polo shirt featured in his early menswear line is now an iconic symbol of understated preppy style.
Lauren later expanded into women’s clothing, accessories, home goods, fragrances, and more. His designs evoke carefree Ivy League and Western aesthetics along with elements of old Hollywood glamor. He is often credited with defining and dressing the "American Dream."
Some of Lauren's most memorable looks include sharp suits for men, unfussy wrap dresses for women, polo shirts with a vintage vibe, and “Great Gatsby”-style eveningwear. His brand has outfitted U.S. Olympic athletes, Wimbledon tennis players, and even political figures.
Today, Lauren operates a global empire covering all aspects of lifestyle fashion. While he stepped down as chief creative officer in 2015, he remains involved as an advisor and archivist. Lauren’s lasting influence comes from his aspirational branding and ability to create timeless American style.
5. Giorgio Armani
Giorgio Armani has built one of fashion’s greatest empires since founding his eponymous company in 1975. The renowned Italian designer first made his mark with 1970s men’s suits featuring a soft, unstructured aesthetic. This innovative twist on tailoring revolutionized menswear and came to define Armani’s signature style.
Armani went on to conquer every fashion category. His expertly tailored, minimalist clothing epitomizes understated glamor. Armani’s timeless, elegant aesthetic appeals to Hollywood stars, professional women, and fashion connoisseurs alike.
Beyond apparel, Armani’s house offers accessories, beauty products, home goods, hotels, and more. He was also one of the first high-end designers to partner with mass retailers on capsule collections. Armani remains deeply involved with his privately-held company, overseeing dozens of sub-labels like Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, and Armani Exchange.
Now in his late 80s, Armani has cemented his legacy as a fashion visionary. His early menswear innovations and subsequent empire spanning diverse markets and segments keep him at the peak of global fashion. Armani’s lasting contribution lies in his mastery of minimalism and introduction of the “soft suit.”
6. Donatella Versace
As the current vice president and creative director for Versace, Donatella Versace carries on the iconic brand founded by her late brother Gianni. After Gianni’s murder in 1997, Donatella took the helm and has led Versace into the 21st century.
Donatella upholds her brother’s design legacy with bold, vibrant, and sexy clothing for women and men. Signature Versace elements include cutouts, Greek key patterns, and pops of gold. The house is known for its opulent evening wear and slinky silhouettes that hug the body.
Beyond creating runway collections, Donatella directs Versace’s accessories, fragrances, home décor, hotels and other lines. She has also mastered collaborations with contemporary artists, celebrities and brands like H&M.
Throughout her tenure, Donatella has kept Versace at the forefront of pop culture. Many music stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé, wear the label’s recognizable looks. Blending retro glamor with current trends, Donatella carries her brother’s vision into the future.
7. Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein is a global fashion titan who epitomized minimalist chic in the 70s and 80s. The label, founded in 1968, became known for stripped-down lines and subtle sexuality. Klein’s sleek designs featured neutral palettes, sleek silhouettes and high-end basics.
Key Calvin Klein pieces included slip dresses, button-fly jeans, fitted suits, and casual outerwear. Clean, contemporary style made the brand a hit with consumers and celebrities alike. In the 90s, Klein’s advertisements starring Kate Moss were considered groundbreaking and controversial.
Beyond apparel, Klein pioneered designer denim and underwear, making the brand’s name synonymous with basics. He later expanded into fragrances, accessories, home furnishings, and more. After selling the company in 2002, Klein still influenced design as a creative director.
Now 79, Klein made an indelible mark showcasing simplicity and sex appeal. The designer retired in 2019, but his sensual and unfussy aesthetic still resonates in the label’s clothing and campaigns today. Klein's vision took basic items and imbued them with luxury and cutting edge.
8. Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg skyrocketed to fame in the 1970s with her iconic wrap dress. The flattering, versatile design epitomized the independent, working women of that era. Although von Furstenberg sold her company in 1985, she returned as its leader in the late 90s and continues impacting fashion today.
The Belgian-American designer got her start by creating silk jersey dresses. Her 1974 wrap dress gained immense popularity, as women loved its comfort and mix of femininity and practicality. Von Furstenberg went on to expand her line to include all types of women’s clothing, accessories, fragrances and home goods.
After relaunching her company, von Furstenberg once again made it a force in contemporary fashion. Her colorful prints and effortless glamor attracted a new generation. Even in her 70s now, von Furstenberg remains directly involved in design.
Von Furstenberg also heads philanthropic initiatives supporting women’s causes. The fashion trailblazer has served as a role model for generations of working women. Her timeless wrap dress epitomizes her contribution of combining versatility, comfort and style.
9. Tom Ford
Few designers have impacted fashion and pop culture quite like Tom Ford. After revitalizing Gucci in the 1990s, Ford launched his eponymous label, which epitomizes sexy, empowered glamor. His provocative aesthetic makes Ford a red-carpet favorite.
Ford’s career took off as creative director at Gucci from 1994 to 2004. He transformed the struggling brand into a $10 billion fashion powerhouse through daring, sensual designs. Ford went on to make waves with his own label, launched in 2006.
Signature Tom Ford style includes strong shoulder suiting for men and slinky dresses for women. His look exudes seduction and complete confidence. Ford also creates provocative advertising campaigns and blockbuster fragrance and beauty lines.
Now in his 60s, the acclaimed designer shows no signs of slowing down. Along with fashion, Ford has directed critically-acclaimed films. However, clothing remains his foremost form of self-expression. Ford’s vision of modern luxury and charismatic persona cement his ongoing impact.
10. Marc Jacobs
Rounding out the top fashion designers is Marc Jacobs, whose trendsetting vision turned grunge into glam. Jacobs is renowned for his work revamping Louis Vuitton as creative director in the 1990s and early 2000s. He launched his own label in 1986 which remains a major force in the industry.
The New York native became famous blending downtown edge with high fashion elegance. His “grunge collection” for Perry Ellis in 1992 was a major breakthrough, even though it got him fired. When Jacobs took control of Louis Vuitton in 1997, he introduced irreverent prints and colors while boosting its luxury cachet.
Details like sequins, quirky motifs and bold graphics define Jacobs’ aesthetic. Beyond women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, he designs shoes, accessories, fragrances and more. Even while leading LV, Jacobs still nurtured his own label.
Now in his late 50s, Jacobs continues impacting both fashion and popular culture. In 2023 and beyond, his flair for turning street style into luxury shows no signs of fading.
These 10 creative visionaries represent the pinnacle of influence in modern fashion. Their memorable designs, global brands, and devotion to their craft keep them at the top year after year.
While their styles and personalities vary wildly, they all possess talent, business acumen, and innovative spirit. From minimalism to bold sexuality, their diverse aesthetics underpin current trends. These designers’ remarkable longevity also stems from accurately capturing the evolution of style and changing ideals of beauty.
Names like Lagerfeld, Prada, and Jacobs shape the looks we see on runways, red carpets, and city streets. Their comprehensive brands cover everything from runway pieces to fragrances to hotels and beyond. Even when they no longer lead their houses, their legacies live on.
The world of fashion will continue to change rapidly. However, these leading designers have etched their place permanently. They will keep inspiring future generations of artists, having fundamentally shaped fashion as we know it today. This top 10 provides a snapshot of the current titans dictating style and culture through their creativity and vision. Their contributions make them the designers to watch now and for years to come.