Celebration of American Luxury

by Darina Granik June 30, 2017

At Lux Second Chance, we love European brands! Who doesn’t, right?! However, let’s not forget our talented neighbors. This month we celebrate American fashion and American luxury along with the celebration of the Fourth of July. While some associate the notion of luxury exclusively with French and Italian major fashion houses, let’s talk about American luxury and its global impact.

In a row with Paris, London and Milan, New York City as a world fashion capital emerged in the early XX century. According to a researcher David Gilbert, the rise of fashion in New York was a direct reflection of the rise of its economic and political power. By the end of the XIX century the city had not only a district with production facilities and garment manufacturing, but also a huge client’s interest and wealth to consume luxurious goods. For more than a century Fifth Avenue with its shops, as well as fashionable social elite, has been highly celebrated in media - films, songs and literature. Today New York City is representative of an international and globalized fashion.

Eleanor Lambert established New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in 1943. The event was called "Press Week", and was created to attract fashion journalists, who couldn’t go to Paris due to World War II. This was a great occasion to showcase American designers, who were quite ignored by the authoritative fashion magazines, like Vogue. The show was a success and American fashion industry gained its exposure. There is an interesting documentary about contemporary New York Fashion Week, called “The Tents”, which focuses on its creation and progress of the last show held at Bryant Park before it moved to Lincoln Center. It is highly recommended to watch for anyone who is curious about the fashion industry, precisely in the American one.

Interesting fact - in 1962 Eleanor Lambert also was one of the creators of The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), an organization highly influential globally in the fashion industry. Its mission is to support American designers in global economy. Every year it holds a ceremony to award the best achievements by American designers, an International Designer and a Fashion Icon Award, which has elevated many celebrities to the highest ranks of the star power, from actresses like Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker to singers Rihanna and Beyonce. Currently, Diane Von Furstenberg holds a position of a President of CFDA.

In 2012 Digital Luxury Group made a list of Top 30 Luxury American designers, searched in the Internet. Noteworthy online magazine Racked mentions that accessories like handbags and wallets drove the bulk of traffic for number one and two brands, which are Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs. Fortunately, creations of many of them are available here on Lux Second Chance.

Michael Kors topped the list, followed by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Diane von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson. Tom Ford concludes the first top ten.

Michael Kors launches his company in 1981 at New York’s luxury goods department store, Bergdorf Goodman. By 2014 Forbes estimated his worth at US$ 1 billion. For 6 years Kors, like many other luxury American designers, had worked for a European fashion company. From 1997 to 2003 he was women’s ready-to-wear designer for French house Celine, but left it to concentrate on his own name- sake company. In 1999 and 2003 he was awarded as the best womenswear and menswear designer by CFDA. Not only Hollywood actresses wear his gowns at both red-carpet and informal events, but Michelle Obama wore a black dress of his design for her first formal portrait as the First Lady in 2009. Today Kors promotes glamorous yet comfortable Jetsetter lifestyle and fashion.

Marc Jacobs is probably one of the most famous alumni from Parson’s School of Design in the New York City. He is credited to elevating “grunge” from underground music clubs of Seattle to a high fashion trend, while working at Perri Ellis, which actually led to his dismissal. Over the years, he has been awarded by CFDA several times, and even received an award of a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. He was the creative director of the French design house Louis Vuitton from 1997 to 2014. It was him, who turned the company from solely a luggage firm into a global fashion powerhouse and quadrupled the company's profits. His collaborations with the artists, like Steven Spouse or Takashi Murakami created truly cult iconic pieces. Jacobs was on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. Today he works for his name-sake brand, as well as has a more accessible line, Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lifshitz, a son of Russian Jewish immigrants is an epitome of American dream - a man who created himself. He was brought up on Hollywood films of 1940-1950’s and on his associations with glamour and fantasy, he built his brand.In 1967 he started his company with the production of ties. Next year he created “Polo by Ralph Lauren”. According to a writer Mark Tungate, while European luxury brands rely on “heritage” for marketing purposes, Lauren created a world of aristocratic good taste and the whole idea of “lifestyle” as opposed to just fashion, which also included the Polo reference. In fifty years his company expanded from ties and clothing into perfumes, household goods and cafes. In 2016 Forbes estimates his wealth at $5.5 billion, which makes Ralph Lauren the 233rd richest person in the world.

Tory Burch created a glamorous “lifestyle” brand that has been very popular within New York social elite. The legend goes how on the opening day of her store the whole inventory was sold out. Socialites, celebrities, fashion editors - they all wear and love Tory Burch. A daughter of a classic Hollywood actress, Reva, and a wealthy investor, Ira Earl Robinson, graduated as a major in art history, and worked for Harper’s Bazaar and in communications for a couple of luxury fashion houses, including Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang. She launched her company in 2004 with her husband, venture investor, Chris Burch. In 2008 she received Accessories Designer of the Year, award from CFDA. Although the Burches divorced, Tory’s wealth has been estimated at US $1 billion as of 2013. And in 2015 she was listed as the 73rd most powerful woman in the world. Tory Burch, both as a brand and a woman behind it, is a symbol of well-travelled sophisticated and hardworking modern woman.

Tom Ford - this American designer has turned the fashion world upside down when he started working for an Italian fashion house Gucci in 1995. The company was drowning in a family feud between Gucci Gucci’s descendants and was almost bankrupt. In one year sales increased 90% due to Ford’s creative vision and teamwork with the best stylist and photographer, Corine Roitfeld and Mario Testino. His approach to a heritage company, that started as a leather goods shops, was very sexualized, followed by provocative advertisements and campaigns. He left the house in 2004 and founded his own namesake brand in 2006, which also follows similar path, and sex sells very well. Moreover, Tom Ford is not only a fashion designer, celebrity in his own right, and a sex-symbol, but also a critically-acclaimed film director. Both of his feature films, A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, were nominated for an Oscar, and his second film got him an Grand Jury Prize at Venice Biennale in 2016. Ford’s impact on popular culture climaxed in a song by Jay Z, titled “Tom Ford”. The song became certified platinum.

This is a full list of 20 designers by Digital Luxury Group: 

  1. Michael Kors
  2. Marc Jacobs
  3. Ralph Lauren
  4. Calvin Klein
  5. Vera Wang
  6. Tory Burch
  7. Kate Spade
  8. Diane von Furstenberg
  9. Betsey Johnson
  10. Tom Ford
  11. Alexander Wang
  12. The Row
  13. Hervé Léger
  14. St. John
  15. Carolina Herrera
  16. Marchesa
  17. Monique Lhuillier
  18. Jenny Packham
  19. Anna Sui
  20. 3.1 Phillip Lim

Considering that this list was created in 2012, who, in your opinion, would have made the Top 10 today? Who are your favorite American luxury designers? We would love you hear from you in comments below.

Darina Granik
Darina Granik


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