Fashion design is the art dedicated to the creation of wearing apparel and lifestyle. Please see also Fashion for a more complete definition.
The first person who could really be considered as a Fashion designer was Charles Frederick Worth (1826-1895). Before he set up his maison couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses. When he started his business, his customers could attach a name and a face to his designs once they learned that they were from the House of Worth, thus starting the tradition of having the designer of a large company is not only the creative head but the symbol of the brand as well. After Worth, Paul Poiret started with a concept which is nowadays considered as general fashion design/ marketing and Haute Couture, and is also credited with starting the trend of removing the corset from female fashion. Although fashion itself has a long history which leads back to the early civilisations, the people who designed and produced garments before the late 19th/early 20th century were seen as anonymous artisans, not well-known public figures.
Following in Worth's and Poiret's footsteps were: Patou, Vionnet , Fortuny, Lanvin , Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Dior.
By the 1960's, haute couture was not the only trend dictator anymore. Under influence of Fashion Icons (like for example Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy or the models like Twiggy), Youth culture and the independent women's movements, it became acceptable for fashion to ascend from the people rather than be handed down by large couture houses.
Fashion brands not only just produced garments anymore but also started to create their own image or started designing for certain target groups and/or sub cultures. Vivienne Westwood for example "created” the image which is now generally considered as Punk. The Trend dictation of the Old Couture Houses was over.
Modern fashion design and designers
Modern fashion design is roughly divided into two categories, haute couture, and ready-to-wear. A designer's haute-couture collection is meant exclusively for private customers and is custom sized, cut and sewn. To qualify as an official "haute couture" house, a designer or company must belong to the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture , a Paris-based body of designers governed by the French Department of Industry that includes American, Italian, Japanese, and other designers as well. A haute couture house must show collections twice yearly with at least 35 separate outfits in each show. It is often shown on the catwalk and in private salons.
Ready-to-wear collections are not custom made. They are standard sized which makes them more suitable for larger productions. Ready-to-wear collections can also be divided into designers/createur collections and Confection collections. Designer/createur collections have a high quality, a superb finish and a unique cut and design. These collections are the most trendsetting compared to Haute Couture and Confection. Designer/createurs ready to wear collections contain often concept items that represent a certain philosophy or theory. These items are not so much created for sales but just to make a statement. The designer's ready-to-wear collection is also presented on the international catwalks by people who do fashion modeling .
Confection collections are the ones we see most commonly in our shops. These collections are designed by stylists. The brands that produce these collections aim only for a mass public and are in general not searching for new grammar for the language or a new point of view on/of fashion.
Although a lot of the modern fashion designers are still working in a somewhat "traditional" way- making clothes that are very fancy and expensive but still based on standard/traditional construction and design concepts, there have been designers who break these "rules" over the years, some from the mid-nineties onward, some, like Japanese designers Yojhi Yamomoto , Comme des Garcons , and Junya Watanabe from the early eighties to the present, and some now-deceased designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, who worked in the thirties, forties, and fifties. Fine examples of modern-day "rule breakers" are Martin Margiela and Warmenhoven & Venderbos . These designers approach clothing, Fashion and lifestyle from new angles and explore also the boundaries of Fashion itself in order to create "new" concepts and views for fashion design. Their collections are not only restricted to garments (ready to wear as well as couture) and other fashion-related products, but also contain work in other media. The works of this breed of designers can also be placed in a certain Art movement.
Most fashion designers attend an Academie of fine arts . Fashion design courses are considered applied arts just like graphic design and interior design. Often the types stylist and designer are mixed up. A stylist inspires his/her designs on existing things, trends and designers collections. A designer starts from scratch; he/she develops a unique concept and translates this into garment collections, other lifestyle related products or a statement in various other types of media. Some designers approach their work just as a fine arts painter or sculptor.
Inspiration for fashion designers comes from a wide range of things and cannot be pinpointed exactly. However, just like all artists, they tend to keep an eye on things going on world-wide to inspire themselves towards making their future clothes lines.
Most fashion designers are well trained pattern makers and modeleurs. A typical design team is made up out one or more: designer(s), pattern maker(s) /modeleur(s), sample maker(s), buyer(s) and salesman (men). For presentations and catwalk shows the help of hair dressers, make-up artists , photographers modeling agencies , the model and other support companies/professions is called upon.
As fashion became more and more a large business, designers started also with licensing products. (For example: perfume, bags and all sorts of products)