In today’s global economy it is easy to become consumed with the decadent designs of the European fashion houses. American luxury designers have been somewhat under-appreciated being left in the dust of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes thanks to these designers being a type of status symbol attracting new money. While there is essentially no difference in quality between European or American luxury designers, American designers have a way of leaving the pretentiousness at the door. Younger consumers have shown a preference for American designers due to their willingness to experiment with bright colors and trendy designs set at a price point that won’t break the bank as many European designers have outrageous price points that can seem untouchable at times. Many American luxury designers have taken their designs to the next level creating an entire empire on their vision alone. Here is a list of the top twenty American luxury designers that represent the finest clothing America has to offer.
20. Alexander Wang
Alexander Wang first appeared on the runway in 2007 with a goal of designing “clothes that girls want to wear.” Wang presents a more laid-back style that is still downtown ready. The Parsons dropout gained his experience by interning for Marc Jacobs, Vogue and Derek Lam and then moved on to create his first line of unisex cashmere sweaters. Wang’s fresh designs attract younger celebrities such as Nicky Hilton, Ellen Page and Blake Lively.
19. Zac Posen
Zac Posen presented his first fashion show in 2002 at the young age of 21. Vogue has described Posen’s niche to be “very glamorous clothes for Posen’s very glamorous friends.” His evening wear is very over the top with glamour spilled all over, especially on his mermaid-esque gowns. Posen’s dresses show up beautifully on the red carpet which is why famous celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Glenn Close and Rihanna have all showed up in his designs.
18. Rick Owens
Rick Owens is a California native that started is brand back in 1994 after dropping out of Otis College of Art and Design in LA. He started his own label selling exclusively to Charles Gallay, who owned an exclusive boutique in West Hollywood that is known to carry designer firsts. His designs have been described as “glamour meets grunge.” In 1999 Owens landed his line in Barneys and has never looked back since, moving on to living in Paris designing for Revillon, the well established fur company.
17. Tom Ford
Tom Ford rose to success as creative director for Gucci and sister company, Yves Saint Laurent saving the companies from bankruptcy. Gucci saw sales jump 90 percent during Ford’s first year with the company. In 2004 Ford left Gucci after negotiations failed and he started his own line. In 2005 Ford’s first store opened in Manhattan that featured a ready-to-wear men’s line. Ford’s creativity doesn’t stop in fashion design, as he has made his directorial debut with the Oscar-nominated film, A Single Man that was released in 2009.
16. John Varvatos
John Varvatos stepped onto the design scene in 2000 bringing his edgy, American rock-n-roll flair to meet tailored menswear. Varvatos goal was to inspire men everywhere to not be afraid of fashion, but to embrace it and he has done just that with his signature sheepskin coats, thick flannel shirts and textured knits. Celebrities that love Varvatos include Zac Efron, Ian Somerhadler and Jeremy Piven.
15. Kate Spade
Kate Spade started her design journey when she noticed there was a void in the handbag market and sought out to fill it. By 1996, the fashion editor turned designer, had launched her handbag company and had earned the title of “America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories” by the Council of Fashion Designers in America. Spade has opened up her horizons and creates designs featured on items from pajamas to stationary.
14. Tory Burch
Tory Burch is one designer that was able to transform her marketing skills into an American lifestyle brand. Burch’s multi-million dollar business hit success by positioning itself in the market as affordable quality that still had great taste. With the recognizable “T” emblem, Burch’s designs are mix of chic and eclectic that can be found in over 1,000 department stores and freestanding boutiques.
13. Monique Lhuillier
Monique Lhuillier is widely known for her couture wedding dresses. Lhuillier started her design house with her husband in 1996 and has since exploded into one of the top leading fashion houses. Lhuillier’s designs emulate luxury and femininity which is why so many adore her. Celebrity brides who wore Lhuillier for their big day include Reese Witherspoon, Britney Spears and Pink. It is not surprising with dressing such A-listers that Lhuillier’s bridal business grosses over $20 million per year.
12. Anna Sui
Anna Sui’s extraordinary fashions first walked the runway in 1991. Sui is known for her almost theatrical designs and bright usage of colors that she says stems from her childhood days. While her designs can still be considered luxury due to her whimsical use of patterns, Sui has always believed in offering more fashion for the price. Her celebrity clientele includes Nicole Richie, Fergie and Vanessa Hudgens.
11. Badgley Mischka
Mark Badgley and James Mischka have been designing together since 1988, creating stylish evening wear that is always embellished with luxurious details. Vogue coined their name to be synonymous with “delicately decorative dresses.” Their list of clients is anything but ordinary, from presidential daughters to celebrities such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Madonna, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone. Every woman who’s ever wanted to look glam for an evening has worn a Badgley Mischka.
10. Vera Wang
Famously known for her exquisite wedding dresses, Vera Wang made it the standard for Brides to have custom-made, over the top, wedding dresses for their big day. In 1990, Wang opened up her first bridal boutique, offering brides the ability to create what they had always envisioned. In 1993 Wang decided to take her designs to the red carpet and created her own label known as Vera Wang. Celebs have flocked to Wang for their wedding dresses and her celebrity clientele includes Mariah Carey, Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez.
9. Donna Karan
Donna Karan New York first debuted in 1985 presenting the concept of “seven easy pieces.” These designs were easy, wearable pieces that could be mixed and matched to transform the look of the everyday working woman. Karan did not stop there; she has gone on to conquer jeans with her DKNY brand, she has designs for men with DKNY Men and introduced the Donna Karan Home Collection in 2001. Karan was the first American to be presented with Fashion Group International’s “Superstar Award” which she received in 2003.
8. Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs has been on the design scene since the late eighties. His fashions have often been characterized as having a mix of grunge, preppy and couture all in one. Jacobs has been recognized as being on top of trends which is why is able to cater to his huge celeb following which includes Sofia Coppola, Kate Moss and Winona Ryder.
7. Betsey Johnson
Betsey Johnson is best known for her punk meets Rainbow Bright designs. Johnson started her line in the late seventies and opened up a boutique in Soho. It is from there that Johnson’s designs have evolved into flirty ultra-feminine styles that captures the young woman’s eye. Johnson has expanded her line from clothing to lingerie, watches and a Samsung cell phone. Despite her filing for bankruptcy in 2012, Johnson is determined to make a comeback with a less-pricier line that will be featured in Macy’s and Nordstrom.
6. Michael Kors
Michael Kors is widely recognized as not only a fashion designer, but as a regular on the reality-TV show, Project Runway. The self-proclaimed minimalist focuses his designs on featuring clean lines for the everyday woman. Kors believes that fashion should embody classic staples as life is busy enough, therefore simplicity should be achieved in one’s clothing.
5. Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg made her mark in the seventies with her highly recognized wrap dresses. She inspired women with her designs to embrace their femininity and to feel empowered in a dress. In 1976, Furstenberg was producing 20,000 wrap dresses a week. The designer was re-invented in the late nineties with the same wrap dress concept just with a fresh feel for the next generation.
4. Carolina Herrera
Carolina Herrera did not start off as a designer, she was more prominently known for always showing up on best-dressed lists as a socialite. Herrera started designing in the early ’80s when the editor-in-chief at Vogue told her she should be designing clothing. Herrera really stepped into the spotlight as a designer when she designed Caroline Kennedy’s wedding dress in 1996. The designer is best known for her clean, simple designs that make women feel as if they aren’t trying too hard. In 2008 Herrera received a lifetime-achievement award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
3. Oscar de la Renta
Oscar de la Renta, also known as the “Guru of Glamour” has been designing since the sixties. His designs are loved by women since they are always romantic and feminine while remaining appropriate. Not only does De la Renta have clothing lines, but he also introduced accessories in 2001 and a home line in 2002. He dressed two first ladies on Inauguration Day, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush and has had a slew of celebrities in his dresses for the red carpet, Sarah Jessica Parker, Eva Longoria and Penelope Cruz to name a few.
2. Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein is one designer that holds the title as “America’s King of Clothes.” He started his fashion brand back in the early seventies when he entered the designer jean market, think of the infamous Brooke Shields ad and has since dominated the fashion world in every possible market. Calvin Klein is the ultimate in American fashion design and has been able to give people what they want for decades.
1. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren started his global empire back in 1968 with a handmade line of menswear. His brand has gone on to include women’s fashions, fragrances, home furnishings and just about anything else one can image. Lauren’s designs embody a fresh, tailored, all-American look that can only be achieved with the signature polo symbol that represents the Lauren empire.