In my eyes there are 4 types of fashion designer: The Architect, The Romanticist, The Story Teller, and The Practical. Strange as it seems I can always categorize the designers in all 4 major fashion capital into these 4 categories, and they are amazing in their own way, and they're not always either or, they could also be both an architect and a romanticist, or a particularly romantically practical. But let me explain to you what I mean by these.
The Practical, also known as the sporty or the cool designers are the type of designers that you see their collections and they don't necessarily tell you a story or anything, but somehow you are drawn to buy their clothes. Their look is distinct, and generally singular enough that you can tell that a person is wearing their design. These kinds of designers mostly grow successful in New York City, where practicality is a very important thing in American fashion.
For example, on top of my head is Mr. Michael Kors. Coming to a Michael Kors fashion show, you don't expect a big creative extravaganza, you just see clothes that are desirable for rich women who loves fashion and yet don't want to wear 7 layers of corset just to look luxurious. It's true that New York is the perfect breeding place for these kinds of designers. From the old fashion type like Donna Karan to the younger generation like Thakoon and Prabal Gurung are the perfect example of the new generation of the Practical group.
Distinct traits: Rarely does a garment consist of too many undergarment, never too fussy or difficult to wear, very modern and somewhat simple, in a collection the most part of it is the daywear.
The Romanticist, also known as the poet are the type of designers that makes you dream through their clothes. There's always a romantic flare to their collection that getting an item from their collection is like getting a companion that has a long story to it. Sometimes with this kind of designers, practicality is not the main component, and yet their clothes are generally very beautiful and dreamy. These kinds of designers love drama, but a controlled kind of drama.
These kinds of designers I love to watch the most. They put so much love and passion into their work, you can see the collection talk to you. Most of their works looks like Haute Couture pieces that are not only beautiful but also very precious and that is something that you can pass on from generation to generation.
Vera Wang is one of our lovely romanticists that has a success story. There's something about her work, the way she always treats he clothes and how she layers things like layering tulle over organza and it makes it look like clouds. They are not the most accessible of all clothes but they make you dream and that's the important thing. Giambattista Valli is one of my favorite romanticist, Olivier Theyskens' works also excites me season after season, while Jason Wu is our new protege in the fashion romanticist universe that also caught my attention. Alber Elbaz for Lanvin and Rick Owens are the kind of romanticists who keep their ideals and yet still very successful in the business.
Distinct traits: Volume-layers-corsetry-intricate undergarments are common in this type of designers, dramatic but still wearable, a lot of evening pieces generally.
On that note, there are several romanticist who are also happen to be a practical kind of designer as well! Dries Van Noten who is one of my favorites manages to combine poetry and romance with simplicity. His works are always very simple, but the way he uses prints and colors are somehow very poetic. Dolce & Gabbana could also be put in this category, they manages to be one of the most commercial brand in the business but never leave behind a great story or inspiration behind every collection.
The third kind is the Architect. The Architect respects techniques more than results. The simplest look could be achieved with the most difficult ways possible. But because of that perfectionist nature of their aesthetic they are the most appreciated. An Architect must know how to construct a design from scrap. They most of the time knows how to not only design but also cut and sew. As important as the theme, inspiration and story line for them, the work that goes behind it is still the most important.
Architecture and construction is also a main focus of these kinds of designers. Their designs are mostly focusing on the cuts. Embellishments are added to accentuate the cuts rather than as a main focus of the outfit itself.
Of course the first and the greatest of the fashion architects is Cristobal Balenciaga. Famous as being the only couturier in his time who can make a garment from sketching to finishing all by himself, and wouldn't mind cutting a dress himself if he doesn't see it being perfect. Luckily his successor Nicholas Ghesquiere shares the same idealism. In the 80s we also know the late Gianfranco Ferre and Giorgio Armani, and while now Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein and Raf Simmons for Jil Sander could be pointed out as the modern fashion architects.
A romanticist architects happen to also exist nowadays. My most favorite is Ricardo Tisci of Givenchy, who combines his flare of drama with the incredible and impeccable techniques which made exceptional collections, especially the haute couture collections.
While a practical architects are also budding and getting very successful. Pheobe Philo for Celine has proved that you can be constructed and still very minimal and yet commercial at the same time.
The last one is the Story-Teller, mostly resides in Paris, though the newer generation emerges a lot London. A story teller designer lives a fantasy world with their collections. Not only they are brilliant designers, their collections took you to places, even some place that doesn't exist in real life.
Famous for being dramatic and over the top sometimes, their fashion shows are always the ones to watch. Though much of the sellable interpretation might be not as passionate or as dramatic as the runway version. They are not afraid of colors, prints, bold silhouette, and certainly not afraid to shock and be controversial, raising a lot of questions and somehow, sometimes, scares you.
Techniques are always complicated with these kinds of designers, but merely to support their concept and the story line of their collection.
For the most of it, these kinds of designers did not exist until the 90s. The earlier generation of these l'enfant terrible is Jean Paul Gaultier. He was famous for putting the underwear as outerwear, which was insanely controversial back in the days. John Galliano and Alexander McQueen were also true story-teller designers, their collections year after year didn't stop shocking people, in true fashion their lives are too dramatic as well. McQueen who ended up killing himself, and Galliano who tragically ended his own career at Dior with his racial slur.
A story-teller architect designer that has been getting big and big lately is Gareth Pugh. Also a British, he's famous for being dramatic and punk-ish, but still manages to show his genius cut through each garments year after year after year.
So, what kind of designer do you like?