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The Best Female Fashion Designers Of The 20th Century

Female fashion designers came into their own throughout the 20th Century, proving themselves to be master entrepreneurs and artists. Expressing themselves from the early 1900s to the Millennium, many of the women below played vital roles in fashion, design and a changing world for females throughout that time.

Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946)
Starting small, making clothing for children as a teenager, Lanvin's career and empire as a fashion designer skyrocketed into the 1920s. With furs, perfumes, a dye factory as well as clothing and lingerie, Lanvin was a big time designer and entrepreneur.
Known for adding her personality to each design and for a brilliant eye for blues (Lanvin Blue is a popular colour) Jeanne Lanvin still inspires today.

Jeanne Paquin (1869–1936)
A French fashion designer, Paquin is still regarded as modern and contemporary. Being one of the first female couturiers she had a huge influence on the fashion business, and inspired many further women.
She demonstrated talent from an early age and when only a teenager became a Premiere at Rouff.
Paquin proved herself to be an inspiring business woman; she was, in fact, the first fashion designer dressing models in her clothing. Her signature red colour garments and striking use of the shade black with vivid colours stood out in operas and horse races.

Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
This very famous French designer has a vibrant empire, of perfumes, handbags and jewellery, as well as clothing. She is now the feature of biopics and books. Chanel was looked up to in the post-World War One era for her advancing of casual chic as the feminine standard. She is seen to have freed women from the traditional tight and uncomfortable clothing which pre-dated this trend.

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973)
Working in the 20th century as one of the largest prominent people in fashion and compared to Coco Chanel, her rival in the industry, Elsa Schiaparelli took the design world into a new league. Inspired by the DADA movement of the time, Schiaparelli played with surrealism in her designs, creating innovative and contemporary work.

Claire McCardell (1905-1958)
In the 1930s McCardell rose to prominence in the fashion industry, designing clothes that were loose fitting and more practical than many women's other styles. She is known as the innovator of sportswear, particularly American sportswear.

Dame Barbara Mary Quant (1934)
An instrumental figure in 1960s style, she is deemed one of the most influential women of this free-love era with its liberation of women illustrated through colour and fashion. Quant was one of the original designers of the miniskirt and hot pants and popularised the Mod style. This fun look was synonymous with the changing times of the 1960s and is still very much part of many looks in the 21st century today.

Dame Vivienne Isabel Westwood (1941)
Vivienne Westwood is the first designer that comes to mind for people when they think of the biggest British fashion artists in the world still working today that rose to fame in the 20th century.
She pushed fashion boundaries in the 1980s, bringing punk and new-wave styles to the streets and catwalks. Westwood is still an innovator today, as well as a voice for human rights and climate change.

Rei Kawakubo (1942)
A modest woman, Kawakubo was once quoted that she did not see herself as an icon which is contrary to most opinion in the fashion world.
Her popular styles incorporate layers, frills and juxtaposed textiles and patterns, winning over many fans and awards over a huge legacy spanning over the latter part of the 20th Century.

Many of these women will continue to inspire further design way further into the 21st Century and beyond. Many are now being further credited for their roles throughout their 20th century as we recognise more and more the importance of design through the ages to our identity and freedom.

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