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Fashion History: Fashion Influencers Who’ve Influenced Fashion

I was scrolling the internet last week reading about fashion influencers and all things fabulously fashionable when an article from the New York Post caught my eye.  Titled “The September Issue Is Dead” it recounted how, just a few years ago the September Vogue was considered the fashion bible, so important that it was glorified in a 2009 documentary “The September Issue”.  Now, it seems, we live in a very different world.

fashion influencers influencing fashion
The “coveted” September fashion issue use to be heralded for its thickness due to advertisers clamouring for representation
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Beyoncé’s much talked about cover for the September 2018 Issue of Vogue
fashion influencers influencing fashion
Love Magazine September 2018 issue featuring Gigi Hadid
fashion influencers influencing fashion
GQ September 2018 featuring Chris Hemsworth
fashion influencers influencing fashion
Lily Rose Depp for Vogue Korea September 2018
fashion influencers influencing fashion
Marie Claire Malaysia September 2018 issue
fashion influencers influencing fashion
British Vogue September 2018 featuring Rihanna
fashion influencers influencing fashion
WSJ Magazine September 2018 cover

In a world of rapid change, when social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn draw billions of eyeballs a year, and the fashion influencer has redefined the concept of “Fashion Week”  who is influencing fashion today?

    “Young and trendy Hollywood stars are the new driving force of global fashion…..Ignore what they wear and you will fail.

— Anna Wintour

fashion influencers influencing fashion
Anna Wintour, Lupita Nyongo and Naomi Watts front row during fashion week
fashion influencers influencing fashion
Young hollywood, street style stars and style bloggers are the new rockstars of fashion

Let’s take a brief walk through history to see where fashion influence came from.  Fashion has always been about aspiration.  As far back as the Middle Ages through to the eighteenth century it was the Royals and their wealthy courtesans who established fashion trends. Commoners aspired to dress as their Kings, queens, princes, and princesses but one had to actually see noblemen or women to get an idea of new trends. Some royals sent their tailors around the country with life-size dolls dressed in the latest styles to spread news of fashion changes. In 1672, the first fashion magazine began publication in France. Called Mercure Galant, the magazine offered comment on the latest clothing styles and was read throughout Europe. The French also led the way in the creation and circulation of fashion plates, beautiful illustrations of the latest garments that guided the work of local tailors. By the end of the century, many Parisian printers began selling fashion plates, or engravings of fashionable clothes. Portraits of the doyen and doyennes of society in their finery of the time can still be seen in museums around the world memorializing the fashions of these eras.

fashion influencers influencing fashion
Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), born Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen, is known as the queen who led a tragic yet romantic life, who spent more time on her own pleasures than being a responsible royal, who was obsessed with fashion, pageantry and the Ermine Cape Effect; who was the subject of scathing cartoons and scandals and who eventually lost everything she held dear during The French Revolution.
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
For decades, all of the clothing that was being worn around the world was based on designs that came out of Paris.
fashion influencer influencing fashion
The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
First edition of the Mercure Galant, 1672
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Mercure Galant, 1678
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
The first articles about fashion appeared in the Mercure Galant, a magazine launched by Jean Donneau de Visè in 1672. The fashion articles published in this magazine between 1678 and 1679 were illustrated by images that could be considered as ads since they were accompanied by the names of the suppliers of the clothes and accessories.
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Eighteenth-Century French Fashion Plates in Full Color: 64 Engravings from the “Galerie des Modes,” 1778-1787
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
The Art & Architecture Collection has a large collection of women’s (and some men’s) 19th century fashion-plate periodicals. World of Fashion 1838 spread courtesy of the New York Public Library

In the late 1800’s fashion took a more democratic turn with the introduction of fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.  Initially illustrated by hand, it was when Condé Nast hired Baron Adolph de Meyer (German, 1868–1946) in 1913 to shoot portraits of models, actresses, and aristocrats for Vogue that photographs began to be used in fashion editorials.   These magazines and their editors drove fashion, giving fame to names like Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Lanvin.   But it was the models, actresses and society ladies that the women of the day aspired to be, or at least look like.  Throughout this time fur was at the forefront, an easy communication that the wearer was chic, glamorous and affluent.

1867 Harper's Bazaar First Cover devoted to fashion and literature, is published on November 2
1867 Harper’s Bazaar First Cover devoted to fashion and literature, is published on November 2
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
The very first issue of VOGUE magazine, released on 17 December, 1892.
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Baron Adolph de Meyer, Vogue’s first staff photographer
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Artist Canvas Print featuring the photograph Portrait Of Baron Adolph De Meyer by George Hoyningen
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Actress Lillian Gish photographed by by Baron Adolph de Meyer
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Portrait of iconic film actress Marian Nixon by Baron Adolph de Meyer
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Trailblazing black actress Josephine Baker by Baron Adolph de Meyer, 1925 for Vogue
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Dolores – Follies + frolics, Vogue 1918

Beginning in the 1930’s the images of glamorous film stars gracing the silver screen and news reels began to direct fashion buying trends.  These newsreels would show the stars at premieres and openings of special events living a life of luxury, wearing and showing the latest fashions and hairstyles.  To fans who wanted to emulate their favorite stars these images provided a virtual catalog of the looks to look out for.

Music, too has its influence on fashion as music trends define the cultural zeitgeist of an era.  Think back and remember the bobbysoxers who made rolled upped denim jeans and poodle skirts popular in the 1950’s.  In the early 60’s it was the mod look out of the UK that influenced designers like Pierre Cardin.  The late 60’s and early 70’s gave us boho chic with the influence of the hippie look showing up in fringe and beading and flowing volume.  New wave and punk dominated the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  And with the advent of Rap music in the early part of this century a new era of “bling” fashion and street style was popularized with fur playing a leading role.

historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Bobbysoxers-Teenage fans wait for a glimpse of Frank Sinatra, Los Angeles, 1944
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
British Youth Culture – Mods & Rockers 1960s – 1970s
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Mod teenagers in 1965
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Marilyn Monroe, wearing a William Travilla gown, arriving at gossip columnist Walter Winchell’s birthday party at Ciro’s, New York, 1953
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
60’s wool coats with optional opossum fur collar
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
1970s
historical fashion influencer influencing fashion
Model icon: A photograph of Twiggy wearing an Ossie Clark fox fur coat from 1970

More recently, it seems, there is a new breed of fashion royalty.  Social media has given us the “Influencer”.   With literally millions of followers on their blogs, Instagram and Youtube the fashion influencer can move the needle on how, when and what consumers search and shop for.  Brands are willing to pay them huge sums of money to act as brand “ambassadors”, featuring photos and brief write-ups of their fashion products on their blogs or Instagram sites.  We’ve recognized their impact on fashion, particularly among the younger fashion buyer,  and acknowledge that they can make or break a fashion trend.  Among the most popular of these influencers are some fur lovers  including Olivia Palermo, Bryan Boy,  Aimee Song of Song of Style, Chriselle Lim of The Chriselle Factor, Rumi Neeley of Fashion Toast and  Chiara Ferragni  of  the blog The Blonde Salad.

fashion influencer influencing fashion
2013 Fur Information Council of America ad campaign featuring fashion blogger Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Olivia Palermo during Fashion Week
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Aimee Song
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Chiara Ferragni who started the popular blog The Blond Salad
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Bryan Boy was one of the original bloggers who highlighted the versatility of fur fashion for today’s uber chic young jet set
fashion influencer influencing fashion
Dennis Basso – Front Row – February 2018

The truth is that fashion influence can come from almost anywhere today.    It is all about the individual and what drives their dreams and aspirations.  So, where does your primary fashion influence come from?