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A Brief History of Fashion Rivalries
FSW explores the good, the bad, and the downright catty feuds of the past 70 years
“[B]orn brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad.” - Cruella de Vil
They say the best revenge is to live well.
No industry embraces that mindset more than fashion. It is an industry of big creativity, big dreams, and big ego. Some fashion designers and models are so full of themselves that they view everyone else as a rival.
While the fashion designer as diva stereotype is mostly fiction, there are plenty of real life examples.
In the spirit of fun, FSW dives into famous fashion rivalries throughout history.
Coco Chanel vs Christian Dior
Christian Dior swept onto the scene into a post-World War II fashion world dominated by Coco Chanel. His “New Look” designs were decadent, portraying an exaggerated sense of femininity and beauty that outright rejected the more pragmatic approach of Chanel. In the 1950s, the fashion world embraced Dior with open arms, much to Chanel’s annoyance.
Coco Chanel outright accused Christian Dior of sexism, commenting, “Look how ridiculous these women are, wearing clothes by a man who doesn’t know women, never had one, and dreams of being one.” Naturally, Dior held a different view, noting, “I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body.”
Chanel, of course, went further, saying, “Dior doesn't dress women. He upholsters them.” On more than one occasion, she noted that Dior dresses looked “like an old armchair” and that his dresses were from the past, reflecting old-fashioned notions of femininity in which women were objectified by men. In the end, Coco Chanel was so peeved at Dior that she came out of retirement in 1954 at the age of 71 simply to set the fashion record straight.
Coco Chanel vs Elsa Schiaparelli
Coco Chanel’s most bitter rivalry, however, was with Elsa Schiaparelli. They disliked each other intensely. So severe was Chanel’s distaste for Schiaparelli that she never referred to her rival by name, simply calling her "the Italian artist who makes clothes."
Karl Lagerfeld vs Yves Saint Laurent
The feud between Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent is the subject of Alicia Drake’s “The Beautiful Fall.” Their rivalry began in 1954. The two designers went head to head during the fashion competition that eventually became the Woolmark Prize, then only in its second year, with esteemed jury members including Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain. The 21-year-old Lagerfeld won first place in the coat category; and 18-year-old Yves Saint Laurent won top prize for the evening gown category.
Over the years, Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent were at best frenemies, socializing together but unafraid to attack each other in the press. As Drake’s book reveals, the rivalry between the two men worsened in the 1970s after Saint Laurent had an affair with Lagerfeld’s lover, Jacques de Bascher.
Azzedine Alaïa vs Anna Wintour
Before his death in 2017, Azzedine Alaïa was one of the few people in fashion who went up against Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. She patently refused to showcase Alaïa designs in Vogue for over 20 years and even excluded his work from the 2009 Met Costume Institute exhibit “Model as Muse.” In 2011, Alaïa told Virgine magazine, “Who will remember Anna Wintour in the history of fashion? No one.”
Armani vs Versace, Armani vs Dolce & Gabbana
Acclaimed fashion designer Giorgio Armani is known for having strong opinions. He has more than a few ongoing feuds with other contemporaries.
For example, in 2015, Armani commented to the UK’s Sunday Times Magazine that before his death Gianni Versace said, “I dress sluts. You dress church ladies.” In response, Donatella Versace snapped back that Armani’s statement was “rude and tasteless.” She noted, “The only word that ever came from Gianni’s mouth was ‘glamour.’ ”
Similarly, there is an ongoing rift between Armani and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The feud began in 2009 when the designers fought in the press over who was the first to show quilted trousers on the runway.
Philipp Plein vs Alexander Wang
In 2017, Alexander Wang called out Philipp Plein on Instagram for supposedly copying elements of his 2014 collection for H&M. While no formal plagiarism complaint was filed, Plein's team nevertheless replied, noting their show was fully original.
Aquazzura vs Ivanka Trump
Designers are in a constant state of panic about knockoffs. In 2017, Aquazzura shoe designer Edgardo Osorio sued heiress Ivanka Trump for stealing his shoe designs. The lawsuit almost went to court before Aquazzura decided to withdraw.
Barbara Kruger vs Supreme
American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger is well known for her signature style with white text on a red box. Fashion brand Supreme's logo feels derivative from Kruger, to say the least. But she had no comment on this until Supreme sued rival brand Married to the Mob for logo copyright infringement.
Commenting on this situation, Kruger said, “What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers. I make my work about this kind of sadly foolish farce. I'm waiting for all of them to sue me for copyright infringement.” While the lawsuits were eventually dropped, Kruger eventually did a streetwear capsule collection for the skate brand Volcom.
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