Many high end fashion brands have entered the market over the decades. And while some have left the stage, there are a handful of fashion houses which have a long history and heritage. Their timeless designs and iconic fashion pieces, prove that they truly stand the test of time. Hermès will celebrate its 200th(!) birthday within a few decades and there are many other houses that have milestone-birthdays very soon. We've listed down the 10 oldest fashion houses, that still make our hearts beat faster with every newly launched collection.
It might not come as a surprise to you that Hermès is the oldest fashion house that is still in business. It was founded by Thierry Hermès who originally produced saddles and other equestrian supplies. His son Charles designed the first unofficial Hermès bag, as an addition to their riding supplies, as it was for carrying saddles. The grandson of Thierry, Émile-Maurice, designed the first official handbag in 1922. Many bags followed, with the exclusive Kelly bag and Birkin bag as their most successful and famous designs. These elusive handbags are still highly sought after, all over the world.
Louis Vuitton's original profession was trunk maker and -packer. He started his own workshop in 1854, from where he served the French elite. At first he developed revolutionary trunks, made from canvas in the iconic monogram and damier print. Son Georges introduced the first Louis Vuitton bag, a big weekend bag for light travels, the Keepall. From one thing came another and soon enough a smaller version of the Keepall was released, the iconic Speedy. Many bags followed, such as the Alma, Noé and ofcourse the Neverfull.
Jeanne Lanvin is the founder of fashion brand Lanvin. Originally she worked as a hatmaker and had her own atelier in Paris. She was an excellent seamstress and made the most beautiful clothes for her Daughter Marie-Blanche. No wonder these beautiful creations started to draw the attention of the French Elite and they requested copies for their own children. Soon enough, Lanvin produced dresses for mothers and daughters. After a while menswear, lingerie and fur were added to the collection. It was the first house where the entire family could shop their new garments. Iconic are their embroideries and beaded decorations.
The most popular brand in this list must be Chanel. Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel learnt the skill of sewing from the nuns in the orphanage, where she spent quite a while after the death of her mother. A skill that proves to be useful as she opens her first store in 1910, financed by one of her many beau's. At first she started off with hat making, but soon enough made comfortable clothing for women, a revolution for that time. All of Coco's designs were actually revolutionary and above all, timeless. Many items as the Chanel Classic Flap bag and the Chanel tweed jacket are sought after nowadays.
Mario Prada founded the house of Prada in 1913, by selling leather goods. At first they sold English leather goods and after a while they started to produce their own leather goods, made from the iconic Saffiano material. Mostly trunks and other luggage were made for the Italian elite. In 1919, Prada became the supplier to the Italian Royal Household. Granddaughter Miuccia brought Prada to new heights in 1978, after the brand had a slow decline. Prada has been an iconic brand eversince, with pieces like the Saffiano Lux tote and the Nylon backpack.
The Haute Couture house of Nina Ricci was founded in 1932, in Paris by Maria Nielli. Maria had always worked for the house of Raffin as a designer, but at her 49th she decided it was time for her own brand. She had a big design atelier and salons for all the fitting sessions. Her technique and materials we're very simplistic, yet very feminine, refined and romantic. She's a name most known for her very iconic perfumes, such as L'air du Temps.
Iconic French designer Christian Dior founded the house of Dior in 1946. Christian was always interested in art, so he started out with opening his first art gallery, dealing artworks for many famous artists like Picasso and Dali. After working for designers Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, Christian created his own label. He made an unerasable impression with his first collection: the New Look. A very feminine line, with a narrow waist and knee-length skirts. The house of Dior is still a very big player in the high fashion industry, especially with their iconic handbags such as the Lady Dior.
Hubert Givenchy started as the assistant of many big designers like Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, recommended by Christian Dior. In 1950 he became the assistant of Elsa Shiaparelli and was later promoted to creative director of the flagship store of Elsa's couture house. At the age of 24 he opened his own couture house: Givenchy. He focused on a wider audience than Shiaparelli and introduced blouses and light skirts with a cool and chic vibe. His first collection was an immediate success and many celebrities wanted to wear Givenchy. Not much has changed over the years as Givenchy still has a chic, but very cool vibe. The Bettina blouse is iconic, but the Nightingale bag, the Pandora bag, the Rottweiler print and the Antigona bag definitely made their impression too.
Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani started working in the fashion industry at a very young age, as an apprentice at many small italian designers. When he got older he got a formal designing training in Paris at École des Beaux-Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. He jump started his career at Guy Laroche. Valentino left Paris in 1959, to open his own fashion house in Rome, in 1960. He got inspired by the business models of the Parisian brands and did the same for his own fashion house. He quickly became known for his red dresses, in the shade that would become known as Valentino Red. He experienced his international debut in 1962 and his clientele included many famous artists and elite. Next to his red dresses, the Rockstud shoes and studded bags are more modern proofs of the strenght of this fashion house.
This designer might be last on the list, but is definitely not least. Yves Saint Laurent left for Paris at the age of 17, where he was able to show Michelde Brunhoff, director of French Vogue, his drawings and she published them directly. During his time at fashion school, he was introduced to Christian Dior and Yves worked at Dior for a long time. In 1961 he set up his own house and introduced his famous 'le Smoking' only five years later. Other iconic items are the sheer blouse and the jumpsuit. The house was recently renamed Saint Laurent with Hedi Slimane as creative director. In April 2016, Slimane was succeeded by Anthony Vaccarello.