So, you don’t think you follow fashion. Even so, the menswear designers at the top of the food chain still play a big part in deciding what you wear.
From the colour of your shirts to the cut of your pants, menswear at large is influenced by a trickle-down effect that begins in the minds of the industry’s top creatives and winds up in your wardrobe.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the people calling the shots. After all, if someone’s surreptitiously picking your outfits for you, you should probably know their name at the very least.
Below you’ll find a handpicked list of the most influential names in menswear today. These are the designers setting the trends, shaking up the status quo and shaping men’s fashion in their image. They’re the key players, the mavericks and the trailblazers in one of the world’s most fast-paced industries.
Key Roles: Gucci, Tom Ford
Known for his razor-sharp tailoring and even sharper facial hair, Tom Ford has had an immeasurable influence on modern menswear.
After initially studying in Paris to become an architect, Ford switched to fashion. Five years after graduating, he landed a role as womenswear designer at Gucci and went on to become Creative Director.
He brought Gucci back from the brink of obscurity, swapping the minimalism for sleek sexiness and turning the French fashion house into one of the most talked about in the industry. Today, he’s best known for creating high-end tailoring, eyewear and some of the world’s most iconic luxury fragrances at his eponymous menswear label.
Key Roles: Gucci
From one Gucci Creative Director to another. Alessandro Michele was relatively unknown when he assumed the prestigious position in 2015. Today he’s one of the most recognised figures in fashion.
With a lot of genre jumping and inconsistency, Gucci had lost its way somewhat after 2004. But Michele brought with him a strong sense of identity and a clear focus for where the label was to head.
From gold-trimmed opulence and Japanese embroidery to 1970s-inspired colour palettes, Michele put his stamp on the brand and, by extension, the entire industry. His innate ability to tap into the zeitgeist and give people exactly what they want (even if they didn’t know they wanted it) is the reason Gucci is the most popular luxury brand in the world today.
Key Roles: Off-White, Louis Vuitton
From interning at Fendi with Kanye West to being regarded as the most influential fashion designer in the world, Virgil Abloh’s rise to prominence has been nothing short of meteoric.
Abloh’s Off-White label was one of the first to blur the boundaries between high fashion and streetwear. From that point on, the designer became known for bringing these two worlds together. And it was made official when he was appointed as Louis Vuitton’s Artistic Director of Menswear in 2018.
It was a move that saw Abloh become the first black design lead of a heritage fashion house, marking a victory for diversity in the fashion industry.
Key Roles: Givenchy, Burberry
Italian fashion designer Ricardo Tisci made his mark on fashion by resurrecting Givenchy after a period of unprofitability. His menswear collections for the brand were met with widespread acclaim and many of his ready-to-wear pieces – such as printed T-shirts and studded sneakers – became fashion staples.
Tisci was hired by Burberry in 2018 which sent the faltering label’s share prices soaring. He reinvented the British brand’s image and helped it expand into the luxury streetwear arena.
Under his watch, the Burberry logo, flagship stores, haute couture and ready-to-wear collections have been hauled over and redesigned, bringing the historic brand back up to date and putting the UK on the high-fashion map once again.
Key Roles: Christopher Raeburn, Timberland
The fashion industry isn’t exactly known for being green. Britain’s Christopher Raeburn is on a mission to change that.
The award-winning designer’s collections are based around repurposed military fabrics and recycled materials. His work has seen him hailed as a visionary by press and peers alike.
Raeburn’s reputation has seen him poached by Timberland who appointed him as the brand’s first ever Creative Director. He’s also been named as Best Emerging Designer by GQ and his eponymous label was crowned Brand Of The Year at the inaugural Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards 2020.
Key Roles: Raf Simons, Jil Sander, Dior, Calvin Klein, Prada
Belgian designer Raf Simons’ CV is enough to put even the most seasoned of industry heavyweights to shame. He’s been Creative Director at Jil Sander, Artistic Director at Dior, Chief Creative Officer at Calvin Klein and recently accepted the role of Co-Creative Director of Prada alongside Miuccia Prada herself.
His own self-titled label has been influential in menswear in terms of its use of shape and form. From oversized tailoring to chunky sneakers, Raf Simons has been instrumental in kickstarting countless trends.
In fact, it could be argued that the megatrend for bulky kicks can be traced back to Simons, not Balenciaga. The designer’s Adidas Ozweego sneaker was really the first intentionally ‘ugly’ silhouette, paving the way for the biggest sneaker trend of the decade.
Key Roles: Louis Vuitton, Dior Homme
British designer Kim Jones is another key player in the high-fashion/streetwear crossover. He’s worked with brands including Dunhill, Iceberg, Alexander McQueen and Hugo Boss. But he’s probably best known for his time as Louis Vuitton’s Artistic Director.
At Louis Vuitton, Jones brought a unique, streetwear-inflected aesthetic to the table. He even orchestrated a historic collaboration with transcendent skate label Supreme, which it could be argued was the defining moment in fashion’s then-blossoming love affair with streetwear.
After leaving LV in 2018, Jones embarked on a new journey as artistic director of Dior Homme.