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The Most Influential Designers of the Decade

The decade that stretches from 2010 to 2019 brought about some of the largest shifts in fashion we’ve ever seen, culminating in the full realization of concepts that had been set in motion over previous years. Perhaps the greatest shift was the fact that streetwear and luxury fashion finally co-mingled in ways that had never been accomplished before; within 10 years, every luxury label was looking to create the next big sneaker silhouette while streetwear labels were graduating to the runway.

When the 2010s began, many fashion houses were barely concerned with menswear offerings. Instead, men were offered buzzy brands that upgraded tailoring, often with youthful sportswear or blue collar touches, accessible retooled heritage and designers with uncompromising visions, albeit visions that didn’t make for appropriate officewear. Still, from humble beginnings came the movements that eventually unspooled the stiff confines of men’s clothing.

Though the ‘00s saw some early dabbling, menswear’s boundaries were too firm to be full challenged. Consider New York’s Cloak, an early 2000s effort that was revelatory at the time (Tim Blanks described co-designer Alexandre Plokhov as an outsider in 2006), but now looks comparatively tame. These were the baby steps that guided menswear’s growth; from the workwear boom of the late ‘00s/early ’10s to early stabs at codifying what would become athleisure, this was the decade that shaped what menswear will become in the ensuing years.

The below designers were key in subverting not only menswear norms, but also transforming industry and cultural expectations as a whole. Though there is a lack of women and people of color, the fashion industry’s glass ceiling is finally showing some signs of giving way. As we look to the next decade, creatives like Kerby Jean-Raymond, Grace Wales-Bonner, Martine Rose, Yoon Ahn and Hed Mayner are only a handful of the creatives upsetting the narrative of the mostly-white, primarily-European menswear business, as the global market makes way for creatives from across the globe.


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Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo, head of the COMME des GARÇONS empire, is directly and indirectly responsible for uncountable trends over the past decade. This was quantified when the many COMME des GARÇONS lines — including the menswear-centric HOMME PLUS, HOMME, Junya Watanabe MAN — were the subject of a Metropolitan Museum retrospective in 2017, indicative of the label’s decades spent upending industry standards. Similarly, COMME des GARÇONS’ Nike collaborations were some of the decade’s finest: key drops include 2013’s forward-looking BLACK COMME des GARÇONS Blazer Low and 2017’s VaporMax and Nike Dunk High. Meanwhile, the company’s Dover Street Market outposts, founded in 2004, continued to set the standard for department stores well into the next decade, with exclusive drops and experiences hosted alongside names that include Travis Scott’s Astroworld, sacai, Chrome Hearts, Gucci, AWAKE NY and Vetements.

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Rick Owens

Few designers could hope to match Rick Owens’ global influence, which began to draw attention in the ‘00s and exploded in the ‘10s. Famously namechecked in A$AP Rocky’s 2013 hit “Fashion Killa,” Owens honed his unique vision of drapey, sportswear-indebted avant-garde garments over the 21st century’s first decade, but he truly owned his unique vision in the second decade, expanding the line’s color palette and diffusion label (DRKSHDW) and introducing visionary footwear collaborations with adidas, Hood Rubber Company, Vejas and Birkenstock. Owens also launched a variety of dramatic runway presentations that drew pearl-clutching headlines from even those outside the world of fashion. Key moments include a booming Zebra Katz soundtrack for Fall/Winter 2013, exposed male genitalia for Fall/Winter 2015 and human backpacks taking the runway for Spring/Summer 2016.

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Kanye West

Little could be said about Kanye West that hasn’t already been explored (even by West himself). However, it’s worth mentioning the undeniable influence the rapper and creative exerted over the fashion industry this decade, Since his early dabbling in fashion (a Fendi internship in 2009, BAPE collaborations), West has developed his personal taste through several stages, from Riccardo Tisci’s art direction in 2011, to 2013’s Maison Martin Margiela-designed masks to the APC collaboration line in 2014 — the first official West-branded garments. West’s Nike collaborations were also an early stab at quantifying his taste, but 2015 saw the G.O.O.D. Music founder effectively finding himself through his adidas partnership, when YEEZY Season 1 debuted. The muted earth tones that informed the sweatpants, slouchy hoodies and shearling jackets essentially set the tone for the rest of West’s decade, as he continued to produce enormously boxy T-shirts, baggy sweaters and those ever-evolving YEEZY’s throughout the ‘10s, aiming to fulfill his promise of YEEZY sneakers for everyone.

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Virgil Abloh

Though Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton was responsible for what may be the defining collision of the luxury and streetwear industries, Virgil Abloh is the man who gave Louis Vuitton the streetwear edge it needed to draw in an ever-younger clientele. Abloh’s transformation of the luxury house capped an indescribably successful decade, which saw the creative art launch his first clothing label, Pyrex Vision, in 2012, a year after he art-directed Kanye West and JAY-Z’s Watch the Throne. The explosive financial success of Pyrex Vision helped Abloh kickstart Off-White™ in 2013, which became an LVMH prize finalist in 2015. Two years later, Abloh had collaborated with everyone from Takashi Murakami to Nike, paving the way for him to succeed his mentor, Jones, at Louis Vuitton the following year. Even still, this brief bio is unable to properly quantify the impact that Abloh and his peers imparted upon the global fashion industry, a movement led by a would-be civil engineer who elevated streetwear to a fine art and made luxury palatable to the youth.

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Miuccia Prada

Prada has consistently stayed ahead of the curve over the years, but the ‘10s provided a proper demonstration of Miuccia Prada’s impressive premonition. For instance, the designer predated hybrid footwear trends with 2011’s sandwiched derbies and delivered minimalist athletic-inspired clothing for 2013 (far before anyone ever uttered the phrase “athleisure”) as her menswear evolved from subversive suiting to informal workwear, floral shirting and patterned sweaters years before business casual became de rigueur. The Cloudbust, which first appeared in 2017, was indicative of Prada’s clairvoyance, a clunky technical runner that predated most trendy technical designs to market. Prada even beat out the late ‘10s’ flirtation with logomania by way of badge-branded accessories, eventually paving the way for a reissue of the ‘90s most progressive technical luxury lines: the nylon-centric Linea Rossa collection.

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Riccardo Tisci

Though Riccardo Tisci finished the decade on a high note, taking a bow for his revitalization efforts at Burberry, perhaps the finest moments in the decade came during his tenure at Givenchy. After 12 years with the French house, Tisci left Givenchy in 2017, but not before providing some of the first key instances of streetwear’s influence on the luxury market. Tisci’s famed animal graphics, star-branded hoodies and basketball-inspired shorts were indicative of the designer’s love of sportswear, which won over various fans — including longtime pal Kanye West, who tapped Tisci to design outfits and artwork for Watch the Throne, West and JAY-Z’s collaborative 2011 album. Tisci’s street-inspired styling was the antecedent for today’s interconnected world, blending high fashion and street savvy in ways that no other luxury house had previously dared attempt.

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Alessandro Michele

In January 2015, Gucci took a chance on the then-unknown Alessandro Michele, who had designed the house’s bags since his appointment under Tom Ford in 2002, elevating Michele to Gucci’s creative director in charge of every fashion collection and the entire brand’s image. The selection was fortuitous — Michele has smashed sales expectations year-on-year, with the brand’s fortunes rising 50% in 2017, then another 45% a year later, thanks to overwhelming consumer demand driven by the Italian designer’s whimsical, romantic worldview. Gucci’s clothing — especially branded T-shirts and sweaters — reigns supreme, with plenty of branded goods that were crucial in developing the “logomania” trend. Regardless of shifting tastes, there’s plenty of demand for the brand’s accessories, like belts and sneakers, which serve as an accessible entryway to Michele’s sumptuous world.

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Hedi Slimane

Love him or hate him, Hedi Slimane is both a lightning rod for criticism and an uber-successful menswear designer, with legions of men flocking to each brand he reshapes in his image. After a stint at Dior Homme, Slimane kicked off an immensely influential tenure at Yves Saint Laurent, which he quickly rechristened Saint Laurent Paris to reflect the new direction he was taking the brand. The shift yielded slim double rider’s jackets, tight suits, skinny jeans and pointed boots inspired by the wardrobes of Mick Jagger and The Beatles, with womenswear playing second fiddle to the ever-popular menswear, which remained covetable even after Slimane’s departure. In 2018, Slimane was named director of Céline — which he quickly renamed CELINE. Thus began his revision of a cult favorite label, wherein CELINE altered course from Phoebe Philo’s minimalist womenswear to Slimane’s slim-fitting rockstar wardrobe, which drew enough attention that Slimane addressed the critics directly. He did demonstrate growth with recent collections, however, with recent collections shifting from his oft-imitated singular vision of skinny garments to include some (slightly) looser cuts.

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Raf Simons

Some may argue that Raf Simons’ glory days are behind us, pointing to the Belgian designer’s acclaimed Jil Sander collections, along with his own collectible garments from years past. However, Simons and his right hand man, Pieter Mulier, left an indelible mark on the ‘10s with his well-documented Dior designs (he departed in 2015), boundary-destroying adidas collaborations, trend-setting in-house collections and brief partnership with Calvin Klein, as famous for its bold designs as its explosive end. Regardless of the highs and lows, Simons’ work for Klein, like his forward-thinking clunky adidas kicks, demonstrated his knack for kickstarting trends; his subversive spin on Americana at Klein predated the “Yeehaw Agenda,” and the beefy adidas Ozweegos he first showed on the runway in 2012 were some of the first designer dad shoes on the contemporary market.


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Jun Takahashi

UNDERCOVER’s graphic streetwear, Nike collaborations and dynamic runways have drawn acclaim from the fashion cognoscenti and casual observers alike, with designer Jun Takahashi providing a little something for everyone. Covetable MADSTORE graphic T-shirts for the streetwear collector, subversive statement outerwear for the fashion-forward and plentiful collaborations — ranging from Vans and Levi’s to Supreme and SKOLOCT — for well, pretty much everyone. Simultaneously, Takahashi created the JohnUNDERCOVER and SueUNDERCOVER sub-labels in 2013 as more conventional, Japan-only clothing lines for men and women seeking elevated wardrobe staples instead of mainline’s oft-whimsical designs, eventually bringing both labels international in 2017. UNDERCOVER also ended its women’s runway presentations in favor of highly-stylized lookbooks, while men’s runways continue, recently debuting at Pitti Uomo and partnering with Valentino for a blowout joint presentation.

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Phoebe Philo

Over the course of her decade at Céline, Phoebe Philo became a beacon for women seeking sophisticated, intelligent clothing that filtered Philo’s worldly influences through an approachably understated lens. Not to say that Philo avoided color or graphics — consider the graffiti-inspired Spring ‘14 patterns and rich, warm hues of Pre-Fall ‘16 — but when she elected to include statement pieces into the seasonal ranges, they were given the Philo touch, applied to sculptural silhouette-altering garments like long tunics, nipped blazers and billowing skirts, subverting minimalism with playful snakeskin patterns and delicate fringing. Still, Philo’s strength was providing a trend-free alternative to fashion’s endless demand for newness, perhaps best exemplified by the refined Pre-Fall ‘13 and Resort ‘14 lookbooks, or perhaps her all-inclusive Spring ‘17 offering. Throughout the ‘10s, Philo delivered daringly understated designs and clever layers that won many critical accolades and high street imitations, making her nomadic departure from Céline in 2018 that much more noteworthy.

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Demna Gvasalia

Demna Gvasalia didn’t really begin breaking headlines until 2015, halfway through the decade. Still, by the time he became a force of nature within the industry, the decade feels like it belonged to him. His output at Vetements and then Balenciaga shaped trends that didn’t exist until Gvasalia’s Lotta Volkova-styled runways upset the establishment. He initially (inadvertently) redefined the phrase “normcore,” which had essentially died-out after it was coined in 2013, but his garments eventually expanded beyond subtly shifted shirts and baggy blazers to full-bore logomania, before reverting to minimalist-adjacent designs. Vetements’ boundary-busting collaborations with labels as diverse as Levi’s, COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, Juicy Couture, Manolo Blahnik and Kawasaki established Gvasalia’s former brand (he departed in 2019) as an unmatched tastemaker, perfecting the art of the streetwear-style collaboration. And then there’s Balenciaga’s Triple S sneaker; few other shoes in the past decade were comparably prescient, similarly impactful or imposingly huge. Yet, in its wake, everyone from other luxury houses to huge footwear companies were left scrambling to ape the giant footwear stylings Gvasalia made cool.


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Heison Ho/Hypebeast
Image Credit
Glen Luchford/Gucci, Pierre Verdy/Afp Via Getty Images, Burberry, Filippo Flor/Gorunway.com, Paolo Reversi/Comme Des Garcons, Off-White™/Musée Du Louvre, Mellowedhigh/Hypebeast, Greg Finck, Laura Stevens, Celine, Y.r., Raf Simons, Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images, Rizzoli, Undercover, The Times, The Prada Group, Wily Vanderperre, Arby Li/Hypebeast
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