Remember German supermodel-host Heidi Klum’s tagline in Project Runway, “in fashion, one day you’re in, and the next you’re out”?
These words are an accurate description when you’re talking about the fickle world of fashion. With ever-changing trends, its cyclical nature (i.e. resurgence of retro styles) and rise of social media, fashion labels can easily rise from obscurity but can equally quickly return to dust.
Here, we’re highlighting seven fashion labels that have impressively withstood the test of time and have hit the century mark — some even more. From Balenciaga, who turns 100 this year, to household names such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton, these are some of the biggest, most popular labels to know about, and to own a piece of if you can.
The mention of Balenciaga conjures to mind cool street style pieces and trendy, often perplexing, creations conjured from the imagination of its creative designer, Demna Gvasalia. Case in point: Balenciaga’s Croc-inspired stilettos or the bags inspired by a furniture retailer (we’re talking about you, US$2,000 version of an Ikea bag). Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Balenciaga is adept at polarising the fashion world.
The Spanish label, which celebrates its centennial this year, was founded by Cristóbal Balenciaga, a couturier who had won favours from the likes of the Spanish royal court to the late Coco Chanel and Grace Kelly. In fact, it could be said that the brand’s DNA is very much one that challenges fashion norms. One example was Balenciaga’s insistence towards using voluminous and oversized silhouettes — as seen with the bubble skirt and the sack and cocoon dresses — that differed from the style de rigueur, which was Christian Dior’s postwar form-fitting New Look.
After a 14-year closure due to Balenciaga’s passing, the label was re-launched in 1986 and was helmed by a series of designers including current Louis Vuitton head designer, Nicolas Ghesquière (’97 to ’12) and Alexander Wang (’13 to ’15). A 2018 report in the Business of Fashion named Balenciaga as the fastest growing label within the Kering conglomerate.
2. Louis Vuitton
If you’re in the market for quality designer trunks and luggages, Louis Vuitton is a crowd favourite. After all, Louis Vuitton, who founded the label in 1854, was the trunk-maker to Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III (no, it wasn’t her who asked the French revolutionaries to eat cake if you’re wondering). He was also instrumental to many of the brand classics you see today, such as the Tumbler Lock used on the trunks and the iconic monogram that has quickly become a status symbol worldwide.
But besides the brand’s high quality products and iconic lineups such as the Neverfull or Speedy bags, Louis Vuitton also prides itself on its limited edition collaborations with celebs and high-end brands, ranging from pop musician Pharrell Williams to pop artist Jeff Koons and streetwear label Supreme. Not only do these collabs give you incredible cachet owing to its branding, its scarcity also gives you bragging rights. Assuming of course that you were able to score one for yourself.
Now, Louis Vuitton is helmed by Nicolas Ghesquière and Off-White’s Virgil Abloh — the former for womenswear and the latter for menswear. Forbes named Louis Vuitton as the 12th most valuable brand in 2019 with a value of US$39.3 billion.
While Prada is synonymous with its waterproof nylon bags and its cool take on fashion and style, did you know: Prada actually focused on leather goods in its early years? Founded in 1913 by Mario Prada, it wasn’t until his granddaughter and current head designer Miuccia Prada took over the reins in 1978 that really made the brand explode in popularity. Her first commercial hit was the nondescript nylon bags, which still remains a hot-seller today. In fact, Prada recently announced that it was releasing a new project titled Re-Nylon, where the collection — a belt bag, shoulder bag, tote bag, duffle and two backpacks — would be created with regenerated nylon called Econyl, as part of the brand’s green movement.
But back to the designer, under Prada and her partner Patrizio Bertelli’s leadership, the Italian label grew to become a titan in the luxury fashion industry. It has since gained a following among people who prefer cleaner, less ostentatious designs. Nadja Swarovski, a member of the Swarovski board, described Prada as “unquestionably one of the most influential designers in fashion history” when the designer was commended with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2018 British Fashion Awards.
Prada has since expanded to own four other companies in its portfolio — a younger, offshoot label Miu Miu, footwear labels Church’s and Car Shoe and Milanese fine patisserie Marchesi 1824. The group reported sales of €3 billion last year — a testament to its foothold.