What’s Hot Across The Pond: European Fashion Designers

It seems like Europe is always one step ahead of the United States of America when it comes to fashion design. Whether you know it yet or not, what’s fierce on the runways of Paris and Milan’s fashion weeks have likely not made it over to American runways just yet, and when they do, Europe will likely be on to more cutting-edge trends by then. So what is it that keeps the European fashion market one step ahead of the American market? Among many things, fashion school students speculate that it is the inventive European designers that keep their eyes wide open and their collections fresh and innovative. For those of you in speculation of this phenomenon, here’s a list of European designers who put on 2011 runway shows that awed young fashion lovers, photographers, magazine editors and seasoned fashion veterans alike!

Daughter of Beatle, Paul McCartney, the British-born Stella McCartney has been a successful designer since the nineteen-nineties. Though some speculate that she got an industry advantage because of her ultra-famous father, McCartney has proved herself time and time again to have immense creative vision and talent. After she graduated from fashion college in England, she was quickly appointed chief designer at the Paris fashion house of Chloe. Since then, her designs have been almost unanimously commercially successful. Her most recent collection for Autumn of 2011 plays with a lot of delightful gender ambiguity. McCartney has created loose, yet tailored women’s wear, including collared coats and blazers with a playful sensibility.

British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood was raved about after February’s Autumn/Winter 2011 fashion week presentations. Relatively new as fashion industry insider, the designer has practically re-defined what is thought to be possible in shoe-design, with his alienous, decorative collection. Kirkwood’s shoes are usually unthinkably high, and they are often sprouting fur, feathers and beads. Often, they feature wild patterns, layered and diverse fabrics and materials, and always artful and unexpected angles. Kirkwood’s Fall and Winter shoes are truly a fashion delight.

Of Italian and Japanese heritage, Nicola Formichetti is the creative director for the French fashion house, Thierry Mugler, and the chief designer for pop sensation Lady Gaga. Originally an architecture student, Formichetti dropped out of school and became heavily involved in London’s club scene and immersed himself in the world of European street fashion. Eventually, he got himself a job at a fashionable boutique called The Pineal Eye quickly working his way up to art director and head buyer. His talent was soon recognized by fashion editors, which led to work in several high fashion publications, and eventually to his position at Mugler. Formichetti’s designs are often futuristic and hyper-sexual, evocative of the club scene he was once so heavily immersed in.

McCartney, Kirkwood and Formichetti are only three of the countless innovative minds in European fashion design. We look forward to future fashion seasons, and the striking collections that they will surely produce in years to come.

Anna Wintour – Influential Magazine Editor

Through her 30+career in magazine publishing, Wintour has developed a reputation for being distant and cold. It has been said that she a demanding boss and is difficult to work for, an opinion Wintour doesn’t exactly deny. In 2003, Lauren Weisberger, one of Anna Wintour’s former assistants published the book The Devil Wears Prada, based on her experience working at Vogue magazine. The book was made into a movie in 2006 and Anna Wintour made celebrity magazine and fashion magazine headlines when she showed up to the premiere wearing Prada.

In August 2009, Anna Wintour along with the creation of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine were the subjects of the documentary, “The September Issue.” The documentary shows, for the first time, the demanding work required to produce an issue of Vogue magazine.

Forbes magazine recently reported that though the documentary is touted as “the real Devil Wears Prada,” that “Wintour mostly is portrayed as a professional and a perfectionist with a well-defined vision and an inferiority complex that becomes apparent when she admiringly talks about her three siblings who consider her profession “amusing”; Wintour’s sister, for example, lobbies for farmers’ rights in Latin America.”

Anna Wintour was born in 1949, in London, England, to newspaper editor Charles Wintour and his wife, philanthropist Elinor Wintour. As a teenager, Wintour dropped out of school and instead pursued a life that revolved around the chic London life of the 1960s, frequenting the same London clubs of pop culture’s biggest celebrities and musicians like The Beatles and Rolling Stones.

Before Vogue magazine, Anna Wintour started out in the fashion department of Harper’s & Queen in London. Over the years, she climbed the editorial ladder and bounced from magazine to magazine between New York and London. In 1976, she moved to New York and took over as fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. With a stop at Viva magazine after Harper’s Bazaar in between, Anna Wintour took a job with New York magazine in 1981. From the start, Wintour was driven and had her own sense of style and direction. In 1986, she returned to London as top editor of publisher Condé Nast’s British Vogue magazine.

It’s at British Vogue that Wintour’s cold demeanor earned her a few memorable nicknames: “Nuclear Wintour” and “Wintour of Our Discontent.” In 1987 she went onto another Condé Nast magazine, Home and Garden, where she abruptly changed the magazine’s title to HG.

Though subordinates grumbled about Wintour’s management style, Condé Nast’s top executives clearly supported her decisions; she earned a reported salary of more than $200,000 plus a $25,000 annual allowance for clothes and other perks.

In 1988 Anna Wintour left HG magazine and became editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine with one goal: reinstate Vogue magazine as the fashion authority. At the time of her arrival, Vogue magazine was losing ground to a three-year-old upstart, Elle magazine, which had already reached a paid circulation of 850,000. Vogue’s subscriber base meanwhile, was a motionless 1.2 million.

In her more than two decades at Vogue magazine, Wintour has more than accomplished her goal. She successfully restored Vogue’s supremacy and today the magazine enjoys the nickname of the “fashion bible.”

For all her critics, Anna Wintour has made many influential decisions that affect the magazine industry at large. She popularized putting celebrities instead of supermodels on magazine covers; she mixed low-end fashion pieces with expensive pieces in her photo shoots; she championed unknown fashion designers, making the careers of Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.

While Anna Wintour has garnered much attention for her distant demeanor and contributions to the fashion world, many are unaware of her commitment to philanthropy. Some of her generosity includes raising money for the Twin Towers fund after the September 11th terror attacks and with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, she helped create a new fund to encourage and support up-and-coming designers. Each year, she also organizes a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume department, which over the years has brought in some $50 million. This event attracts many celebrities and is covered relentlessly in fashion, society and celebrity magazines.

As for her personal life, she and husband David Shaffer divorced in 1999. The couple has two children together, Charles and Katherine. Currently, Anna Wintour maintains a relationship with investor Shelby Bryan.

Fashion Photography

Do you want to be a fashion photographer? Fashion photography is an extremely tough market to break into, but if you are willing to work hard, have a good imagination and hold the ability to take perfect images you are off to a good start.

A fashion photographer must be good in two photography disciplines. First, you need to be a great portrait photographer – second, you need to be able to create images for the advertisement market. You must be able to combine the two if you are going to succeed.

To be a successful fashion photographer you must also have a love of fine design clothes – without it you will never achieve the heights that bring success. A fashion photographer must stay up to date with all the latest fashion and have the ability to use his/her imagination to sell new designs.

Selling is the key – the fashion photographer must be able to sell his images to the fashion editor. Fashion photography is advertising and selling clothes.

To establish a reputation in fashion photography, the first thing you must do is set up a portfolio. Your portfolio should display your best work and be your first selling point. The second, and equally as important as the first, is to set up an online portfolio – your own personal Website.

To set up a portfolio you first must hire a model. Contacting your local modelling agencies can do this. You don’t need to hire a well-known model for your fashion portfolio – you need someone who will act well in front of the camera.

To be very successful you need to build a good relationship with models. Some models can be tough to work with so people psychology will play an important part. If you intend to shoot from your home studio supply a changing room for them.

If a model becomes unhappy for any reason the photo session will be a waste of time. Allow your model to make their own suggestions – regardless of how trivial it may be, it will help to keep them relaxed and you may get results that may be useful.

Once your portfolio is created you need to get exposure for it. If you have previously published work – use them as a statement with the picture editors. You need to establish a good working relationship with all fashion editors that you’ll be working with. So be professional.

Fashion photo editors are looking for concise images that clearly communicate an idea. You must, as a fashion photographer, have the ability to create unique settings.

When you do gather a large amount of fashion images, submit them to a fashion agency: Women’s magazines all over the world buy hundreds of stock shots every month. Photo agencies exist to sell photographers images – some of the larger fashion agencies have buyers all over the world. Some agencies can also re-sell your work in several different markets, and others will give you great career advice.

Keep up to date with fashion magazines, study the market and always be on the lookout for changing trends.

Don’t be afraid to take the first step. If a fashion editor has no interest in your work – don’t worry – try contacting different magazines or agencies – most great photographers have their work rejected some time during their career.

Breaking Into Fashion Public Relations

Publicists are masters of communication. They not only help to create an image for products and companies, they also spearhead efforts to get the word out and create buzz. If you love fashion and have stellar communication skills, you could enjoy great success in fashion public relations.

Retailers hire fashion publicists to develop and promote a certain image to the buying public. To the fashion publicist, it’s all about who you know. Those in fashion PR have important fashion editors and top designers on speed dial and collect contacts on a daily basis. The more people you know, the easier it is to promote something.

Not only do fashion publicists have to know important fashion players, they must also know the politics, economy and sociology of their target demographic. While you can learn about the ins and outs of PR by majoring in it, it is also wise to enroll in fashion courses to gain industry and technical knowledge. Not to mention, fashion school will also serve as a networking opportunity as you connect with classmates who are also entering the fashion world.

People skills are essential to those interested in fashion PR. Since the job is basically communicating constantly, it is important to know how to get a point across and how to be likable and graceful under pressure. Another important quality to have is ambition. Since fashion PR is a highly competitive field, only the most driven will make it through and get the job of their dreams in fashion PR.

Learn more about Careers in Fashion.