With the benefit of a diverse country and varied culture, the United States excels at invention and forward growth. American fashion showcases this with its rise to prominence in the design world. From early, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps American innovation, to modern style stand-outs, many fashion labels in the U.S. grew from niche markets to world-renowned design houses. Discover four of the most inspiring American fashion design stories.
Calvin Klein was born in Bronx, New York. He showed an interest in fashion from a young age. In 1963, he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and eventually apprenticed to a suit manufacturer. In 1968, he opened his Calvin Klein label with the backing of Charles Schwartz. His first success was in women’s coats, with his design selling at department store Bonwit Teller. As demand grew, Klein branched into ladies’ apparel and then menswear. He received the Coty Award for womenswear three years in a row: 1973, 1974, and 1975.
Wang began her fashion career at Vogue, where she worked as the senior fashion editor for 15 years. She went on to work as a design director for accessories at Ralph Lauren. Her foray into formal wear began after designing her own wedding dress.
In 1990, Wang opened a bridal boutique, selling couture dresses alongside her own designs. In 1993 she received the Chinese American Planning Council’s Honoree of the Year Award and the following year the Girl Scout Council’s Woman of Distinction Award. She was elected to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and was selected by the CFDA as the Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2005.
Justin Boots began in the cowboy country of the American West. Started by Herman Justin in 1879 in Texas, the company foundation is in natural, durable, and decorative cowboy boots. From humble origins as a boot repairman, Justin went on to pioneer the development of the modern cowboy boot. As his footwear grew more popular, he and his wife developed a kit for people to self-measure their feet. This allowed cowboys to order custom-built boots without coming into the shop, expanding the customer base.
Justin Boots grew to include women’s and children’s boots, eventually acquiring additional footwear companies. Over a hundred years later, Justin Boots is well-established as a leading brand of American footwear. Crafted with high-quality leather and materials, Justin Boots is still known for combining comfort and design.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
First known for their acting, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen branched off into fashion in 2006 when they launched their own fashion label, The Row. The Olsens specialized in a modern combination of subtle-yet-elegant that capitalized on their well-known boho-chic look. Their inspiration for their line started as a search for the perfect women’s T-shirt. The Olsens were named the Womenswear Designer of the Year by The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 2012 and 2015, and Accessories Designer of the Year in 2014.
Each with their own introduction to fashion, these American designers found a market for their clothing lines. Their success was based not just on quality, but on addressing the specific needs of their customers. From innovations in footwear for cowboys to couture wedding dresses, U.S. fashion designers have carved out a space on the world stage.