University of Fashion Blog

Posts Tagged: "Jane Birkin"

Celebrating Women’s History Month: A Tribute to Fashion’s Inspiring Muses

Jean Paul Gaultier and his muse Madonna. (Photo Credit: Herb Ritts)

Happy Woman’s History Month! As we celebrate women and their innumerable accomplishments, UOF would like to pay tribute to the many fashionable women, throughout history, have inspired some of the most influential designers through the decades. Like they say…”behind every great man is a great woman”!

Givenchy and Hepburn go for a stroll together in Paris in an undated photo. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In the world of fashion, the relationship between designers and their muses is a tale as old as time, a symbiotic dance of  inspiration, creativity and innovation. Throughout history, these duos have shaped the very essence of style, leaving an indelible mark on the fashion landscape. From the glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood to the avant-garde runways of Paris, the bond between male designers and their muses has been a driving force behind some of the most iconic fashion moments. To prove it, we are dedicating this blog to some of these timeless partnerships and would like to hear from YOU as to others you may be in the ‘know’ about and want to share.


“My wife is the inspiration for my creations, she is the expression of all my ideals,” Poiret said. Here is the designer with his wife Denise Boulet. (Photo Credit: Getty)

At the dawn of the 20th century, Paul Poiret revolutionized fashion with his bold designs and visionary approach. Central to his creative vision was his wife, Denise Boulet. Poiret’s muse and collaborator, Boulet embodied the spirit of his designs, infusing them with grace and elegance. Together, they pioneered the shift from restrictive corsets to flowing, avant-garde silhouettes, forever changing the course of fashion.


Hubert de Givenchy and his muse Audrey Hepburn in 1988. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

In the enchanting world of couture, few partnerships have captured the imagination quite like that of Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. Their collaboration began serendipitously when Hepburn, seeking a wardrobe for the film Sabrina,  crossed paths with Givenchy. The rest, as they say, is history. Hepburn became the epitome of chic sophistication, while Givenchy’s timeless designs adorned her with unparalleled elegance, creating an enduring legacy of style.


Christian Dior’s and his muse Mizza Bricard. (Photo Credit: MilkX TW)

In the aftermath of World War II, Christian Dior emerged as a beacon of hope, ushering in a new era of luxury and opulence with his iconic New Look. Central to his creative vision was Miza Bricard, his muse and confidante. With her impeccable taste and innate sense of style, Bricard inspired Dior to redefine femininity, thus shaping the fashion landscape for generations to come.


Coco Chanel in her Paris apartment. (Photo Credit: Architectural Digest)

Not only male designers had muses. A fiercely independent Coco Chanel was her own muse, embodying the liberated spirit of the modern woman. Chanel’s timeless designs, from the iconic little black dress to the revolutionary Chanel suit, continues to resonate with women worldwide, a testament to her enduring legacy.


Designer Yves Saint Laurent, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise. (Photo Credit: WWD)

Yves Saint Laurent’s illustrious career was defined by his close relationships with muses Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise. With their androgynous allure and bohemian spirit, Catroux and de la Falaise inspired Saint Laurent to push the boundaries of fashion, creating groundbreaking designs that captured the zeitgeist of the era.


Halston with his muse Liza Minnelli. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In the dazzling world of Studio 54, Roy Halston reigned supreme, transforming American fashion with his minimalist yet glamorous aesthetic. At the heart of his creative vision was Liza Minnelli, the iconic entertainer whose charisma and allure captivated audiences worldwide. Together, they epitomized the hedonistic glamour of the ’70s, leaving an indelible mark on fashion history.


Bob Mackie and his muse Cher. (Photo Credit: Elle)

Few partnerships have ignited the imagination quite like that of Bob Mackie and Cher. With her fearless style and boundary-pushing creativity, Cher became Mackie’s muse, inspiring some of the most unforgettable looks in fashion history. From the infamous sheer gown at the 1974 Met Gala to the elaborate costumes of her concert tours, Mackie’s designs transformed Cher and secured this duo’s place in fashion history books.


Azzedine Alaïa and his muse Grace Jones. (Photo Credit: L’Officiel)

Azzedine Alaïa and Grace Jones forged a legendary partnership defined by their shared passion for sexy, avant-garde design. Jones’s striking beauty and fearless attitude inspired Alaïa to create sculptural masterpieces that defied convention, blurring the lines between fashion and art.


Ralph Lauren with his wife and muse Ricky Lauren. (Photo Credit: Architectural Digest)

Ralph Lauren’s iconic brand epitomizes the American Dream, embodying a vision of timeless elegance and sophistication. Central to his creative vision is his wife, Ricky Lauren, whose impeccable taste and refined sensibility have shaped the brand’s aesthetic for decades, creating a legacy of enduring style and luxury.


Marc Jacobs and his muse Sofia Coppola. (Photo Credit: L’Officiel)

Another dynamic duo is Marc Jacobs and Sofia Coppola. This creative partnership is defined by their shared love of art, culture, and style. Coppola’s effortless chic and understated elegance inspired Jacobs to create designs that resonate with women of all ages, blurring the lines between fashion and culture.


Gianni Versace and his muse Donatella Versace. (Photo Credit: Elle)

Gianni Versace’s bold, provocative designs epitomized the excess and glamour of the ’80s and ’90s. Central to his creative vision was his sister, Donatella, whose fierce style and unwavering support propelled the Versace brand to international acclaim, creating a legacy of bold, daring fashion that continues to captivate the world. When Gianni was murdered in 1997, Donatella took control of the Italian Luxury brand and kept her brother’s legacy alive.


Jane Birkin and her namesake bag created by Jean-Louis Dumas of Hermes. (Photo Credit: Wonderland)

The former chairman of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas met actress Jane Birkin in 1984 and witnessed the contents of Birkin’s carry-on bag fall out while on a flight.  In a 2015 interview with The Telegraph, Birkin recounted that Dumas, who was sitting next to Birkin, said, “you should have one with pockets.” Birkin replied, “The day Hermès make one with pockets I will have that”, and he said: “But I am Hermès and I will put pockets in for you.”  Shortly after the two collaborated, the Birkin was created, becoming one of the most covetable accessories in fashion history. It has been reinvented many times since it was first introduced to the public in the 1980s. The Hermès bag’s classic elements include two rolled handles, a flap top, a touret, a clochette, and four clou “feet” and is available in sizes, 20, 25, 30, 40, 42 and 50 centimeters, some featuring exotic crocodile skin paired with diamond-encrusted white gold hardware. Today, there’s a year’s long wait list with some vintage Birkin bags selling for up to $2 million. Now that’s one successful female muse collaboration!

Care to share your designer muse story?


The First Fashion Influencers – Before Social Media Mania

Audrey Hepburn and Katherine Kepburn ( Photo Courtesy of Movieboozer)

Audrey Hepburn and Katherine Hepburn ( Photo Courtesy of Movieboozer)

It’s hard to imagine life before social media became an integrated part of our everyday lives – there is just no escaping it. Our dependence on it has grown tremendously, especially over the last few years. It you are an Insta, Pinterest, Facebook or SnapChat follower, you don’t even realize how much of an ‘influence’ these channels, even subliminally, are having on your fashion choices.

In the not so distant past, however, fashion was presented to the world in an extremely controlled way, by a tight knit group of retailers and publishers whose stores, magazines, editorials and even the advertising that they chose, all projected a certain point of view…theirs. Every image presented was methodically staged and fully orchestrated by them. These carefully curated images usually represented a fantasy of beauty and inclusiveness that many in the ‘real world’ felt very out of touch with. Fast-forward to the digital age. Today, it’s a very different story. Thank goodness.

With platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, consumers have become their own magazine editors, as they share their personal style with millions of users. Fashion savvy customers no longer rely on magazines to tell them what the latest ‘must have’ item of the season is, and Millennials, Gen Zers and iGeners are looking to bloggers, influencers, celebrities and even their own sartorial friends for the latest fashion trends.

But when did the concept of the ‘fashion influencer’ begin? Let’s take a look back in time. The very first fashion influencers were royalty. When Rose Bertin (considered the first fashion designer) started dressing Queen Marie Antoinette during the 1770s, and Charles Frederick Worth (the Father of Haute Couture) became couturier to Empress Eugénie and Queen Victoria in the mid 1800s, these royal ladies became the first fashion influencers. This trend continued until the birth of cinema in the early 1900s, when starlets of the silver screen became the next wave of influencers.

While it appeared that these women wore whatever they wanted, the truth is, that many were dressed by famous designers and signature looks were created just for them (think Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn and designer Gilbert Adrian for Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Carol Lombard). Costume designers, such as Edith Head, also played a role in helping create  looks that accentuated that particular starlet’s figure type (think Dorothy Lamour, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Grace Kelly, Shirley McLaine, and Elizabeth Taylor).

It didn’t take long for socialites to join the royals and starlets and of course, lest we forget…  fashionable FLOTUS and British royalty, who, either with the help of some very talented designers, or by using their personal fashion sense, were added to the list of fashion influencers.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Marlene Dietrich was the original style chameleon. In the 1930’s, she was the first woman to be photographed wearing a tuxedo and the first to introduce the androgynous look. At that time, women could be, and were, arrested if they wore pants in public and detained for “masquerading as men.” Dietrich’s penchant for menswear became her signature style and yet the look was both elegant and chic.

Babe Paley

Babe Paley  mixes high low fashion (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Babe Paley mixes high low fashion (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

While not a starlet, this society icon was the innovator of the high/low approach to fashion in the 1950s. Babe Paley inspired many women with her eclectic mix of designer clothes mixed with cheap costume jewelry. Who can forget that iconic image of her with a scarf tied around her handbag? This sparked a trend that still remains popular today. Babe dressed purely for her own pleasure, and her style was effortlessly elegant.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn in her classic cigarette pant look (Photo Courtesy of Pintrest)

Audrey Hepburn in her classic cigarette pant look (Photo Courtesy of Pintrest)

Audrey Hepburn was a major fashion influencer beginning in the early 60s and throughout her long career. In fact, her style lives on even today!  Her classic Holly Golightly look from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic ‘Old Hollywood’ photos out there. That fabulous little black sheath dress by Givenchy and Edith Head’s straight, black-cropped pants and boatneck top, worn with slip-on loafers, which were designed by none other than Salvatore Ferragamo. Hepburn is arguably the originator of minimalism.

For a lesson in creating the little black dress, check out:

 Grace Kelly

Princess Grace Kelly carrying the Hermes Kelly Bag (Photo Courtesy of Beyond Grace Kelly)

Princess Grace Kelly carrying the Hermes Kelly Bag (Photo Courtesy of Beyond Grace Kelly)

Grace Kelly’s classic, sophisticated style was always impeccable. Her iconic feminine dresses and tailored ensembles made her one of the most influential fashion icons of her time. In fact, Hermès renamed one of their purse designs, the Kelly Bag, after the actress was spotted toting one on numerous occasions. The American actress married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, on April 1956 and her grace and style were inspirational to women all around the world.

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn in a scene from the film 'The Philadelphia Story', 1940 (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Katharine Hepburn in a scene from the film ‘The Philadelphia Story’, 1940 (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Katharine Hepburn was one of the most idolized actresses of her generation. On and off screen,  Katharine fashioned her very own personal style that embodied the ‘American look.’ She was not only a Hollywood Star, but an icon that forever changed the landscape of fashion and feminism.

For a lesson in creating the perfect pant, click this link:

Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Jackie O signature look (Photo Courtesy of Town & Country)

Jackie O signature look (Photo Courtesy of Town & Country)

Jackie O influenced millions of women worldwide with her signature style. In the 1960s, as First Lady of the United States, she became known as the ‘First Lady of Fashion.’ Women everywhere copied her look – simple shifts, pillbox hats, elegant scarves, peacoats and oversized sunglasses. Today, women of all ages still sport the ‘Jackie O’ look. It’s timeless!

Nan Kempner

Nan Kempner in trousers (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Nan Kempner in trousers (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Nan Kempner, a New York socialite, was a clotheshorse, fashion rebel and an avid collector of couture. It was rumored that she never missed a Paris couture show over a span of forty years. In the 1960s, when Nan was refused entrance because she was wearing a pantsuit to La Cote Basque, a chic New York City restaurant, she took off her trousers and walked right into the restaurant wearing only her top. #womensliberation

Bianca Jagger

 Bianca Jagger in a white wedding suit (Photo Courtesy of Glamour)

Bianca Jagger in a white wedding suit (Photo Courtesy of Glamour)

Bianca Jagger had a style all her own. Married to Mick Jagger and a regular at Studio 54, Bianca epitomized the glitz and glamour of the 70’s. She often wore sequined sheaths, fur, high-waisted pants, crisp suits, and unbuttoned blouses. She had the eclectic flare to be able to mix and match old pieces with new in a thoroughly modern and entirely rock and roll kind of way.

Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin in her signature denim style (Photo Courtesy of Marie Claire)

Jane Birkin in her signature denim style (Photo Courtesy of Marie Claire)

Jane Birkin, English actress, singer, songwriter and model, rose to fame when she married Parisian pop poet/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg in the 1980s. Birkin defined a new era of gamine chic. Known for wearing bell-bottom  jeans, simple knits, delicate jewelry, white tees, and short minis – all with effortlessly cool ease – her style is proof that casual can and always will be stylish when done in the right way. In 1984, Hermès created the now iconic ‘Birkin’ bag in her honor. Every influencers dream!

Princess Diana

Princess Diana in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Stylemagazine)

Princess Diana in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Stylemagazine)

Known as the People’s Princess, Princess Diana of Wales was known for her savvy fashion sense just as much as she was known for her humanitarian efforts. When she wed in the ’80s wearing a huge, fluffy white wedding dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves, brides around the globe copied her gown. Women also mimicked her signature style of off-the-shoulder gowns worn with classic pearls. Princess Di helped put British fashion on the map, wearing labels such as Catherine Walker, Bellville Sassoon, and Gina Fratini. She was also known to wear plenty of Gianni Versace’s creations and attended his funeral with her dear friend Sir Elton John.

You can learn more about fashion history and style icons in Francesca Sterlacci’s book: Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition. Available on Amazon:

So tell us, who makes your top 10 list of 21st century fashion icon influencers? And Why?