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4 Iconic, Underappreciated Female Designers You Need to Know

BY liz 07/19/2016

Even though she’s a master of modern cuts, clothing designer Sechung Oh always has one eye on the past. “I’ve loved vintage clothing since I was in middle school,” she explains.  “Now I like the challenge of resurrecting a familiar body or style in a way that feels relevant and fresh.” Key to her process? Research of other rad women designers, whose influence helped shape her own collection of sixties-inspired tops and flowing slip dresses that wouldn’t look out of place on a nineties supe. We asked her to name-drop her top four female influences.

 

CLAIRE MCCARDELL

Image via Queens of Vintage

 

“I’ve been most inspired by Claire McCardell, an American designing in the fifties. She believed that clothing should be practical, comfortable, and feminine. I admire the humility and functionality of her designs. She used fabrics that were commonplace and accessible in her time, like denim, calico, and rayon. She even repurposed cotton from weather balloons when they were declared a surplus during WWII—just one instance of her ingenuity in response to wartime restrictions. She rejected the notion of just copying famous designers in Paris and created looks she felt were relevant to an American woman's lifestyle. An example that I love: She added pockets to everything because a woman needed a place to put her hands. The look was distinctly American at a time where everything was about Europe’s influence. Her example has influenced my passion for domestic production. As a country, we need to be able to make things. Walking around the vestiges of the Los Angeles garment industry, which once boomed with skilled labor and independent factories, I am inspired to keep producing and growing my line here.”

 

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REI KAWAKUBO

Rei Kawakubo backstage in Paris 1987

Image via What Goes Around Comes Around

 

Rei Kawakubo and Vivienne Westwood both designed with an amazing sense of play and use of silhouette, and neither was formally trained. In particular, I love Rei’s disregard for fashion rules. She used primarily black white and grey, left edges unfinished, and explored asymmetry before anyone else. There are many outdated rules in fashion, and it's exciting when designers break them. I love her play on shapes in her Comme des Garçons spring 1997 collection, called Lumps and Bumps.”

 

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

Image via Dazed

 

I’m a big fan of her fall 1995 Vive la Cocotte collection. Music is a big inspiration for me, and I admire how inextricably tied her clothing was to punk and new wave music movements of the time. I'm inspired by how she blended highly radical, subversive design elements like BDSM and bondage details with highly traditional elements like Scottish tartans.”

 

SONIA RYKIEL

Image by Roger Viollet via Pleasure Photoroom

 

“I believe there are two kinds of fashion designers—ones who design for fantasy, and others for real life. I identify myself as more of the latter, and I admire the autobiographical element to Sonia Rykiel's design. She designed for herself and her own life without feeling diminished by that. I hope I am doing the same.”

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