The History Behind Your Favourite Fashion Brands

History Behind Your Favourite Fashion Brands

For those of you that don’t know, there was a time before the internet. In an era before fashion blogging and tweeting about the latest styles your favourite fashion brands were carving out a name for themselves. From JPG to AA, find out how some of the most successful contemporary figureheads in fashion got their stylish foot in the door.

Jean-Paul Gaultier

Known as the ‘enfant terrible’ of fashion Jean-Paul Gaultier has had quite a career. Hindsight suggests he was always destined for the fashion world, found as a child making a bra for his stuffed bear. His career properly began in 1970 with Pierre Cardin but it wasn’t until he began his own label that his true style began to emerge.

Notorious for challenging ideas in the fashion world, he’s created many style sensations in his past. Playing with underwear as outerwear led to his famous Corset Dress and Madonna’s black-studded bra. He was Creative Director for Hermes for seven years but has also been involved in all manner of extra-curricular projects, from presenter of TV fun-fest Eurotrash to designing costumes for films. Always at the fore-front of fashion he remains one of fashion’s most high profile figures.


With over 300 stores in the UK alone, it’s hard to believe that this high-street fashion behemoth was once just a small section of a Sheffield department store. Since its humble beginnings as Peter Robinson’s Top Shop, the brand has lost its Northern accent and gone all corporate. Along with Burtons it formed the beginning of the massive Arcadia Group in the mid-sixties, which also owns Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge.

Since opening its Oxford Circus flagship store in 1994 it has developed itself into a trend-setting high street brand. As a supporter of young British design Topshop has helped the careers of Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson, and set its popularity in stone with successful collaborations with Kate Moss and Christopher Kane.

It stamped its mark on the world in 2009, opening its first flagship store outside the UK in New York, with instant success. Topshop is the only high street brand to feature at London Fashion Week and has forged itself as an affordable go-to for both students and celebrities.

Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs has been bestowed with so many awards he must have had to reinforce his mantelpiece. However his career hasn’t been all plain sailing. An early-starter, at 15 Marc was designing and selling his own range of jumpers, hand-knitted by his grandmother.

He began at Perry Ellis, after becoming the youngest designer to win their award for New Fashion Talent in 1987. It was his critically acclaimed Grunge collection, hated by the label, that brought the relationship to an abrupt end. After a period of drug-use and rehabilitation he launched a successful comeback in 1993, with the help of Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell, who walked in his show for free. Jacobs went on to become the creative director of Louis Vuitton, taking Grandma’s favourite brand and turning it into an international trendsetter, with catwalk shows that are crammed to the roof with celebrity fans.

American Apparel

American Apparel has been surrounded by controversy as it has grown into a US staple. Founded by Dov Charney in 1997, it started as a wholesale business, supplying cotton basics. The controversial CEO has led the company through provocative advertising campaigns with contentious choice of models.

Not one to mince his words, stocks plummeted in 2008 after Charney publicly denounced his CFO as a ‘complete loser.’  Proud of its home-grown roots, American Apparel is one of the biggest clothing factories in the US, and despite financial troubles, their loyal customers seem to giving it hope for a longer future to come.


Sniff a Prada bag and you can smell the history. Started in 1913 in Milan by brothers Mario and Martino, Prada began selling leather bags and accessories. Their high-quality exclusive designs meant they became the official supplier of the Italian Royal family.

The brand, as it is known and loved today, began its expansion when Mario’s grand-daughter Muiccia took over control in 1978. Their second shop in Milan was opened in 1983, showcasing a new brand image. Increasing demand and Muiccia’s creative input, led to expansion into womenswear and creation of the Miu Miu brand. These days Prada is best known for its fashion forward designer glasses and, of course, beautiful leather handbags!

Are you devoted to a particular fashion brand? Been following them since they were in designer short trousers? Tell us the secrets of your favourite brand’s past.

Bio: Susannah Perez is a fashion and beauty enthusiast and freelance blogger. She drools over brands like Valley Optics and has a seriously problematic addiction to designer glasses!

Image: Josh Nece

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