New faces at old fashion labels

Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

When Karl Lagerfeld arrived at Chanel in 1983, the label had degenerated into a glorified fragrance business. But during his tenure, he’s turned Chanel into a global force and ushered in a new era in fashion. This “Lazarus movement” has inspired dozens of others to try reviving old-fashioned labels with new designers. Here are a few of them, along with what the labels were known for when they were founded, and what they are known for today.

Alexander McQueen

Founded in 1992.

Then: Provocative clothes, such as low-riding “bumster” trousers; provocative runway shows with live wolves, human chess pieces.


Now: Catherine Middleton’s wedding gown. Romantic, British, pagan-influenced clothes with couture-level handiwork. Designed by McQueen protégé Sarah Burton, who has softened his edge.


Founded by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1918.

Then: Sculptural, modern cuts, sack dresses, Spanish influences.

Now: Futuristic shapes, innovative fabrics such as fiberglass foam and neoprene, “Motorcycle” handbags. Designed by Nicolas Ghesquière, a self-professed sci-fi enthusiast.


Founded by Pierre Balmain in 1945.

Then: Elegant dressmaking, 1950s high feminine style.


Now: Ultra-expensive rock ‘n’ roll crystal-studded jackets and slashed jeans, reviving the Michael Jackson “Thriller"-era look. Designed by Olivier Rousteing, following Christophe Decarnin’s dismissal in March.

Calvin Klein

Founded in 1968.

Then: Minimalist sportswear in muted colors, provocative advertising, Brooke Shields jeans ads, Marky Mark underwear ads, heroine chic.


Now: Minimalist sportswear and gowns, such as the cantaloupe-colored dress worn by Emma Stone at the Golden Globes in January; inexpensive licensed denim, underwear and sportswear lines. Runway collection designed by Francisco Costa.


Founded by Céline Vipiana in 1945.

Then: Made-to-measure children’s shoes.


Now: Chic, sparsely decorated sportswear and accessories, bringing back the blouse and the camel coat. Designed by Phoebe Philo, one of fashion’s most closely watched trendsetters.


Founded by Coco Chanel in 1909.

Then: Hats. Chanel was a milliner before expanding into ready-to-wear and couture.


Now: Irreverent use of house codes and logos on streetwear-inspired biker boots, surfboards, snow skis. Constant reinvention of Chanel’s classic knit suits, little black dresses, quilted handbags, ballet flats. Designed by Karl Lagerfeld.

Christian Dior

Founded in 1947.

Then: The New Look silhouette with a cinched waist and full skirt, heralding the end of World War II restrictions on materials.


Now: Sharply cut, 1940s-inspired suits, demure barrel-shaped coats, romantic bias cut gowns, dressing French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Designed by John Galliano until he was fired in March for an alleged racist outburst.


Founded by Guccio Gucci in 1906.

Then: Saddles.


Now: Sleek, 1960s-inspired sportswear and gowns, leather goods. Designed by Frida Giannini.


Founded by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889.

Then: Hats, followed by matching mother-and-daughter clothing.


Now: Asymmetrically draped dresses, grosgrain ribbon-trim, bold costume jewelry, Michelle Obama’s $540 sneakers. Designed by Alber Elbaz.

Louis Vuitton

Founded in 1854.

Then: Luggage.


Now: Hollywood blockbuster production-level runway shows, handbags and shoes using artistic (and cheeky) interpretations of the LV logo. Designed by Marc Jacobs.


Founded in 1959 by Valentino Garavani.

Then: Opulent crimson ball gowns, ladies-who-lunch suits, lace, ruffles and bows.


Now: Lace-trimmed leather jackets, frilly T-shirts and studded kitten heels. Designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli.

Yves Saint Laurent

Founded in 1961.

Then: Creating the modern woman’s wardrobe. Safari jackets, peacoats, peasant blouses, trousers for women, tuxedos for women.


Now: Blouses, wearable gowns, artisanal jewelry, platform “Tribute” shoes, wide belts. Designed by Stefano Pilati.