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As luxury skyrocketed in the Nineties and Aughts, designers of a sportswear mind-set shattered previous limits with ever more decadent materials and details of design, resulting in ever more options for women of various tastes. Leading the classic charge: Michael Kors. If American fashion has long suffered from an inferiority complex, Kors remains happily immune, for nearly 30 years turning out clothes that radiate modern jet-set chic via ample sable, croc and cashmere—and a hint of the known. “I like something familiar and unfamiliar at the same time,” Kors told WWD as he was about to receive the CFDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award last June, noting that postrecession 2009 was the best ever for his company. “We make the clothes that people actually live in, they hold on to,” he said.
In his tenure at Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière has developed (and sometimes deviated from) a signature silhouette with a futuristic rock chick attitude featuring superlean, masterful cuts and remarkable fabric innovation. Even in his most aggressive interpretation, he deftly incorporates tenets of the house founder while underscoring refinement with edge. “Sometimes I start with the archives and sometimes I’m distant…” Ghesquière said at the WWD CEO Summit in 2005. “You can very easily find a link.”
Then there’s Balmain’s Christophe Decarnin, who studs, shreds, rips, tears and punks his way to five-figure price tags—and even with the recession not yet in the rearview mirror, his racy ladies can’t get enough.