New York Apparel Peopling of New York, Spring 2015

New York Apparel

Foreign Fashion Designers

Designers of the World Converge on New York

By Katherine DeLorenzo

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.”
– Virginia Woolf

New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world, along with London, Paris, and Milan. A walk down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue demonstrates this fact. New York is filled with both aspiring and established designers who use New York’s fame and status to promote their lines. One of the greatest accomplishments a designer can achieve is showing his or her collection at New York Fashion Week, a semiannual event that showcases the hard work of designers for the upcoming seasons. However, many famous designers who show at NYFW and have flagship stores in the city are not Americans. These designers hail from Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, and they each bring their iconic style to the city and influence the way New Yorkers, and the rest of the world, dress. Designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Reem Acra, and Prabal Gurung all come from foreign countries but have achieved great success in New York. Furstenberg is even the current president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. I would like to take a look at each of these designers to assess how New York City helped them become world famous in the fashion industry.

Diane von Furstenberg


A model wears one of Diane von Furstenberg's iconic wrap dresses

A model wears one of Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dresses

“When they put me on the cover of Newsweek, I knew it was a success. It allowed me to live the American dream.” -Diane von Furstenberg(Daily Beast, 2014)

“When they put me on the cover of Newsweek, I knew it was a success. It allowed me to live the American dream.” -Diane von Furstenberg(Daily Beast, 2014)

Diane von Furstenberg is famous for fashion label, DVF and her creation of the iconic wrap dress worn by millions of women. Born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin in 1946, Furstenberg is the daughter of a Romanian father and Greek-Jewish mother, who was also a Holocaust survivor. Diane was raised in Brussels, Belgium and attended Madrid University. She then transferred to University of Geneva in Switzerland, where she met Prince Egon zu Fürstenberg, a German prince, who would become her first husband. Diane and the prince married in 1969, moved to New York, and had two children together. In 1972, however, they had an amicable divorce, but Diane kept her married name, changing it slightly from “zu” to the more recognizable “von.”

In 1970, Diane began designing clothes and in 1972 she came up with the idea for her wrap dress. By 1975, she was making 15,000 dresses a week, and would later go on to sell about 4 million by 1988. In 1976, Diane was featured on the cover of Newsweek for her unparalleled success in the fashion industry. After her initial success, she took a hiatus from fashion, but re-launched her global brand in 1997 with the iconic wrap dress, as well as other luxury goods like scarves, jewelry, and leather goods.

In 2005, Diane was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for her incredible impact on fashion. The following year, she was elected president of the CFDA, and used her new position to nurture up-and-coming designers and help protect designers from counterfeit reproductions of their products. Diane is also a philanthropist, and her charity work helps her empower women in the fashion industry. She, her current husband, Barry Diller, chair of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, and her DVF Awards provide grants to women who display leadership and strength in the causes they champion. In 2015, Diane was named one of TIME 100’s most influential people.

Oscar de la Renta

oscar de la renta


“I came to New York in 1963, so I have observed how the women in the last 40 to 50 years have crossed barriers that are unthinkable.”-Oscar de la Renta

Model Karlie Kloss and singer Taylor Swift wearing Oscar de la Renta at the 2014 Met Ball.

Model Karlie Kloss and singer Taylor Swift wearing Oscar de la Renta at the 2014 Met Ball.

Oscar de la Renta is one of the most recognizable and renowned names in fashion. He is known for his haute couture and ready to wear collections, as well as several celebrity red carpet dresses. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on July 22, 1932. When he was 18, he studied art at Spain’s Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. While there, he sketched for top design houses and eventually got an apprenticeship with Cristóbal Balenciaga, the most respected couturier in Spain. In 1960, de la Renta went to Paris to become an assistant at Lanvin, helping to design couture gowns and building up his resume. In 1963, he moved to America to mentor with then editor-in-chief of Vogue Diana Vreeland, which helped him get a job at Elizabeth Arden designing haute couture gowns. While at Elizabeth Arden, he made many connections, and eventually, in 1965, he started his own eponymous label that was extremely well received.

Oscar de la Renta served as president of the CFDA from 1973 to 1976, and again from 1986 to 1988. De la Renta launched several fragrances for both men and women in 1977. He also designed haute couture and teamed up with Pierre Balmain to revive the brand’s falling popularity. De la Renta launched a Home collection and a Bridal collection, which was featured in Sex and the City. He also designed and outfitted several First Ladies of the United States, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush.

Oscar was well known for being a charitable man, as he often provided aid to the people of his birthplace through the La Casa del Niño foundation, which built orphanages and schools for the children of the Dominican Republic. For his charity, the Dominican Republic awarded the designer with the Order of Juan Pablo Duarte and the Order of Cristóbal Colón. Unfortunately, on October 20, 2014, Oscar de la Renta died after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife and children, as well as his timeless pieces of fashion, which continue to inspire designers and artists.

Reem Acra

reem acra

I come from a specific area in Beirut where it’s multicultural, and it’s a culture that blends with multiple cultures – it’s unbelievable lifestyle.-Reem Acra

Reem Acra started her fashion career in bridal and has since transformed her brand into a ready-to-wear couture collection. Acra was born in Beirut, Lebanon, where she also attended the American University in Beirut, studying business. Acra then moved to New York, wehre she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. While at FIT, Acra graduated magna cum laude and won the Fashion Design Award for her graduating class. Following her studies in New York, Acra moved to Paris, where she studied at the design school École Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de al Mode.

Broadway star Idina Menzel wearing Reem Acra while performing at the 2014 Academy Awards

Broadway star Idina Menzel wearing Reem Acra while performing at the 2014 Academy Awards

Actress Kate Hudson wearing Reem Acra at the Tiffany & Co. Blue Book Ball in 2013

Actress Kate Hudson wearing Reem Acra at the Tiffany & Co. Blue Book Ball in 2013

Acra worked as an interior designer for a short time, and then moved back to her fashion roots, working in Hong Kong and New York. She first became popular when socialite friends wore her bridal designs to her wedding. After that wedding, Acra’s designs launched her into the fashion industry. Her gowns are soft and elegant designs that reflect the femininity of the women wearing them. She launched her bridal line in 1997 and expanded to include evening gowns in 2003 and ready-to-wear in 2008.

Acra has dressed many celebrities and political women, including Taylor Swift, Halle Berry, Jill Biden, and Selena Gomez. Her collections are carried in New York department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as the Middle Eastern department store Harvey Nichols. Acra is a member of the CFDA and also serves on the Board of Dubai Design and Fashion Council.

Carolina Herrera



“For me it’s always been about New York. It’s where fashion begins and ends. It is who we are.”-Carolina Herrera

Caroline Kennedy wore a Carolina Herrera design to her 1986 wedding.

Caroline Kennedy wore a Carolina Herrera design to her 1986 wedding.

Carolina Herrera is renowned for her classic and elegant style that has been nurtured over many years in the fashion industry. Herrera was born and raised in Venezuela, the daughter of a well-to-do state official and socialite. Herrera was first introduced to fashion at a young age when her grandmother took her to a Balenciaga show in Paris. When she was 18, Herrera married a wealthy Venezuelan landowner, had two children, and later divorced her husband. Several years later, she married again, this time to a Venezuelan talk-show host, who helped her in starting her fashion line years later.

In the 1980s, Herrera was considered one of the best-dressed women in the world, landing on the International Best Dressed List first in 1972, and then inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1980. Her friend, Vogue Editor in Chief Diana Vreeland, helped Herrera design a clothing line, which she debuted at the Metropolitan Club in New York in 1981. Her line, called House of Herrera, was received with great critical acclaim. Following her great success, several well-known celebrities asked her to design for them, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who Herrera dressed for the last few years of her life. Herrera also designed her daughter Caroline Kennedy’s wedding gown. She has also dressed Renée Zellweger, Amy Adams, and Lucy Liu.

Herrera not only has a successful ready-to-wear collection but also an extremely popular wedding line and a lucrative perfume line. She has been a member of the board of the CFDA since 1999, and in 2008, she received the CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. Herrera continues to design clothing and serve as an ambassador for the American Cancer Society.


Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wearing Prabal Gurung in 2012

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wearing Prabal Gurung in 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama wearing Prabal Gurung in 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama wearing Prabal Gurung in 2013

Prabal Gurung is a relatively recent addition to the fashion industry, first setting up his own fashion line in 2009. Gurung was born in Singapore and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. He studied design in New Delhi and worked as an apprentice at several fashion houses, and then moved to New York to study at Parsons The New School for Design, where he interned for Donna Karan. After graduation, Gurung worked with Cynthia Rowley’s design team, and then after five years, launched his own collection.

Gurung has dressed several well-known women in the world, including Michelle Obama, Demi Moore, Oprah Winfrey, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. He has been recognized by the CFDA and was named the runner-up for the 2010 CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Award. He continues to make women’s clothing that are classy, flattering, and beautiful. On this, he said, “I’ve only ever wanted to create clothes that make women look beautiful. I don’t chase what’s cool. I’ve always had very strong females in my family and I knew from them that getting dressed is a process. I just want to make that process a little easier. It’s so complicated for you ladies – there’s so much to consider, more than menswear anyway. That’s my motivation.”





New York Fashion Week has evolved over the past few years beyond just traditional fashion shows. When it first started in the 1940s, only American designers showed their collections of American-based clothing. Locations have changed many times over the decades, but there are still several constants: the models, the fashionistas, the press, and the designers. After over 10 years at Bryant Park, Fashion week was moved to Lincoln Center in 2010, and today, many people visit Lincoln Center in hopes of getting into one of the shows; the area becomes a hub for fashionistas to show off their outfits for the season. Social media has allowed designers, models, make-up artists, and photographers reach out to the masses and make fashion accessible for everyone. People who would ordinarily not be able to attend fashion shows can stream them online as they’re happening. Many models use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to give their followers behind-the-scenes looks of fashion shows, including the make-up and hair process, fittings, and official walks. On this media presence, Diane von Furstenberg said, “We decided to have a presence because it was a very organic way for us to communicate online. And yes, we think about [transparency] but don’t worry too much. We try to keep the focus on the clothes that are in the store, or buy now and wear now, not what is on the runway. But people will always get access to that as well.”

Below are some samples of these designers’ most recent fashion shows at New York Fashion Week.

Video by Katherine DeLorenzo

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