The World’s Biggest Fashion Houses

Chanel. Gucci. Louis Vuitton. When one uses the term “fashion house” it’s usually followed by the likes of these internationally-recognized designers. But really, what is a fashion house? And how is it different than a fashion designer?

A fashion house is a company that employs a team of designers to create clothing for them. Most fashion houses are under the direction of a leading designer. For example, Karl Lagerfeld designs for fashion house Chanel. When you use the term fashion house, it is speaking to the company, not the individual. While Karl Lagerfeld is a designer, he is not the entire fashion house of Chanel, though I’m sure that is a point to be argued.

Most major countries have their own fashion industry; however, only five countries have established their worldwide reputations as leaders. Those countries are the United States, England, Japan, France, and Italy.

American Fashion Houses

The majority of recognized fashion houses are in New York City although there is a significantly rising number setting up shop in Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; and Chicago, Illinois. American fashion is flagged by a clean-cut, casual chic reflecting the more busy lifestyles of many Americans. Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, and Marc Jacobs are well-known trendsetters of the industry while retailers like American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and Aeropostale are labels associated with the younger generation.

British Fashion Houses

London has long been the heart of the British fashion industry. Traditional British design is cutting edge yet smart and unconventional. Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, and Matthew Williamson are some of the more influential and popular houses to emerge from England.

French Fashion Houses

Paris is undoubtedly the capital of French fashion. Chic, stylish, sophisticated, defined by its cut and smart accessories, French fashion is always highly influential. Paris is home to haute couture (one-of-a-kind garments) houses like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent. In France the term haute couture is protected by law and defined by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris. By their standards, only designers whose garments are made-to-order for private clients with one or more fittings, have a workshop in Paris that employs 15 or more people, and present a collection of 35 daytime and eveningwear looks semi-annually to Parisian press may consider themselves a haute couture house.

Italian Fashion Houses

While many of the older fashion houses are located in Rome, Milan is positively Italy’s fashion capital and is where their fashion weeks take place. Italian fashion is known for its luxurious fabrics, subtle sexiness, and inherent appeal. Salvatore Ferragamo was the first luxury Italian brand to be exported in the 1920’s. Gucci is the best-selling Italian brand with sales exceeding $7 billion worldwide. Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli, Versace, and Prada are other popular houses to emerge from Italy.

Japanese Fashion Houses

Tokyo is the center of fashion in Japan. The Japanese look is defined by unstructured and loose fabric, the colors subtle allowing for use of richly textured material. Famous Japanese designers are Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo, Issey Miyake, and Commes des Garcons.