Fashion has long been perceived as the domain of gay men, but not all fashion designers are gay, just like not all gay men are fashionable. Take a stroll through Chelsea or the Castro and you’ll be bombarded with that fact, wrapped in a cargo short and Birkenstock. Sure, some of fashion’s biggest names have been surprisingly straight (Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Oscar de la Renta to name a few), while some, like in the case of Christian Dior, were gay but remained closeted. So in celebration of New York Fashion Week, which has once again stormed our fair city even in the dead of winter, here are 15 designers who have had not only a lasting influence on fashion but on gay culture as well.
15. Thierry Mugler
Gayest moment: Three words: Diana. Fucking. Ross. The legendary diva’s daughter, Tracee (of blackish and Girlfriends fame) was a model at the time and mom decided to strut her stuff on the catwalk in a catsuit and a kitten heel. Purrfection.
14. Isaac Mizrahi
Greatest moment: 1994’s Unzipped — one of the best fashion docs — chronicled a young Mizrahi as he put together his fall 1994 collection, with the help of every big super of the moment, including Lady Deathstare herself, Linda Evangelista:
13. Michael Kors
Gayest moment: Kors brought his suntanned snark to living rooms all across America on Project Runway, at times being the most stylish thing about an entire episode:
12. Patrick Kelly
Greatest moment: An incredibly important but relatively unknown designer, Kelly died from complications of AIDS in 1990 at age 35, but in his short career he became not only the first African-American but the first American to be elected to France’s prestigious Chambre-Syndicale.
11. Karl Lagerfeld
Gayest moment: Before Uncle Karl lost all the weight and his ability to smile, he was a fan-toting queen with a love of life and a hatred of people — because some things never change.
10. Roy Halston
Gayest moment: The gay stars aligned to capture this very special moment with Studio 54 regular Halston (far left) having a legendary kiki with his best gal pals, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Michael Jackson:
9. Calvin Klein
Gayest moment: His public shenanigans with Nick Gruber aside, Klein pretty much invented “designer underwear” and gave us all the gift of Mark Wahlberg (and countless other men stripped down to their Calvins) groping himself — sending confusing signals to little boys all around the world:
8. Valentino Garavani
Gayest moment: In The Last Emperor — another one of the great fashion docs — we get to see the man behind the legend and the man behind that man, Valentino Garavani’s business and life partner of over 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti (pictured, right):
7. Riccardo Tisci
Gayest/Greatest moment: Aside from reviving the house of Givenchy and being one of the stewards directing fashion forward amidst a sea of mediocrity and pale imitators, Kanye’s long-rumored secret boyfriend also unleashed unto the world the first trans supermodel, Lea T, continuing his trend of putting a brave, multi-cultural face on fashion:
6. Gianni Versace
Gayest moment: Though murdered in his prime, Versace’s legacy lives on through his sister and in any number of rap songs, but nothing will ever quite top that cinematic milestone, Showgirls:
5. John Galliano
Greatest moment: Truly representative of that old motto — the higher they climb the harder they fall — before Galliano’s precipitous decline, he was one of the unerring genii of the fashion world and his spring 2007 haute couture show for Dior remains one of my personal favorites:
4. Tom Ford
Gayest moment: Always one to push the sexual envelope, particularly during his lauded days at Gucci, Ford might have pushed a little too hard for some folks with a 2005 W Magazine editorial by Steven Klein wherein he buffs a model’s bare bum, bares his own assets and apparently partakes in what promises to be a gangbang:
3. Marc Jacobs
Gayest moment: The oft-shirtless designer decided to get all dolled up for Industrie Magazine, borrowing one of Karl Lagerfeld’s old fans for the occasion:
2. Alexander McQueen
Greatest moment: Following his untimely death, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute mounted its most successful exhibit to date, the record-breaking Savage Beauty, which celebrated McQueen’s genius and proved so popular, it will make its debut in London this July.
1. Yves Saint Laurent
Gayest moment: One would be hard-pressed to nail down the greatest moment in the illustrious career of Yves Saint Laurent (pictured left, with longtime business partner/companion Pierre Berg), but his au naturel ad for his first men’s perfume, Pour Homme, in 1971 kind of cements the gayest moment — he’s literally offering himself up to men the world over. Now that takes some tastefully obscured balls:
Les Fabian Brathwaite, Riccardo Tisci’s future ex-husband/current stalker.
OH…I thought they were ALL gay.
A lot of these gay male fashion designers have sexually exploited women in order to make money. It’s truly sad.
There’s also a rich degree of irony in the fact that a gay man would objectify women’s bodies so much. To me, it seems to be a form of psychological pandering to a woman in order to get her to feel that she has to fork out her hard-earned cash to buy the product he’s selling.
Keep in mind that the rapid change of women’s fashion is a classic trick designed to make a woman feel that she needs to keep up with the latest. Biggest scam ever invented by gay men.
Giorgio Armani is actually bisexual. Even the Advocate recently put him number one on a list of wealthy LGBT people. http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/people/2015/02/12/14-insanely-wealthy-lgbt-people?page=full
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I dunno, I’m guessing the “straight” ones (Hello, Ralph) have no problem bedding down the occasional male model or investor. Just a guess.
@jason smeds: Another chapter from that homophobic church lady, Ms. Jason Smeds. I haven’t heard that little screed for years. Great cut and paste job.
I just got finished saying how I recently realized Kanye is gay during his latest “Bey is my everything” tirade. Only a gay man would be that into Beyoncé… let alone into Beyoncé publicly at all. And that voice…
Yves Saint-Laurent and Valentino have my respect and admiration. Their work speaks for them. The others only make trash for sluts. I think Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein are immoral human beings too and John Galliano is a sad clown.
I can’t believe you didn’t include JEAN PAUL GAULTIER !!! One of a handful of remaining living Haute Couture designers. A leading force in fashion and GLBT pride. His costumes for Madonna are iconic as are his fashion flexible ground breaking designs.
where is Olivier Rousteing? I know he is young but he’s amazingly talented and also gorgeous. Also I don’t see Christian Dior on this list either, he was definitely gay and should come even before Laurent.
Mcqueen was a talent we saw maybe once in a generation, his work was intensely personal works of art and his body of work was more than enough to put him on the list. And Halston was absolutely incredible too, maybe you should actually looking at the work by the designers you’re making ridiculous claims about.
Where’s BOB MACKIE?
Just kidding. lol
I haven’t been able to take Lagerfeld seriously since he put water faucets on everything back in the 80’s. YSL was a god among designers. and he had the best smelling cologne, YSL.
@jayson1: I so agree!
@Dev.C: I didn’t know about Olivier, but now I do… yum! and great designs too.
I suppose you had to include Karl Lagerfeld and that poor boy (i.e., Baptiste, his “muse”) whom he’s destroyed, but he is so very creepy.
And it was snide touch sticking poor psychotic and fugly Kayne West in. He’s one of those people, like James Franco, you pray that he is not really gay, ever.
That 2007 Dior Fashion Show clip was great. Only a gay man could make a fabulous hat out of twigs and a tree branch. Too bad as a person Galliano is not so fabulous.
@Dev.C: Olivier Rousteing, while he is gay, isn’t that well known outside of the industry except for being one of the many people in the industry who kiss Kim Kartrashian’s ass. And I personally don’t like his clothes. Too kitschy and tacky. Same with Riccardo Tisci.
On another note, Christian Dior did not hide his sexuality. He was a member of the gay social scene in Paris, along with Christian Berard. Jacques Fath, however, was closeted. He had a mutually beneficial marriage to Genevieve Fath, who was his muse and a lesbian. Giorgio Armani is extremely private about his personal life, but it’s generally assumed he’s gay. Another designer who was closeted was Gilbert Adrian, the guy who designed for The Wizard of Oz, The Women (the ten minute technicolor fashion show was his work. One of my favorite movies), and Joan Crawford’s Lettie Lynton dress. Christian Lacroix is also bisexual/gay. He’s been married to a woman for 41 years, but I’m not sure if it’s more of a “friendship marriage” like Claude Montana’s or a sexual relationship.
Some more gay designers are Alber Elbaz, Haider Ackermann, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Gaultier, Christopher Bailey, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Jack Mccollough and Lazar Hernandez. Rick Owens is also bisexual.
I may only be seventeen but god damn I know my fashion.
@s312g: yes you do
@saintheroin: Sorry, I can’t say nothing bettter about their work.
@s312g: Was Cristóbal Balenciaga gay?
PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
@s312g: Armani is not THAT private about his private life. He refers to relationships with women and men. I’m betting it’s overwhelmingly more the later. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2000/10/armani-in-full-200010
Frankly its shameful for any fashion designer in this day and age to be closeted or worse still bearded-up. Ditto male ballet dancers, ice skaters etc
@Cobalt Blue: He was. He was in a long term relationship until his partner died and then he had another relationship.
Another gay designer was Charles James.
Yes I was going to comment on Olivier Rousteing. I think he hasn’t been top dog at Balmain long enough to be in this list but I absolutely adore him. I met him at Fashion Week last year and while his style vision is the exact opposite of what I like, I love the energy and ambition he has. I mean he took over one of the biggest fashion houses at the age of 24. He also doesn’t throw in the token Black model in his shows. They are very diverse and he’s smart in using pop culture influences to get his brand out there. He’s such an adorable little thing too with his French accent and cheekbones TO DIE FOR!!!!!
Pierre BergÉ please…
Why your list is always so white (with occasional apologetic mentioning of minorities)?
Perry Ellis perhaps?
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