The 15 Greatest Gay Designers


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

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation
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.