The top 7 Outstanding Fashion Duos of Past and Present
Dec 15, 2017
Collaboration makes the wheels of the fashion world spin which is why fashion duos are ubiquitous to our industry. The comfort of having someone to bounce ideas off, swallow the disappointments together, share the sacrifice, and pour you a stiff one at the end of a tough day cannot be overstated. Ideally either member has skills to offset the other’s weaknesses in a sort of right brain, left brain trade-off, but that isn’t always the case which can make for a explosively creative but financially disastrously ride. From muses and their maestros to business brains and their protégés, here are the 7 most colorful partnerships past and present.
Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent
The O.G.s of these double acts are undeniably Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, whose amour fou is the stuff of gothic novels: Bergé, protector and gatekeeper to the delicately beautiful and isolated Saint Laurent whose psyche could be as dark as his sense of color was exuberant.“He was manic-depressive, exactly what the word means, manic and depressive,’ Bergé told the New York Times. “This means periods when he did every sort of thing crazy with happiness, and then the next day, it was blackness.” Together for almost fifty years until Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, they went from being jet-setting clubbers at Regine and Studio 54, to collectors of Old Masters, to sojourners in their Marrakech villa. Although their romance ended in 1976, their professional union presented us with ‘Le smoking’, luxury safariwear, Mondrian dresses and knitted couture wedding gowns, as well as managing to promote more diversity on their runway in any given season than most designers working in the present day.
Viktor & Rolf
Doppelgangers of slim build, with cropped hair, dark-rimmed glasses and neat facial hair, Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf met while at school in 1988 and formed their label after winning international design competition, the Festival International de Mode et de Photographie. “We’re both quite introverted,” said Viktor Horsting. “We both saw our childhoods as quite boring and I think we developed a similar mechanism for overcoming that boredom: we both loved to draw, loved to read. We were both escaping into the mind, escaping into the world of fantasy.” Their combined conceptualizing and avant-garde dreaming resulted in fashion that crossed over into art, and regularly appeared in museums. Perhaps a victim of our sped-up see-now- buy-now culture the pair removed themselves from the ready-to- wear calendar in 2015 choosing to focus only on translating their often surrealist vision through the craft of haute couture.
Described by Vogue as “the show that ensured editors remained in London for the final day of fashion week” Meadham Kirchhoff burned bright and died young. Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff followed in a long tradition of Brit design duos with double-barreled surname monikers––Pearce Fionda, Copperwheat Blundell, Eley Kishimoto, Clements Ribeiro––and their madcap, stomping, frilled and ornamented collections fueled with punk spirit thrilled right from their arrival in 2005. Denials of imminent closure, collabs with Topshop and even a perfume launch belied the fact that the company was riddled with debt and eventually forced to dissolve in 2015. Delivering on the drama right to the end with tales of their landlord locking them out and disposing of their archive, Edward told iD “Meadham Kirchhoff wasn’t killed by the fashion industry, it was killed largely by itself…Me and Ben, we’re never going to work together.”
Winners of the 2015 LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize, Portuguese designers Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida, who formed their company in 2011 after meeting at Central St Martins, have been credited with distressed denim’s market dominance. But homespun Americana, and the Texan tuxedo are staples of their inspiration which they marry with street- influenced puffa jackets, extreme proportions, shearling and bold geometrics to evolve their aesthetic of pretty but tough armor that’s become associated with multicultural East London.
Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler
Former student under Vivienne Westwood at the Vienna School of the Applied Arts, Austrian Kronthaler wed the queen of punk in 1993 and now manages the company’s menswear collection. He described the immediacy of their connection to Vice as “It was like enlightenment. It sometimes happens in life that someone touches your soul. You can immediately feel that everything is right and you have to hang on to that.” Equally tuned in to environmentalism and the problems of waste within the fashion industry, the couple plow forward with a proudly independent provocative stance against their conglomerate-owned luxury competitors. Driving tanks up to 10 Downing Street is one way to gain notice for one’s cause but we expect nothing less from the always eccentric Dame Westwood and suspect that the stimulation and raw energy she found in the 70s with Malcolm McLaren is now provided by her former protégé and current partner.
Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe
President of Comme Des Garçons and CEO of alternative retail environment Dover Street Market, South African Joffe married Rei Kawakuboi in 1993. The enigmatic Japanese designer revered for the austerity of her vision, who considers her work more art than fashion, does not deliver many interviews and dislikes photographs, but she allows Joffe to articulate her vision o her behalf. However in doing so he often renders the pair of them, who dress entirely in black, their skin untouched by sun, even more intriguing. A key to their relationship may be found in this quote from her: “I make clothes for a woman who is not swayed by what her husband thinks.” And his respect for her is evident in this quote from Hypebeast,“I strongly believe her work is at the highest possible level of creativity; What one would call pure creation perhaps… So many times it comes from just from a feeling, an emotion.”
Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole
Bookending the list with a second Yves Saint Laurent mention, are Tom and Dom, the pimp daddies of the millennium, the Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of the fashion world, Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole. In 1994, when the American designer became creative director of Italian luxury house, Gucci, where De Sole was CEO, it went from near bankruptcy to flourishing with one swish of a velvet bellbottom, and became the name on everyone’s lips. When the pair were poached in 1999 by Yves Saint Laurent, much to the ailing founder’s dismay, they made short work of turning that struggling house’s fortunes around with racy advertising and high voltage runways until the pair finally walked away in 2004, a result of unsatisfactory contract negotiations. De Sole has subsequently been chairman of Tom Ford International since its founding in 2005. Ford has said, “I would trust my life with Domenico, and I believe he feels the same way about me. He’s a great man and a great friend,” and De Sole has said, “it’s not easy to find a creative mind and a businessman in one person. Tom is an ideal partner.”
By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Homepage image: courtesy of Bread & Butter by Zalando
Collage1: V&R, Catwalkpictures.com / V&R, courtesy of Bread & Butter by Zalando / Comme Des Garcons, The Met Facebook page
Collage 2: Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, Studio Harcourt Paris, Fondation Pierre Bergé YSL Facebook / Tom Ford for Gucci / Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, Vivienne Westwood / YSL Mondrian Dress, Own Work