America may be the land of the free, but it’s also home to some of the most recognizable fashion brands.
Whether you’re a fan of the preppy New England style or prefer futuristic streetwear, there is a hallmark American brand out there for you.
The rise of American fashion houses and brands is coming to rival the popularity of European designers. We’re covering 18 of the most popular and iconic American brands, telling you everything you need to know about their origins and what products are a must-have.
If you’re looking to invest in a new closet or start a collection of designer shoes, these are the brands to be looking out for.
1. Elevate Your Accessories Game With Coach
Coach’s original logo design from 1941 to 2013
You can instantly recognize the brand by its classic ‘C’ monogram or coach and horse logo. Coach is one of the most famous exports from New York, with the city continuing to inspire their popular designs and silhouettes.
While Coach is famous for its leather goods, the brand also has an array of accessories, including watches, jewelry, shoes, sunglasses, and perfumes
The brand began with six in-house artisans under the guidance of Lillian and Miles Cahn. Coach considers itself to be the “Original American House of Leather.”
Bonnie Cashin was hired as the brand’s first lead designer, transforming Coach from a traditional brand to one that reflected the modern freedom and attitudes of New York in the 1960s.
The Coach flagship store was opened on Madison Avenue, changing from a family-run leather goods company to a fashion house in its own right.
Coach is now under the leadership of Stuart Vevers, their Creative Director, who has a focus on infusing a courageous spirit into the brand.
British fashion designer Stuart Vevers has served as Coach’s executive creative director since 2013 (Credit: Ivan Nikolov / WENN)
Vevers joined the company in 2013 and was awarded the Accessory Designer of the Year award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2017.
His quirkier work, bringing a touch of pop culture, has brought Coach to the attention of the younger generation of up-and-coming fashion followers.
The must-have piece from Coach for 2021 is the iconic Pillow Tabby shoulder bag.
Coach Pillow Tabby Shoulder Bag, $395 on Nordstrom
A modern take on classic Coach designs, the Tabby Pillow bag features a padded leather finish, giving it that pillow-like look
2. Timeless Minimalism and Modern Sophistication: Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein is the first brand that pops into our heads when we think of sexy athleisure underwear.
This global lifestyle brand has a minimalistic aesthetic, with a love of adding its iconic typographic logo to every waistband and accessory.
First seen in 1968, Calvin Klein’s first logo features delicate and light title case wording in Futura Light font
The brand was founded in 1968 by Calvin Klein and Barry Schwartz, his business partner.
Calvin Klein made a name for itself within the industry for its innovative designs and clean, minimal aesthetic, with a neutral color palette.
Calvin Klein is a lifestyle brand that offers not just underwear but also clothes, accessories, and fragrances
Although it’s most known for its underwear and lifestyle accessories, Calvin Klein is an extensive lifestyle brand that offers everything from haute couture to perfumery and jewelry.
The fashion house has several diffusion lines, including ‘Calvin Klein Jeans,’ ‘Calvin Klein Home,’ and ‘Calvin Klein Underwear.’
Justin Bieber and Hailey Bieber’s Calvin Klein billboard in Soho, New York City (Credit: Instar / WENN)
The brand’s #proudinmycalvins campaign in 2020 focused on several LGBTQ+ models, including Jari Jones, a black trans model.
In 2003, Calvin Klein was purchased by the conglomerate PVH Group. This organization has a history of purchasing iconic American brands, making it one of the largest apparel companies in the world.
Along with Calvin Klein, PVH Group also owns Tommy Hilfiger, another of the most popular American brands.
The must-have pieces from Calvin Klein include the brand’s signature underwear and ‘Eternity’ perfume.
Calvin Klein Eternity Eau de Parfum, $75 – $125 on Amazon
A floral fragrance launched in 1998, designed as a tribute to Calvin Klein’s marriage
3. Legendary Style and Timeless Luxury: Ralph Lauren
When we think of American fashion brands, Ralph Lauren is always at the top of our list. Lauren has described his brand as being about “living the best life you can and enjoying the fullness of the life around you.”
Ralph Lauren is easily identified by the famous polo horseman logo
The brand is considered the pinnacle of American design, curating the idea of ‘preppy’ fashion and dominating trends for decades.
Whether it was Sex and the City or Friends, Ralph Lauren was one brand that was everywhere on our screen during the 1990s.
Ralph Lauren pictured at the New York Fashion Week lunch in honor of Carolina Herrera on September 3, 2014 (Credit: Michael Carpenter / WENN)
Ralph Lauren has a heritage and brand recognition rivaling even the most famous European brands.
Ralph Lauren has had unparalleled success for over five decades, both in the United States and abroad. The fashion house describes its work as “reflecting a distinctive American perspective.”
The Ralph Lauren brand includes several diffusion labels, making their pieces available in both a luxury and mid-tier price range.
Camilla Belle, Emma Roberts, Lily Aldridge, and Blake Lively are just among the many celebrities that support Ralph Lauren (Credit: Sheri Determan / Adriana M. Barraza / WENN)
The history of Ralph Lauren is intertwined with the rise of American fashion. The brand was the first to be given its own in-store shop in Bloomingdale’s in 1969, where it was sold exclusively until their first flagship was opened in Beverly Hills in 1972.
Throughout the 1970s, Ralph Lauren provided the costumes for two iconic American films – The Great Gatsby and Annie Hall.
Ralph Lauren remains the bright spark in the institution of American fashion, setting new standards every season and continuing to curate a loyal following amongst celebrities and influencers alike.
The must-have pieces from Ralph Lauren include their classic polo shirt, iconic dresses, cashmere sweaters, and Ralph Lauren bear jumper.
Ralph Lauren’s must-haves include the classic polo shirt and polo dress, the brand’s cable-knit cashmere sweater, and Polo bear jumper
4. Exquisite Craftsmanship and Unparalleled Glamour: Tom Ford
American Fashion designer Tom Ford’s minimalist wordmark logo
The next time you switch on an award ceremony, you can guarantee at least a few of the nominees will be wearing pieces from this iconic American designer.
Fashion designer Tom Ford at the Unforgettable Evening event benefiting the Women’s Cancer Research Fund on February 27, 2020 (Credit: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN)
The “Tom Ford customer” is a cultured and well-traveled international jet setter.
The Tom Ford woman is described as “intelligent women who know their own style.” The brand’s aesthetic is sleek tailoring, elevated basics, and timeless styling.
While his fashion brand has dressed everyone from Michelle Obama to Anne Hathaway and Tom Hanks, Tom Ford is also famous for its cosmetics and fragrance line.
The brand was responsible for designing Daniel Craig’s iconic suits for almost all of his James Bond films, from Quantum of Solace to No Time to Die.
Tom Ford has everything from clothes, shoes, and accessories to makeups and perfumes
Along with designing for his eponymous brand, Tom Ford also serves as the Chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He wrote and directed ‘A Single Man’ and ‘Nocturnal Animals’, which were nominated for Academy Awards.
The must-have Tom Ford pieces include their ‘Black Orchid’ perfume and classic oversized sunglasses.
Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum, $134 – $184 on Nordstrom
A modern yet timeless sensual scent first released in 2006
5. Bold Creativity and Fashion Forwardness: Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs launched his eponymous brand in 1994 before showing his first collection to Perry Ellis in 1992. His brand was launched with two concepts: a love for fashion and a commitment to quality.
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs’ logo is a minimalist wordmark done in Engravers Gothic font
He won the CFDA award for New Fashion Talent the same year. His brand has expanded from ready-to-wear into a full lifestyle brand, offering everything from fragrances to cosmetics and accessories.
Marc Jacobs is also famous for his work as Louis Vuitton’s Creative Director, where he was responsible for some of the brand’s most iconic handbags and accessories.
He worked for the French fashion house from 1997 to 2014, overseeing a golden era for the brand.
Marc Jacobs at the WSJ Magazine 2017 Innovator Awards on November 2, 2017 (Credit: Patricia Schlein / WENN)
Whether it’s the signature Marc Jacobs brand or ‘Marc by Marc Jacobs’, every American woman owns at least one piece by the famous designer.
While the Marc by Marc Jacobs brand was discontinued in 2015, it remains an icon of American fashion.
The diffusion brand was discontinued to allow Marc Jacobs to focus more on the brand’s luxury products and growing international audience.
Originally a sweater brand, Marc Jacobs has expanded its product line with small leather goods, sunglasses, perfume, and body lotion
Marc Jacobs is now owned by the conglomerate LVMH, which describes the brand as “constantly reinventing the code of style.” Marc Jacobs described himself as “neither an American nor a French designer: I am just a designer.”
The must-have Marc Jacobs pieces are the ‘Snapshot’ bag, which appeared in Emily in Paris.
Marc Jacobs Snapshot Small Leather Camera Bag, $367 on Mytheresa
A cute and compact crossbody bag that can hold all of your essentials
6. Embodying Elegance and Modernity: Donna Karan
While she may be most known for her iconic apple-shaped perfumes, Donna Karan began her eponymous brand in the mid-1980s with separates made for mixing and matching.
Donna Karan’s effortless yet elegant logo design since 1984
Donna Karan is a brand and designer characterized by its forward-thinking designs, made to fit the needs of the modern woman.
Her first collection in 1984 focused on ‘Seven Easy Pieces’, which revolutionized the way that women dress. It featured what we would now consider a capsule closet.
Her clothes are designed to take you from day to night with ease, simplifying life without compromising on style and elegance.
Donna Karan at the amfAR 2020 Gala in New York City on February 5, 2020 (Credit: Instar / WENN)
The Donna Karan brand expanded to include DKNY, designed for the next generation, with a focus on New York living. Donna Karan has become a synonymous part of the New York fashion scene.
The must-have Donna Karan pieces include the brand’s modern shirts and sleek midi dresses.
Donna Karan is known for its sleek and modern clothing pieces
7. Effortless Elegance and Modern Luxury: Michael Kors
The first ‘designer’ handbag that most American women buy is a Michael Kors bag.
Michael Kors’ original circular logo with MK monogram inside was introduced in 1981, while the wordmark monochrome logo was first seen in 2006
The ‘Michael Kors’ brand was launched in 1981, acting as the parent company to several diffusion brands, including MICHAEL Michael Kors and Michael Kors Men’s label.
Along with ready-to-wear and accessories, the brand is famous for its watches, eyewear, and fragrance.
Michael Kors is famous not just for its bags and ready-to-wear clothing but also for its accessories, including watches, belts, and eyewear
Michael Kors describes his brands as being “for women and men who need clothing and accessories that keep up with their fast-paced lives and make them feel like their best selves.”
His talents were noticed early on by Dawn Mello, executive VP at Bergdorf Goodman, who encouraged him to launch his brand.
The Michael Kors aesthetic is a mix of athleisure and everyday wear with effortless glamour.
From 1997 to 2004, Michael Kors was also the Creative Director of Celine, making him one of the few American designers to take over the reins of an iconic European fashion house.
Michael Kors at the American Ballet Theatre Fall Gala on October 18, 2017 (Credit: Derrick Salters / WENN)
The brand has grown into a conglomerate, now known as ‘Capri Holdings Limited’, founded by Michael Kors himself. Capri has purchased both Jimmy Choo and Versace, showing clear intentions of taking on LVMH as a luxury fashion conglomerate.
8. Timeless Elegance and Haute Couture: Oscar de la Renta
Oscar de la Renta – nicknamed ‘Guru of Glamour’ – was the architect behind the feminine silhouettes of the 1960s.
The Santo Domingo-born designer had a heritage unlike any other, learning his craft from Antonio del Castillo and Cristobal Balenciaga. He made a name for himself as one of Jackie Kennedy’s go-to couturiers and worked for Balmain and Lavin.
Signature logo design by Oscar de la Renta
No designer has dressed more first ladies of the United States than Oscar de la Renta. Almost every First Lady from Jackie Kennedy onwards has been styled by the designer, with Laura Bush and Nancy Regan being firm fans of the fashion house.
Jill Biden has already stuck her claim on the brand, wearing an Oscar de la Renta dress on election night and on several occasions since. Although Oscar de la Renta passed away in 2014, his brand is still going strong.
The must-have Oscar de la Renta pieces are their feminine dresses with an elegant silhouette.
Oscar de la Renta is known for his elegant, feminine designs
9. Tory Burch: Chic and Contemporary American Fashion Brand
The brand falls within the classic ‘preppy’ fashion aesthetic and is a go-to for everyone from college students to professional women and stay-at-home moms.
Tory Burch commissioned a design firm to create her logo, inspired by the works of Moroccan and interior designer David Hicks
The brand takes inspiration from some of America’s most famous women, including Lee Radziwill, who has a bag named in her honor.
Tory Burch was founded in New York in 2004 as a “distinctly American brand with a global point of view.” The fashion brand supports the work of the Tory Burch Foundation, which aims to empower female entrepreneurs.
Tory Burch at the Glamour 2019 Women of the Year Awards on November 11, 2019 (Credit: Instar / WENN)
Tory Burch blends refinement and modern elegance with practicality and timeless style. You can enjoy the look and feel of a luxury brand at an attainable price point.
The brand is famous for its love of color, with Tory Burch launching her first book, Tory Burch In Colour, in 2014. It’s available on Amazon.
Tory Burch’s iconic double-T logo takes its inspiration from two of Tory’s greatest loves – interiors and travel. The molded arches come from Moroccan architecture, while the graphics are inspired by David Hicks’ interior designs.
Sophisticated yet comfy, the Miller sandal features a foam-cushioned footbed and a bold logo cutout design
10. Embracing the Classic Allure of Tommy Hilfiger
One of the most recognizable American fashion brands of all time is Tommy Hilfiger. The eponymous fashion label began as a menswear line in the 1980s, focusing on the ‘preppy’ fashion style.
Throughout the 1990s, the brand expanded to include luxury products, womenswear, and perfume. Tommy Hilfiger takes its design inspiration from music subcultures and has a deep connection with the music industry.
Turkish American fashion designer Deniz Caroline Erbuğ married Tommy Hilfiger in 2008 (Credit: PNP / WENN)
As one of the leading lifestyle brands in the world, Tommy Hilfiger is synonymous with the idea of ‘American cool’ style, focusing on preppy fashion with a contemporary twist. Along with the signature Tommy Hilfiger line, the brand has several diffusion lines, including Tommy Jeans.
The collection of labels within the Tommy Hilfiger brand includes eyewear, fragrances, and home furnishing. It remains one of the most successful American fashion brands in the world, with global retail sales hitting $6.9 billion in 2020.
Iman and David Bowie get romantic in a print advertisement for Tommy Hilfiger’s Spring 2004 collection (Credit: WENN)
The Tommy Hilfiger brand was sold to Apax Partners in 2006 for $1.6 billion, before being sold in 2010 to Phillips-Van Heusen for $3 billion.
Tommy Hilfiger remains the brand’s principal designer and was awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2012.
11. Empowering Women With Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF)
If you’re a fan of the classic wrap dress, DVF will be your designer hero. Diane von Furstenberg launched her eponymous fashion brand in 1970, creating her iconic wrap dress in 1974. Within two years, DVF had sold over a million wrap dresses.
It served as a powerful symbol for a generation of women, and its cultural relevance is marked by a permanent position in the Smithsonian Museum’s dress exhibition.
Fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg and her husband, American businessman Barry Charles Diller, attend The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening Gala held on September 25, 2021, at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles (Credit: MEGA / WENN)
DVF – and by extension, her wrap dress – was described as “the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel” by Newsweek magazine in 1976. The brand quickly expanded to include a cosmetic range and the first DVF fragrance, ‘Tatiana’.
The DVF fashion brand was relaunched in 1997 with the reintroduction of the wrap dress after von Furstenberg turned her attention to publishing and other businesses.
DVF is a brand that has dressed everyone from political to Hollywood royalty. Michelle Obama wore a signature chain link print wrap dress for the 2009 White House Christmas card.
American art curator Tatiana von Fürstenberg with her mother Diane von Fürstenberg, who was born Diane Simone Michele Halfin (Credit: Antonio Salvador / WENN)
DVF has won several awards throughout her career, including the American Accessories Council’s Excellence Award.
In 2005, she was elected as President of the CFDA and has overseen projects like the Vogue Fashion Fund. DVF has been listed as one of the most powerful women in the world according to Forbes and has made the Time 100 list.
The Diane Von Furstenberg label is an American fashion brand that has become synonymous with generations of influential women across all aspects of life.
12. Setting Trends and Redefining Tailoring: Thom Browne
Thom Browne is an American brand that is single-handedly challenging and modernizing contemporary fashion.
Award-winning American designer Thom Browne is known for his reconceptualization of the classic men’s suit (Credit: Starpress / WENN)
The debut ready-to-wear menswear collection launched in 2004, reimagining workwear for the modern generation. 2011 saw the launch of Thom Browne’s womenswear at New York Fashion Week.
It’s another American brand with a stake in history, as Michelle Obama wore a silk jacquard coat and dress by Thom Browne to President Obama’s second inauguration.
In 2018, it was announced that Thom Browne would create tailored suits for the Barcelona FC team to wear on matchday.
Billy Porter in a white outfit from Thom Browne’s Spring 2020 collection and cutout headpiece from Stephen Jones Millinery at the 47th American Music Awards held at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019, in New York City (Credit: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN)
The Thom Browne brand has collaborated with everyone from Brooks Brothers to Moncler and even then, Presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Thom Browne won the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award on three occasions from 2006 to 2016.
The latest product from the brand is their collaboration with Samsung on a range of smartwatches that have taken luxury tech to the next level. Thom Browne remains at the head of the brand as its Chief Creative Officer, with a 15% share in the business.
13. Revolutionizing Accessibility and Inclusivity: Telfar
If you’re on TikTok or Instagram, the chances are that you’ve seen a Telfar handbag pop up on your feed. This unisex American brand was established in New York in 2005 by Telfar Clemens and runs with the tagline, “it’s not for you – it’s for everyone.”
The Telfar bag has even been named the “most popular black-owned accessory on the internet,” with the NY Times describing 2021 as the “year of Telfar.”
Solange Knowles carrying a small black Telfar shopping bag at the 70th Annual Parsons Benefit at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on May 21, 2018, in New York City (Credit: Jeff Grossman / WENN)
Telfar is an interesting American fashion brand to highlight. As a black-owned fashion label, it struggled to attract a loyal following amongst celebrities and influencers for over a decade before its vegan-leather, and gender-neutral bag took the internet by storm.
The so-called ‘Bushwick Birkin’ is considered one of the must-have accessories of 2021 and has put the Telfar brand on the radar of every fashion follower.
14. Timeless Style and Craftsmanship: Cole Haan
Launched in 1928, Cole Haan is one of the most recognizable American brands. It specializes in footwear for men and women, along with an accessories line.
The brand began in Chicago, with the name coming from its founders, Trafton Cole and Eddie Haan. Along with moving its headquarters to New York and Greenland, New Hampshire, Cole Haan has expanded beyond its original range of men’s footwear.
The brand’s mission is to “inspire our customers to live extraordinary lives” with their footwear and accessories. Cole Haan was originally known for its comfortable dress shoes but now focuses primarily on athleisure and business casual styles.
Cole Haan is an American brand of men’s and women’s footwear and accessories (Credit: Cole Haan)
Their shoes are sneakers that you could wear for a dressed-down day at the office or when exploring the city.
Cole Haan promotes their collections as being able to take you from “work to workout to weekend.” The brand’s core demographic is millennials, with shoes ranging from $60 to $400.
Cole Haan was one of the first American designers to stop using real animal fur in their products. The decision was announced in February 2008, with the brand citing sustainability as the reason behind their move away from fur.
The brand is known for its various collaborations with other designers, including Todd Snyder. Cole Haan has also released a collection of ballet flats in partnership with three dancers from the New York City Ballet.
Cole Haan is famous for its comfy and breathable GrandPrø Rally sneakers (Credit: Cole Haan)
The Cole Haan brand was sold in 1975 to a group of partners, including George Denney. Under their leadership, Cole Haan has grown to become one of the most popular footwear brands in the United States.
The brand was purchased by Nike before being purchased by its current owners, Apax Partners Worldwide LLP in 2012.
Jack A. Boys’ is the brand’s current CEO as Cole Haan continues to grow its online presence. They currently have over 300 stores across America, Asia, and the Middle East. You can find the brand in department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Zappos.
15. Elegance and Artistry Unveiled: Vera Wang
When it comes to wedding dresses, Vera Wang reigns supreme. Vera Wang is a native New Yorker who has spent her career working at the forefront of the fashion industry.
She launched her eponymous bridal brand in 1990 with a flagship store at the Carlyle Hotel in NYC. Her designs are synonymous with feminine detailing and sophisticated drama with every dress designed for the modern woman.
Although famous for her bridal wear, the Vera Wang brand launched their ready-to-wear collection in 2000. Vera Brand was named as the ‘Womenswear Designer of the Year’ at the 2005 Council of Fashion Designers of America award.
Vera Ellen Wang is an American fashion designer who was a senior fashion editor at Vogue for 15 years (Credit: Avalon / WENN)
The brand is known for its nonchalant approach to luxury fashion. The ready-to-wear collection incorporates Wang’s signature layering, intricate draping, and exquisite attention to detail in every design.
The Vera Wang brand has expanded to become a lifestyle brand that goes beyond its original bridal and ready-to-wear collections. Amongst the beauty and fragrances, you’ll also find accessories and homeware pieces.
Vera Wang sits at the top of the luxury market, offering couture-like quality through artistic designs. The bridal collection continues to be made within the United States, making it a truly American brand for the modern era.
16. Playful Sophistication and Contemporary Charm: Alice + Olivia
Alice + Olivia is an American fashion brand founded by New Yorker Stacey Bendet in 2002. Stacey takes her inspiration from her love of vintage and feminine design, juxtaposing whimsical motifs with sexy and sophisticated designs.
The brand is known for its ornamented fabrics, universally flattering fits, and colorful prints. Alice + Olivia caters to the modern woman who isn’t afraid to channel her inner feminity.
The brand has a legion of loyal Hollywood fans, including Ashley Tisdale, Kourtney Kardashian, Abigail Breslin, and Katy Perry. As well as being available through their e-commerce store, you can find Alice + Olivia stores across the United States and Asia.
Stacey Bendet is the chief executive officer and creative director of contemporary clothing company Alice + Olivia (Credit: WENN / Avalon)
Stacey Benet remains the brand’s creative director, making it one of the leading contemporary fashion brands in America.
Alice + Olivia began when Benet was on the quest for the perfect pants. The ‘perfect pants’ were made with a desire to make a ‘trouser sexy’ or the ‘focus of an outfit’.
The brand was an instant success and was sold at Barneys with an initial 20-piece collection, quickly becoming a lifestyle brand with a ready-to-wear range and accessories collection.
17. Embrace the Spirit of American Glamour: GUESS
Guess is a fashion brand inspired by the American Dream. It was launched in 1981 by the Marciano brothers and takes its design inspiration from European fashion. It’s one of the most recognizable contemporary fashion brands and is synonymous with its iconic denim collections.
The original Guess brand launched in 1981 as a book focusing on styles by Georges Marciano, with the first collection taking its inspiration from the book.
White Lotus star Sydney Sweeney is seen here channeling Anna Nicole Smith as the face of a new capsule collection for GUESS Originals released in October 2021 (Credit: MEGA / WENN)
Before launching GUESS, the brothers had founded a successful series of ‘MGA’ stores in France. They took their inspiration from their best-selling unisex jeans and created the first GUESS jeans.
The early Guess designs encapsulated the brand’s signature aesthetic and style, focusing on soft and form-fitting denim that was lighter in color than most of their competitors.
Most GUESS jeans were made in indigo blue or with a bleached finish. In 1981, Guess launched their stonewashed denim jeans, with the label’s signature ankle zipper, complete with their red triangle question-mark logo.
The brand was met with instant success, with sales hitting $6 million at their Beverly Hills store and in Bloomingdale’s department store within the first year.
Paris Hilton in the Marciano Fall 2004 campaign for Guess (Credit: WENN)
GUESS’ popularity comes from its association with some of the world’s most popular celebrities and supermodels. The likes of Hailey Baldwin, Jennifer Lopez, and Paris Hilton have all been ambassadors for the brand and featured heavily in their advertising campaigns.
Guess jeans became synonymous with Hollywood after they were featured in the 1985 movie Back to the Future. The lead character wore Guess denim jeans that were designed for the movie.
Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly wears blue Guess jeans with white Nike Bruin shoes and a down vest for the 1985 American science fiction film Back to the Future (Credit: Universal Pictures)
Some of Guess’ biggest success is found within their ‘Guess Accessorise,’ ‘Guess Denim,’ and ‘Guess Kids’ brands. The brand also has a successful jewelry and eyewear range.
Although Guess is seen as an all-American brand, around 70% of their sales are generated outside of the United States. Their primary competitors include The Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Ralph Lauren Corporation.
18. Style With Purpose: Kenneth Cole
While Kenneth Cole is famous for his versatile and functional footwear and accessories, the American designer has an industry backstory.
Kenneth Cole Products, Inc. is the eponymous fashion house established in 1982 by Kenneth Cole and Sam Edelman. Cole was born and raised in New York and studied at the Emory College of Arts and Sciences of Emory University.
American fashion designer Kenneth Cole attends the 2021 CFDA Awards at The Seagram Building on November 10, 2021, in New York City (Credit: MEGA / WENN)
It’s no surprise that Cole headed straight into the footwear industry as his father was the owner of El Greco, a footwear manufacturing company.
He spent some time in Europe studying the art of footwear design before heading back to New York to launch his eponymous brand.
The unique beginning to Kenneth Cole Productions
The story behind the launch of Kenneth Cole is one of the most famous in the footwear industry.
After Cole couldn’t afford a spot at the New York Shoe Expo, he changed his company’s name from ‘Kenneth Cole Incorporated’ to ‘Kenneth Cole Productions’ in order to get a filming permit to park near the location of the Expo.
The film would eventually become ‘The Birth of a Shoe Company,’ with Cole selling over 40,000 pairs of shoes during the two and a half days.
Kenneth Cole is married to Maria Cuomo, the daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and sister of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and CNN journalist Chris Cuomo (Credit: Ivan Nikolov / WENN)
The first ‘Kenneth Cole’ store launched in 1984 in Manhattan before the brand quickly grew across the United States.
The fashion brand has now expanded to include men’s and women’s footwear, clothing, and accessories. It also includes several diffusion brands, including Kenneth Cole Reaction, Kenneth Cole New York, and Unlisted.
What makes Kenneth Cole one of America’s most famous designers?
Kenneth Cole is famous for his versatile and practical footwear and accessories. He explains that his method of designing the perfect show is to “think how I would feel if I were a woman and what I’d want to wear,” with a philosophy that “there’s nothing more sexy than comfortable shoes”.
Uniquely, Kenneth Cole is one of the few designers still at the helm of their international fashion brands. Cole oversees most of the voting rights for the parent company and owns a 45% stake in the company, even though it went public in 1995.
Donna Karan and Kenneth Cole attend the 2019 FN Achievement Awards at IAC Building on December 3, 2019, in New York City (Credit: Derrick Salters / WENN)
Cole once famously said that “what you stand for is more important than what you stand in.” While known for being one of the most famous American designers, Cole is also known for his work in promoting awareness for AIDS research.
He’s widely considered to have been one of the first in the fashion industry to adopt the cause and worked closely with several organizations, including amfAR and Rock the Vote.
If you’re thinking of adding a touch of American fashion to your closet, these are the top 18 brands to consider.
Each has played a role in curating the fashion industry by dominating and creating trends that have inspired generations of women.