When you think of '80s style, a few embarrassing trends might come to mind; but the truth is, the period was an iconic time in fashion, with many designers emerging as tastemakers whose influences still resonate today. American sportswear designers Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren became global names, and high-fashion designers like Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaia pioneered new shapes in womenswear.
Calvin Klein was one of the most successful fashion designers of the 1980s. His sportswear ranged from high-end to more affordable lines for men and women, with jeans and underwear becoming his signatures. Calvin Klein was known for advertisements with high-profile celebrities, including Brooke Shields and Mark Wahlberg as well as young models like Kate Moss.
Ralph Lauren was the first American designer with a European boutique in 1981. He ushered in “preppy” style; his brand Polo Ralph Lauren appealed to conservative teens with a taste for expensive polo shirts, chinos and jackets. Eventually the look even crossed over into hip hop–inspired streetwear.
At the end of the 1980s, Christian Lacroix left the fashion house Patou and started his own label. At the time, the French designer became known for creating a new wave of haute couture designs. Inspired by modern art, opera and the theater, he combined bold colors of magenta, orange, yellow, green and bright pink, and embellished his pieces with big bows, intricate beading and statement jewelry.
Thierry Mugler helped to reinvent womenswear with a new silhouette in the '80s . He created more feminine shapes with accentuated curves and sharp, angular shoulders—a far cry from the free-flowing dresses of the 1970s. Mugler was labeled the “prophet of futurism” for his revolutionary take on fashion, using vibrant colors and theatrical elements.
Nicknamed the King of Cling, French designer Azzedine Alaia experimented with fabrics that clung close to the body. He's believed to have invented the use of Lycra for garments like the body suit, cycling shorts and stretch miniskirt. His designs complemented the fitness craze that began in the 1980s thanks to the likes of Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John.