We often only see the glitz and glamour of fashion designers. For every one successful fashion designer, there are scores who did not make it. The rag-trade is a lot of hard work and requires some degree of luck in terms of financial backing and the endorsement of the editors of glossy magazines. The list below showcases some of the wealthiest and most iconic designers of all time.
1. Giorgio Armani
Net Worth: $9.6 billion
This prolific fashion designer has designed everything from the bag you carry to the hotel you may have stayed at. The Armani couture lines comprise Armani Prive, Giorgio Armani, and Emporio Armani which markets the company’s ready-to-wear lines. Armani Collezioni, Armani Exchange, and Armani Jeans are more affordable diffusion lines of the main Armani collections. There’s even an Armani Junior.
Apart from apparels, Armani has ventured into housewares (Armani Casa), confectionary (Armani Dolci), florist service (Armani Fiori) and hotels (Armani Hotels) which is in collaboration with Emaar Properties PJSC, a real estate development company from the U.A.E.
It is said that at least 10% of the world’s population would have at one time or another worn a clothing item designed by Armani.
Next to Miuccia Prada at one time, Giorgio Armani is possibly the world’s richest fashion designer with an estimated net worth of some $9.6 billion as of 2021.
2. Ralph Lauren
Net Worth: $8.2 billion
Ralph Lauren is the founder of the Ralph Lauren Corporation, which is a conglomerate in the United States, having started in 1967 selling men’s neckties.
At the age of 28 years-old, Lauren was at the time working for necktie manufacturer Beau Brummell. He was given the opportunity to design his own menswear, and he named his first full line of menswear ‘Polo’ in 1968, inspired by his love for sports. At the time, he worked out of a single “drawer” from a showroom in the Empire State Building and made deliveries to stores himself.
By the late 60s and early 70s, Lauren had an exclusive in-store shop at Bloomingdales which sold Lauren’s designs exclusively. He then branched into womenswear, and in 1972, opened his own store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. In 1972, Lauren released a short-sleeve cotton shirt in 24 colors emblazoned with his now world-famous and instantly recognizable logo of a polo player. Since then, his designs always have his unique logo embroidered on.
In the 80s, the company entered the European market with its first store in Bond Street, London, and continued to grow far and wide from Europe to the Middle East, and from the Far East to Australia.
Like Armani, Lauren also has Ralph Lauren Home and Paint and even a chain of restaurants called the Ralph Lauren Restaurants.
The Ralph Lauren brand as originally inspired by sports is today a sponsor of many sporting events from Wimbledon to the Olympics.
It is no surprise that Ralph Lauren, as of 2021, is estimated to have a personal fortune of some $8.2 billion.
3. Miuccia Prada
Net Worth: $2.4 billion
She was once estimated to have a staggering net worth of some $11 billion in 2013; Miuccia Prada is still enormously wealthy today by any standards. The youngest granddaughter of Mario Prada, she took over the family business in 1978. Prada started as a luxury leather goods business in Milan, Italy and the business initially sold English steamer trunks and handbags.
After Miuccia took over, she and Patrizio Bertelli (whom she later married) began to transform the company, and Miuccia started designing and selling her own backpacks and totes in 1979. Miuccia and Bertelli then started to expand the company’s footprint by taking up space in various department stores, opening flagship stores in Milan, and also abroad.
By the late 1980s and mid-1990s, Prada had launched pret-a-porter clothing lines for both women and men, apart from their signature luxury handbags. The business grew exponentially. As sales grew into the hundreds of millions, Miuccia then started to spearhead a program of acquisition, buying up brands like Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, and even Church & Company, an English shoemaker. By the 2000s, Prada had expanded internationally and had stores from Milan to New York, and from Tokyo to Hong Kong and Singapore.
In 1993, Miuccia was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America International Award. Her talent as a high fashion designer is matched by her business acumen. Prada is a cornerstone fashion house of both the New York and London fashion weeks.
As of 2021, Miuccia Prada is estimated by Forbes to be worth some $2.4 billion.
4. Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana
Net Worth: $1.7 billion
This pair of Italian designers founded their luxury fashion house in 1985. Their designs have featured unique styles ranging from rich and extravagantly printed fabrics, eclectic designs, bold gangster boss pin-stripe suits to thrift shop bohemian style.
Perhaps more striking than their designs is their marketing campaigns, which are always a sumptuous feast for the eyes, be they billboards advertisements or center-fold magazine spreads. Their commercial for their first women’s fragrance was created by filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore with scores by Ennio Morricone, and starring actress Monica Bellucci. Equally famous was the 2006 commercial for their fragrance “The One” starring supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Such was the artistry of their marketing campaigns that Dolce & Gabbana won two Leadawards, Germany’s leading advertising awards. In 2004 they won for their Fall/Winter 2003/04 campaign and in 2006 they won for their Fall/Winter 2005/06 campaign.
Today, Dolce & Gabbana stands for luxury with a twist, and as of 2021, each of Domenica Dolce and Stefano Gabbana is estimated to have a net worth of some $1.7 billion.
5. Valentino Garavani
Net Worth: $1.5 billion
Founded in Rome, Italy, Valentino is an haute couture fashion brand which has always been a favorite among movie stars for its dazzling and impeccably-made gowns. Its international debut took place in 1962 when it showcased its first handmade gowns.
The brand went into a period of slow-growth in the late 80s to 90s. In 2012, Valentino sold the brand to Mayhoola For Investments, a State of Qatar owned company for over 700 million Euros. Prior to that, the company changed hands a couple of times, first to an Italian conglomerate and then to Marzotto Apparel which ran it until 2012 when it was taken over by Mayhoola.
Since the mid-2010s, the brand has seen a revival under Pierpaolo Piccioli as its creative director.
Still, for Valentino Garavani, as of 2021, he is estimated to have a net worth of some $1.5 billion.
6. Tory Burch
Net Worth: $900 million
Tory Burch started her fashion label “TRB by Tory Burch” in 2004, which was later known simply as Tory Burch. In 2005, when Oprah Winfrey cast her “Oprah Effect” on Burch, the Burch website had over eight million hits the next day.
She has since grown the company to include over 250 stores globally, and her collections are carried in over 3000 department stores and specialty stores worldwide.
In the summer of 2014, Tory introduced a line of accessories for the Fitbit Flex activity tracking device, which made the fashion brand the first to sell wearable technology.
Recently, in August 2019, the brand entered a long-term partnership with Shiseido to develop, market, and distribute Tory Burch beauty brands.
Burch’s style is preppy-boho with a touch of bohemian luxe and is known for the T-logo medallion. Her style is easy to wear and versatile, which is popular for working women who go from office to party.
As of 2021, Tory Burch is thought to be worth some $900 million.
7. Calvin Klein
Net Worth: $700 million
Although Klein started his fashion house in 1968, it started as a coat shop in New York. Over the years, Calvn Klein expanded his collections from lifestyle and accessories to home furnishings and jewelry.
The Calvin Klein style has always been perfect tailoring and understated style. In the 80s, Klein revolutionized men’s underwear from y-fronts purchased by moms or wives for their sons and husbands to a garment that men started to care about, even though few would ever see them wear Klein’s signature y-fronts. Mark Wahlberg’s world-famous advertisement and the catchy phrase: “There’s nothing between me and my Calvins” must have been the turning point for y-fronts.
In 2002, the Calvin Klein empire was acquired by Phillips Van Heusen Corp (PVH). Klein signed a 15-year contract with PVH and remained initially as the creative head of its collections. The acquisition was reportedly worth more than $400 million in cash and stocks of $30 million with rights to profit participation in royalties and other revenue streams. Klein is, as of 2021, estimated to be worth some $700 million.
8. Vera Wang
Net Worth: $600 million
Vera was senior fashion editor at Vogue for 15 years and a designer at Ralph Lauren before she started her own label. She launched her own signature collection after she opened her own bridal boutique. It’s her bridal gowns that to this day are much sought-after among the well-heeled. Her style exudes elegance with modern designs and is particularly popular in Hollywood.
Often lauded as the most prominent designer of bridal wear in America, Wang has been honored with accolades for her achievements, including the 1993 Chinese American Planning Council’s Honoree of the Year Award and the 1994 Girl Scout Council’s Woman of Distinction Award. Later that year, she was elected as a member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). In 2005, the CFDA selected Wang as the Womenswear Designer of the Year.
As of 2021, Wang is credited with having a personal fortune of about $600 million.
9. Michael Kors
Net Worth: $600 million
Kors started off in Bergdoff Goodman in midtown Manhatten as the head of visual display and designer of the store. In 1981, he launched his Michael Kors women’s label at Bergdoff, and in 1990, Bergdoff launched KORS with Michael as a licensee. However, it got into financial trouble, and Michael had to put his KORs line on hold for a while.
By 1997, Michael got back on his feet and he launched a lower-priced line. At about the same time, he was also named the designer for the women’s ready-to-wear line for the House of Celine. During his time at Celine, Kors turned the fashion house around, rejuvenating it with his ready-to-wear lines and accessories.
In 2004, the Michael Kors line was launched which included handbags, shoes, and women’s ready-to-wear apparel. By 2016, the Kors empire grew to boast 770 Lifestyle stores around the world.
Kors was also a judge on Project Runway which aired for five seasons. In 2014, Forbes estimated that Kors had a personal fortune of some $1 billion. As of 2021, Kors is estimated to have a personal fortune of some $600 million, which although is nearly half of what it was in 2014, is, nevertheless, an impressive amount.
10. Tom Ford
Net Worth: $500 million
A native of Austin, Texas, fashion designer Tom Ford became world-famous when he was made the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Under Ford, Gucci, which was once an ailing fashion house, became one of the world’s most sought-after brand by the time he left in 1999. It was valued at more than $4 billion at the time.
Since leaving Gucci, he launched his eponymous line, Tom Ford, and became the chairman of his own brand. His style is impeccably tailored men’s and women’s wear and he is most famous for his shirts and suits. He has dressed numerous stars including Anne Hathaway, Daniel Craig, and Julianne Moore. One of his most famous moments was when Michelle Obama wore a floor-length ivory gown designed by Ford during her visit to Buckingham Palace in 2011.
For this dashing fashion designer, as of 2021, he is estimated to have a personal wealth of some $500 million.
11. Tommy Hilfiger
Net Worth: $500 million
Tommy Hilfiger started his Tommy Hilfiger Corporation and Tommy Hilfiger Inc. in 1985 which made apparel, footwear, accessories, fragrances, and home furnishings. The brand is sold in over 100 countries and numerous department stores. In 2006, Apax Partners acquired the company for a staggering $1.6 billion and in May 2010, PVH Corp acquired the company from Apax. In 2014, global sales reached $6.7 billion.
The Tommy Hilfiger look started with the all-American college preppy look, but in the 90s, he started to give it a more relaxed baggier look which then became very popular with hip-hop artists. So, when Snoop Dogg wore a Hilfiger sweatshirt on an episode of Saturday Night Live in the 90s, it sold out in all stores in New York the next day.
Although acquired by PVH, Hilfiger remains head of design at the company.
As of 2021, Hilfiger is thought to command personal wealth of some $500 million.
12. Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen
Net Worth: $300 million
The Olsen twins were former child actresses who became fashion designers. They became co-presidents of their company Dualstar at the the tender age of 18 in 2004, and since then have been making clothes and accessories for the teen market.
Their clothing line can be purchased for girls from 4 to 14 in Walmarts all over North America.
The Olsens have also launched their couture fashion label, The Row, named after Savile Row in London.
In 2007, they launched Elizabeth & James, a collection inspired by unique vintage finds and pieces they have in their own wardrobes. They have also released a women’s clothing line for J.C. Penney, called Olsenboye, and a T-shirt line called “StyleMint”. In August 2013, the twins launched a new fashion line in Oslo, Norway. The Olsens were named Womenswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for The Row in 2012. They received the award again in 2015. The CFDA also named the Olsens Accessories Designer of the Year in 2014 for their work with The Row.
These sisters are thought to have built up a combined personal fortune of some $300 million.
13. Jean-Paul Gaultier
Net Worth: $300 million
Known as the “Enfant Terrible” of the fashion industry, Gaultier is famous for his unconventional designs, sometimes turning innerwear into outerwear, especially with his corsets which are worn as outerwear, popularized by Madonna.
His sailor stripes or marinieres are also his trademark, as is his line of fragrances bottled with the unique shape of a man or woman. Hugely popular in the mid-90s to 2000s was his JPG by Gaultier line which was a unisex label that exemplified the designer’s philosophy of the fluidity of sexes and sexuality.
Hermes acquired about 35% of Gaultier’s label for about $24 million and Gaultier became the creative director of Hermes from 2003 to 2010.
Gaultier has also ventured into music and television. Known as a Eurovision enthusiast, Gaultier was seen with the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Contest Conchita Wurst on several occasions.
As of 2021, Jean-Paul Gaultier is estimated to be worth about $300 million.
14. Jimmy Choo
Net Worth: $50 million
Loved by women around the world, Datuk Jimmy Choo’s shoes sell for up to $7000 per pair. His shoes are without a doubt, the talk of the town whenever a new collection is unveiled.
Choo originally hails from Malaysia, but his parent moved to the U.K. to help him get started. In 1996, Choo started Jimmy Choo Ltd with British Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon. Choo’s shoes are a must-have and often compared with those of Manolo Blahnik.
In April 2001, Choo sold his 50% stake in the company for £10 million. Since then, he has concentrated his work on the exclusive Jimmy Choo couture line produced under license from Jimmy Choo Ltd. The Jimmy Choo London line, also known as Jimmy Choo Ready-To-Wear or just, Jimmy Choo, is under the direction of Tamara Mellon. The ready-to-wear line has expanded to include accessories such as handbags.
As of 2021, Jimmy Choo is thought to have an estimated net worth of some $50 million.
15. John Galliano
Net Worth: $35 million
Having helmed the house of Givenchy from 1995 to 1996, Christian Dior from 1996 to 2011 and then his own label John Galliano 1998 to 2011, Galliano is now the creative director of Maison Margiela, a Paris based fashion house.
Galliano got his first taste of success when his first collection after graduation from the Saint Martin’s School of Art was purchased in its entirety by Browns of London. Galliano’s talent was often said to be matched by a head for business, although he did become bankrupt for a short while in the early 90s. Galliano then moved to Paris in the 90s and secured the backing of the owner of Plein Sud who invited Galliano to set up in Paris at Plein Sud’s headquarters. From there, Galliano’s ill-fortune reversed course, and in 1995, he was appointed designer of Givenchy by Bernard Arnault, the owner of LVMH. After that Galliano moved to Christian Dior where he received critical acclaim for his Haute Couture and ready-to-wear lines. The gowns he designed while at Dior was part of an exhibition in Moscow in 2011.
As of 2021, John Galliano is worth an estimated $35 million.