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While trends in the fashion industry are constantly changing and evolving, style and influence stay forever. Fashion icons completely surpass the boundaries of trends and are even responsible for some of the biggest and longest-lasting ones.
From red carpet fashion to street style, these individuals shape the fashion world and fashion choices people all over the world make simply by having followed the beat of their own drum and ignored the trends of their day.
The most influential and famous fashion icons in history are those that developed their personal style and became instantly recognisable for it and are still seen as enduring influences to this day. Here are just a few of the biggest fashion icons in recent history up to today.
While fashions and trends change, there are certain people who crafted their own style outside of those trends and would each in turn influence an era of fashion. Here are some people who continue to inspire us to this day.
Debbie Harry was a style icon on and off the stage. The lead singer of Blondie, friend to Andy Warhol, and New York City rock ‘n’ roll legend became a style influence in the 70s by giving the 60s mod look a punk twist, going from wearing graphic tees with leather jackets with a chic bob to a full leopard print jumpsuit with disheveled hair. Her fashion sense shaped and continues to inspire the style that defines punk.
Audrey Hepburn is synonymous with classic style, with her clothing worn off and on-screen inspiring women all over the world for decades. Her lifelong love for fashion began when she met Hubert de Givenchy in the 1950s, and her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s would cement the actress as one of the most iconic figures in cinema and fashion.
David Bowie was never one to shy away from theatrical outfits. He defied fashion and gender norms and brought new styles alongside his individually unique personas from the Thin White Duke to Ziggy Stardust.
First Women can make just as much of a cultural impact as any celebrity, and Jackie Kennedy was undoubtedly a major fashion icon in her time. The First Lady would often be seen in shifts, pillbox hats, and oversized sunglasses that even women today continue to style themselves in.
Harlem jazz singer and actress Josephine Baker was a trailblazer in the 1920s, becoming the first Black woman to star in a major motion film in 1927 and was a style influence that helped define the fashion of her era. Flaunting sparkling dresses, glamorous bikinis, and extravagant pearl necklaces and accessories, Josephine Baker created a legacy that’s unforgettable even 100 years later.
Kate Moss was perhaps the first model to turn off-duty style into a fashion category of its own. Women everywhere anticipated her every outfit as she was out and about, and the muse to various designers even collaborated with high street brands to make clothes for the fans that wanted to dress like her.
Diana Ross defines the word ‘diva’ both in her career, personality, and sense of style. The outfits she would wear exemplified classic glamour and sass, from her large hair to her glimmering dresses. To this day, no one can beat the legacy that Diana Ross left in the music and fashion worlds.
Princess Diana is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and lasting style icons to come out of the country, with more than a handful of unforgettable outfits that people all over the world are still in love with to this day. From the off-duty outfits she wore to the black dress that would make headlines, Diana continues to be a force of nature who inspires the trends of today.
Marilyn Monroe was and continues to be the epitome of sex appeal. From bathing suits by the pool to curve-hugging dresses, Marilyn Monroe is one of the chicest celebrities to influence the wardrobes of today. The Seven Year Itch actress is a fashion icon whose legacy and image in a white dress and red lips is recognisable to anyone that sees it.
Another style icon to come out of the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama was known for wearing and supporting up-and-coming designers. Her outfits post her husband’s presidency, however, would define her status as a fashion icon, sporting dresses and outfits on and off the red carpet that are elegant yet daring at once.
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll didn’t just change the course of music, but also that of male fashion in the 1950s and onwards. Throughout his life and career, Elvis wore daring outfit after daring outfit, becoming synonymous with Cuban collars, pleated trousers, and pompadour hair that defined a generation and cemented his legacy as one of the most influential fashion icons ever.
Model Naomi Campbell was a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry, becoming one of the first to be deemed a supermodel. She wore many unique looks on the runway, but it was her personal fashion on the street that influenced women everywhere. To this day, she’s always spotted in something chic and classic, retaining her model air even when she’s off duty.
Grace Kelly is one of the most famous figures in history, turning from actress to princess, but always being known for her classic fashion sense. Everything Grace Kelly wore epitomised sophisticated style and is even the namesake of Hermès’ Kelly bag.
In the age of social media, anyone can be an influencer of style, but it’s another thing to be a fashion icon. Today’s celebrities have a reach that extends around the world, but there is only a handful that we’d tout as some of the most influential fashion icons who we know will influence generations to come.
After departing from One Direction, singer-songwriter Harry Styles was quick to show us men’s style reminiscent of Bowie’s. He isn’t afraid to break away from traditional male silhouettes and explore more feminine details, from silhouettes to colours and prints. We can already tell that he will inspire men’s fashion for years to come.
Singer-songwriter and all-around entrepreneur Rihanna is a showstopper on and off the red carpet, wearing and pulling off daring looks that drop jaws and have people talking about them for months. Not one to follow any trend, we constantly look forward to the looks she’s wearing whether it’s at the Met Gala or at the beach.
Actress Zendaya has just begun her foray into fashion, but she’s already created a massive impact. She isn’t afraid to wear different styles or work with designers that push the boundaries of fashion and, just like Rihanna, is always an exciting one to watch at the Met Gala as well.
Billy Porter is undeniably one of the most influential fashion icons today, turning his fashion moments into a performance every time. Sporting voluminous ball gowns under tuxedos and wearing stunning and colourful capes, he’s helping change the course of men’s fashion on the red carpet.
Perhaps Gen Z’s biggest star, Billie Eilish is also famous for her unique style that’s defining her generation. Her baggy clothes that tread the line between street casual and high fashion are unforgettable and are an entire trend started in its own right, and we’re looking forward to how her style evolves as she gets older.
ASAP Rocky is on everyone’s best-dressed list, and it isn’t hard to see why. Hardly one to be spotted in a plain suit, ASAP plays around with colours and unexpected silhouettes changing the game and expectations of hip-hop fashion.
Going from outrageous to elegant, there’s no one else who can wear daring styles like Lady Gaga. She started her career with Avante Garde pieces that constantly turned heads, and even her most classic attire is indicative of her taste and love for fashion in all its forms.
While Kim Kardashian’s reign has only lasted a few years, she has already cemented her spot as one of the most influential fashion icons ever. Women all over the world keep a close eye on every outfit she wears, and these articles of clothing are sure to be sold out and replicated once she’s spotted in it.
The most influential fashion icons in history obtain their places by choosing to wear clothing that’s true to them, no matter what the fashions of their time are. From Audrey Hepburn’s personal style and her iconic look as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to ASAP Rocky’s unique take on menswear, there are generations of influential fashion icons to admire and take notes from, whatever your style.