The clothes we wear, or for many wish we could wear, are often the product of some of the worlds most famous gay fashion designers. While the fashion world in general has embraced an industry in which many of its best known trend setters just happen to be gay men, like the rest of society there is still a stigma attached to being gay. So much so is this true that many who were always believed to be gay beyond any shadow of a doubt would and still do refuse to out themselves for fear of the social and possibly professional repercussions. Whether they were or are in or out makes little difference, they have made the clothing on our backs some of the most trendy and in demand styles in the world.
Perhaps the most famous of today's gay fashion designers is the both professional and personal coupling of Italians Domenico Dolce and Steffano Gabbana better known to the world simply as Dolce & Gabbana or D & G. Domenico Dolce was born on September 19, 1958 in Polizzi Generosa which is a small town on the outskirts near Palermo, Sicily, and Steffano Gabbana was born on November 4, 1962 in Venice Italy. The paths they took to the formation of the D & G business launch in 1982 were quite different. Dolce studied fashion and design in Sicily after growing up in a family which owned a small clothing factory, Gabbana on the other hand had no formal fashion training with a formal education in graphic design,
They met in 1980 and did freelance work until 1986 when their first women's collection was an instant global sensation leading to the opening of their first boutique in Japan in 1989. 1990 marked the release of their first men's collection and another boutique opening in Milan. The success landed them the design contract for the Genny Group's Complice line which was previously designed by Versace and then Claude Montana. The rest is fashion history, countless lines, awards, unfathomable money, recognition in entertainment, and yes even love. The love lasted until the summer of 2008 at least when rumors of their long standing romantic split were confirmed. Without missing a beat, the business goes on and the friendship and love they share for fashion and each other as friends survives.
A true legend of the fashion world Valentino, was always assumed to be gay but never confirmed whether he was or not, that is until he was 72 years old and celebrating his 45th year in the fashion industry and upcoming retirement. Fortunately for the fashion world Valentino decided not to retire completely instead dabbling with the idea of limited release until he reaches 50 years in the industry which will arrive in 2012. Valentino is considered to be the greatest and most important designer from Rome in the post World War II world, and perhaps the greatest from Italy during that period. Considering the competition that is no small feat.
Valentio apprenticed under Guy Laroche and Jean Desses in Paris before making the move to Rome. It was then he met Giancarlo Giammetti who became his constant partner in business, and as was often speculated, personally as well. Valentino's rise was rapid as he was and still is loved by women that like a look which is dignified and smart without lacking a certain sexy appeal. By 1967 he was the most in demand designer for some of the worlds elite women like Jackie Kennedy, Princess Margaret, and Elzabeth Taylor. It was also at this time he became the first designer to use a monogram making he know world recognized signature "V" a trend that would be copied by almost every designer to follow.
By the 1980's Valentino had boutiques in almost every major city in the world. His designs were displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, the first time fashion was ever displayed there. In 1990 along with Elizabeth Taylor he and Giancarlo founded L.I.F.E. a charity aimed at helping children afflicted with HIV. Valentino without doubt may be the most famous and influential designer gay or straight of the last fifty years if not century.
Marc Jacobs, born April 9. 1963 in New York City, is one of the hottest names in fashion holding the positions of the head designer for Marc Jacobs, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Creative Director for Luis Vuitton. Evidently graduating from the High School of Art and Design in 1981 was good for his career! It helped him achieve great accolades while attending the Parsons School of Design, which he graduated from in 1984, such as the perry Ellis and Chester Weinberg Gold Thimble Awards. While still in school he designed and sold his first line of hand knit sweaters to Reuben Thomas Inc. This helped him land a design job at Perry Ellis which was ended thanks to his "grunge line" in 1993. Considering that while under the Employ of Perry Ellis he was the youngest person to ever win the industries highest award somewhat ironically named the Perry Ellis Award, his dismissal for one less than appreciated collection seemed extreme.
Ellis' loss was the worlds gain. Now unfettered Jacobs went on to create his visions which led to his first full menswear line in 1994. Since then Jacobs has won many accolades and become a trend setter with such great success his competitors can do little but envy him. Even legends like Oscar de la Renta fail to match Jacobs energy and vision despite trying. His outlook on fashion can best be summed up perhaps by his statement that, "what I prefer is that even if someone feels hedonistic, they don't look it." He transformed advertising in the industry using a combination of ordinary people and celebrities often considered less than photogenic, another trend others continue to copy. In 2007 Jacobs was listed as one of OUT Magazines 50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America. By 2008 his clothing line for kids launched, and he had boutiques around the world, even in locations like Beirut, Jakarta, and Kuwait which demonstrates global appeal and demand.
These four men certainly aren't the only great gay fashion designers, but at this time they are the moat influential whom are decidedly out of the closet. Hedi Slimane, and bisexual designers like Rick Owens, Giorgio Armani, and Raf Simons are certainly important figures as well. There always has been speculation that Karl Laggerfeld, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren are actually gay or at the least bisexual such allegations have never been proved although it seems reasonable given certain relationships. As some point out there is a difference between "straight" and straight, and many gay men of their generation routinely married to mask their sexuality.