The most influential fashion designers of 2021

From trendsetters to timeless figures in fashion


Virgil Abloh by Myles Kalus Anak Jihem

By Amy Aguayo, Staff Writer

This year was a significant one for fashion, as social issues rose to the foreground. The pandemic altered how we view everything, and the fashion industry is no exception. Numerous rallies for various causes, such as climate change and sustainability, shaped how consumers purchase and invest. Thrifting or buying from more ethical brands gained popularity as consumers tried to avoid fast fashion industries that have a large impact on our carbon footprint. Many fashion designers have spoken out about political and social issues that have influenced their designs. Others have expressed their gender identity, created new definitions of fabric quality and let their creativity lead them.


Virgil Abloh

Abloh, the first Black designer at Louis Vuitton, eventually became the head of menswear for the company. He was also the founder and creative director of Off-White, and creative director for Kanye West’s Yeezy. Abloh was a brilliant gamechanger in the fashion industry. He died this past November at 41 from cancer. Abloh first learned the basics of clothing from his mother who worked as a seamstress. In designing Kanye West’s Donda (A Content, Experience & Product Company) he was inspired to start “Off-White.” The company is known for its minimalistic take on streetwear and unique designs. In his obituary, Abloh describes his approach to fashion as, “the idea that you can take an existing design and change it just a bit, and it will qualify as new.”


Stella McCartney

McCartney, known for her vegan approach in fashion design, does not incorporate any leather or fur in her designs. The founder and creative director of McCartney, Stella McCartney started as an intern at Christian Lacroix, and was creative director of Chloé. She has advocated for environmental concerns and sustainable businesses. Her Spring 2022 collection showcased designs dedicated to nature. 63% of materials used in the 2022 collection were considered eco-friendly. McCartney’s brand is versatile when it comes to style, her bags have been carried by Meghan Markle and Anne Hathaway. McCartney has also collaborated with the sports brand, Adidas, to create sneakers and sportswear.


Simone Rocha

The Irish designer, known for her feminine reach of fashion, clean color palette and short gowns with puffy sleeves. Rocha’s fabric choices including lace have been seen on celebrities like Natalie Portman, and Saoirse Ronan. Daughter of designer, John Rocha, Simone Rocha’s take on fashion is much lighter and minimalistic. Her collaboration with H&M reached everyday people  included men’s and childrenswear. In an interview with Vogue, Rocha explained, “When H&M came to talk, I said, if I’m going to do it, I want to do it for everybody, not only women, but for men and children—and to make sure they get the quality.”


Lirika Matoshi

Remember that “Strawberry Dress” that blew up on Pinterest and Tiktok? The glimmering tulle creation was designed by New York designer Lirika Matoshi. Matoshi’s youthful designs have been seen on celebrities such as Elle King and Tess Holiday. Matoshi never attended a design school before creating her brand. Regardless, the Kosovo designer now stands in competition with other high womenswear brands. Her sizing ranges up to 18. Matoski mentioned to Vogue, Most of my designs are inspired by my childhood.” Designs like strawberries, and materials such as tulle all resembling a princess-like gowns create a nostalgia factor that Matoski describes as “undeniable.”


Daniel Roseberry

Although he got his start working with Thom Browne for ten years, Roseberry is now known for being the artistic director for Parisian couture house, Schiaparelli Haute Couture, by Elsa Schiaparelli. Roseberry has been with Schiaparelli Haute Couture since 2019, the brand was revived in 2014. Roseberry designed numerous discussion-worthy Schiaparelli pieces this year. Lady Gaga stunned a custom navy and red gown at Biden’s 2021 inauguration. The bulletproof gown, with the golden dove brooch, is in Gaga’s own words, “one of my favorite things I’ve ever worn.” Bella Hadid stunned a black gown at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival with a gilded brass necklace, adorning the trompe l’oeil lungs.

Amy Aguayo can be reached at [email protected]