Since being a teenager, Christian Louboutin sketched shoes and ignored his academic studies. His first job was at the Folies Bergeres cabaret, where he assisted the entertainers backstage. It was an iconoclastic route for an iconoclastic shoe designer, who is now perhaps the most famous in the world – alongside his trademark: the red leather sole.
Louboutin found employment with Charles Jourdan in 1981 and quickly progressed to the atelier of Roger Vivier. It was in 1991 that Louboutin’s company was founded with the opening of his Paris store.
With little formal training, Louboutin has changed the parameters and perception of shoe design; his fascination for the world of showgirls and music halls as well as that of different world cultures has all influenced his elaborate creations. Louboutin eschews more conventional fashion influences, finding fashion too time sensitive. Instead his footwear is the focus rather than the accompanying after thought. Danielle Steel purportedly owns 6000 pairs of Louboutin shoes.
Since the mid 1970s, Cindy Sherman has redefined boundaries as an image-maker and filmmaker. Using herself as a character actress/model/wardrobe mistress/make-up artist/hairstylist/director/author/cinematographer and photographer, Cindy Sherman is arguably the greatest living female artist.
Best known for her photographic self-portraits, where, in actual fact, she herself largely disappears, Sherman assumes the role of different individuals, both female and male. Frequently presenting herself as an icon, yet iconoclastically questioning the role of women in the media, Cindy Sherman approaches her subject matter through the use of borrowed visual forms.
Here, the film still, the centrefold, the fashion photograph, the historical portrait and the soft-core sex image have all been utilised by the artist. Exhibited widely and internationally – including a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2012 – Cindy Sherman was the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1995, the so-called ‘Genius Award’. She is also the proud owner of a parrot.
Going beyond existing ideas of structural definition, utilising the unexpected and everyday, making humble materials such as plywood, chain-link and corrugated metal siding into forms simultaneously spectacular and modest… Frank Gehry could perhaps be seen as the ultimate, iconoclastic architect at work today.
Since establishing his architectural practice in Los Angeles in 1962, Gehry has produced some of the world’s most important and famous buildings, themselves becoming icons of our era. From his own startling renovations to his residence in Santa Monica, purchased and revived in 1977, to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997 – called by the legendary architect Philip Johnson, “The greatest building of our time”
Frank Gehry has redefined the architectural landscape. He continues to do so with numerous prestigious commissions including his other project due later this year for Louis Vuitton: The Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Vanity Fair has called Frank Gehry, ‘the most important architect of our age.’ He has also voiced himself on The Simpsons.
As a fashion designer and creative director, it is not an over-estimate to say that Karl Lagerfeld has revolutionised his field. His iconoclastic approach in redefining fashion, particularly predicting and understanding the importance of ready-to-wear and knowing how to revitalise and reinvent brands, could be seen as the blueprint by which many of the fashion houses operate today.
Beginning his career at 17, working for Pierre Balmain and later Jean Patou and Chloé, while immersing himself in and expanding his knowledge of history, art, architecture, music and particularly eighteenth century French furniture, has given Lagerfeld the unusual combination of being preeminent designer, fashion trouble-shooter and contemporary Renaissance man.
Collaborating with Fendi since 1965, and working for many years as its creative director, has meant that label’s perpetual reinvention and constantly evolving, contemporary nature. Since 1983, Lagerfeld has held astonishing tenure as the chief designer and creative director of the house of Chanel. A true icon in his own right, as well as an iconoclast, Karl Lagerfeld never rests – amongst other pursuits he heads his own house, is an accomplished photographer, sits on the LVMH Prize jury in search of young talent, is a book publisher and the proud owner of a cat.
Initially studying sculpture and jewellery design before training rigorously in industrial design, Marc Newson’s route might be seen to have contributed to his iconoclastic approach and the embracing of a distinctly personal, biomorphic design signature. Now, widely acknowledged as the most influential industrial designer of his generation, Newson has worked in numerous industries ranging from aerospace and technology to furniture and fashion.
Instinctively and personally driven in his approach, iconoclastically collapsing the boundaries between disciplines and idiosyncratically embracing a wide range of design work as a totality, Newson could be seen as a unique figure in his field.
His peer and close friend, Jonathan Ive – Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design – has described Newson as “peerless”. 1986’s Lockheed Lounge chair, initially made when the designer was only 23 years old and had just graduated, has gone on to become one of the true design icons of our era.
After originally studying art and literature, Rei Kawakubo quickly changed tack, working for a textile company and then becoming a self-taught fashion designer. Believing that there are no limits to creativity in the fashion process, she has constantly radically pursued and iconoclastically achieved perpetual progress in her field, breaking the rules and forming new ones that the entire industry has paid attention to.
These features have become the hallmarks of Comme des Garcons, the label that Kawakubo founded in 1969 and incorporated as a company in 1973. Kawakubo has an input into all areas of the creative process, from graphics, advertising and store interiors to designing and making clothes and accessories; each is inextricably linked.
In 1981 she staged her first, and now legendary, Paris show for Comme des Garcons. After an initial outcry, her iconoclastic aesthetic and her love of black changed the wider global – and more commonly perceived – notion of beauty in fashion forever. Rei Kawakubo called her label Comme des Garcons – ‘Like the Boys’ – just because she liked the sound of it.