High End Fashion Brands: 15 of the World’s Top Designers

Fashions fade, style is eternal
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High fashion – more eloquently known as haute couture – is the creation of exclusive clothing made from exceptionally high quality fabric and sewn with expert finesse by trained hands.

Luxury fashion houses design, create and market high fashion clothing and accessories which are trend-setting, limited in quantity and extremely expensive to purchase.

For labels to be classified as a high fashion brand, the designer must show their collection at one of the world’s four annual major fashion weeks in Paris, Milan, London or New York.

Many of the world’s top designer brands are based in Europe, most notably across France, Italy and the UK, and despite global economic uncertainty the luxury fashion sector continues to grow faster than many other industries.

Because of this, major business publications such as CNBC, Forbes and Business Insider run a yearly financial analysis of the best performing brands on earth to determine what fashion house fares best in the sartorial sales stakes.

New Idea brings you a list of the world’s most famous fashion brands – and what you need to know about each before you invest.

high end fashion
(Credit: Getty Images)

15. Dolce & Gabbana

Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana was founded in 1985 by designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

After presenting their first collection for women at Milan Fashion Week in 1985, the fashion gurus and former couple opened their first store in 1986.

In 1992, the house showcased its first line for men and also launched its first eponymous fragrance.

Dolce & Gabbana create a wide variety of fashion products including clothing, footwear, handbags, sunglasses, watches, jewellery, perfumes and cosmetics.

Anne Hathaway, Emma Roberts and Eva Mendes are all notable celebrities who often wear D&G pieces.

The brand also designed costumes for the 2000s international tours of Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige.

Madonna appeared in Dolce & Gabbana’s 2010 campaign and models such as Emily Ratajkowski, Ashley Graham and Vittoria Ceretti walked in the 2018 show at Milan Fashion Week.

High end fashion brands
Ashley Graham walks the runway for Dolce & Gabbana during Milan Fashion Week 2018 (Credit: Getty Images)

In recent years, the brand has felt the brunt of numerous public controversies, most of which were triggered by the bizarre social media ravings of Stefano Gabbana himself.

After cruelling trolling a number of high profile celebrities including Selena Gomez and Chiara Ferragni on Instagram, the designer went on a racist rant against China which involved slurs such as “China, ignorant dirty smelling mafia”.

This led to the brand’s Shanghai show being boycotted by models and subsequently cancelled, while luxury online retailer Net-A-Porter pulled all Dolce & Gabbana products from its platforms.

14. Burberry

Burberry is perhaps Britain’s best known luxury fashion house with headquarters in London, England.

This historic and iconic label was founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, and continues to market its trademark trench coats, ready-to-wear outerwear, handbags, fragrances, sunglasses and cosmetics to this day.

The quintessentially British household name made headlines in March 2018 by appointing Italian creative Riccardo Tisci as Head Designer.

Tisci previously worked with Parisian house Givenchy for 12 years, where he pioneered shark teeth and nose ring motifs.

high end fashion brands
Israeli actress Gal Gadot wears the iconic Burberry trench coat (Credit: Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cambridge famously wore Burberry for her 2017 Vogue cover.

Since Tisci’s takeover last year, Burberry has amassed a new legion of celebrity fans including Rihanna (his longtime pal), Madonna, Julia Roberts and Carey Mulligan.

It girl models including Kendall Jenner, Irina Shayk and Cara Delevigne are all regulars on the Burberry catwalk.

high end fashion brands
Kendall Jenner walks in the Burberry show during London Fashion Week 2018 (Credit: Getty Images)

13. Valentino

Valentino S.p.A is an Italian fashion house founded by designer Valentino Garavani in 1960.

Inspired by his early years spent working in Paris, Garavani opened his first upscale fashion boutique on Rome’s Via Condotti and began to create clothing, footwear, glasses, fragrances, watches and accessories, initially primarily for women.

The house is known for its trademark fabric shade known as “Valentino red”.

Meghan Markle wore a red Valentino dress for an official engagement during the February 2019 royal tour of Morocco.

The brand made its international debut in 1962 in Florence, and garnered such acclaim Valentino went on to design custom wedding dresses for icons such as Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Lopez, Anne Hathaway, Courtney Cox and Princess Madeleine of Sweden.

Valentino was the favourite designer of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

high end fashion brands
(Credit: Getty Images)

Major celebrities who often opt for Valentino gowns or awards shows include Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz and Keira Knightley.

Since the summer of 2016, Pierpaolo Piccioli has been the creative director of Valentino.

high end fashion brands
Valentino Garavani with Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2014 Valentino show in Rome (Credit: Getty Images)

12. Off-White

Founded in 2013, Milan-based streetwear label Off-White is the brainchild of American fashion designer entrepreneur and Dj Virgil Abloh.

Abloh, who has also been the artistic director at Louis Vuitton since March 2018, serves as chief executive officer of the Italian house.

Off-White designs include trend-setting throwbacks like cycling shorts and the now-iconic yellow industrial belt.

Paper Magazine report the belt was the world’s 6th most popular women’s fashion product in 2018.

Abloh has amassed a huge cult following for his infant label through the help of social media and well-placed influencer friends, including models Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin who all regularly rock the designs.

Beyoncé is a huge fan of the new label and Abloh also dresses many of the Victoria’s Secret ambassadors for red carpet events including Dutch model Romee Strijd.

The label is also close to the heart of eccentric genius Kanye West, who first met Abloh when they were both interning at Rome-based fashion house house Fendi.

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Off-White designer Virgil Abloh with models Gigi and Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss at the finale show for Paris Fashion Week 2019 (Credit: Getty Images)

11. Givenchy

Falling just inside the top 10 is luxury Parisian fashion house Givenchy.

Founded in 1952 by Hubert de Givenchy and Jaani Robert Durfy, the clothing, fragrance and cosmetics empire is now owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH.

The brand became known for its iconic shirt dress, and Givenchy became the first high fashion designer to create a luxury ready-to-wear clothing line for women.

In 1969, Hubert de Givenchy launched his first collection for men, and a decade later received the accolade of Most Elegant Man of the Year by The Best Magazine.

The award was presented by Audrey Hepburn.

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Audrey Hepburn was the muse and friend of Hubert de Givenchy (Credit: Getty Images)

Givenchy has been worn many times by some of the world’s most iconic women, including Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Contemporary devotees of the label include Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Emma Stone, Julia Roberts and Rooney Mara.

high end fashion brands
Kim Kardashian wears Givenchy to the 2013 MET Gala (Credit: Getty Images)

Givenchy’s current artistic director is Clare Waight Keller, the first woman to hold the position and the designer tasked with creating Meghan Markle’s custom bridal gown for her May 2018 royal wedding to Prince Harry.

high end fashion brands
Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy gown on her wedding day to Prince Harry (Credit: Getty Images)

10. Balenciaga

Bucking the trend for Italian and French maisons, Balenciaga is a luxury fashion house founded in 1917 in San Sebastian, Spain by Basque designer Cristobal Balenciaga.

Dubbed “the master of us all” by Christian Dior, Balenciaga swiftly developed a reputation for impeccable quality and high standards of womenswear and tailoring, with his bubble skirts and contemporary silhouettes becoming his trademark.

Balenciaga’s designs were worn by the Spanish royal family and during WWII clients even risked their own lives by travelling to war torn Europe to see his collections.

Balenciaga designed the 1960 wedding dress of Queen Fabiola of Belgium, and Jackie Kennedy infuriated her husband JFK by buying multiple pieces from the designer during his presidency which he believed set a bad example for the public.

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Rapper A$AP Rocky in Balenciaga in 2017 (Credit: Getty Images)

Balenciaga trained and honed the skills of many great designers including Oscar de la Renta and Hubert de Givenchy who went on to open their own successful couture houses.

In 1992, House of Balenciaga designed the French Olympic team outfits and throughout the 2000s stars like Sinéad O’Connor, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and Madonna favoured the brand.

According to Paper Magazine, Balenciaga’s Platform Crocs were the 10th most popular women’s fashion product in the world in 2018.

Today, Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia is at the helm of Balenciaga as creative director.

Fashion editors and industry models have a penchant for vintage Balenciaga pieces which are often seen on the likes of Lara Bingle, Cardi B, Kim Kardashian, Sienna Miller, Jennifer Garner and Chloe Sevigny who was the muse of former Balenciaga creative head Nicolas Ghesquiere.

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Kim Kardashian at the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week 2017 (Credit: Getty Images)

9. Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent, also known simply as Saint Laurent, is a French luxury fashion house created by the designer of the same name and his partner, Pierre Bergé.

Founded in 1961, the brand revived its haute couture collection in 2015 under the artistic direction of Hedi Slimane.

In April 2016, Slimane was succeeded by Anthony Vaccarello as Creative Director.

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Yves Saint Laurent with his muse Raquel Welch around 1975 (Credit: Getty Images)

Saint Laurent is considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious womenswear labels thanks to the eponymous designer’s obsession with the female form.

Among his muses were French actress Catherine Deneuve, American star Raquel Welch and British-Irish model Betty Catroux.

Major contemporary celebrities who adore the French house include Kate Moss, Margot Robbie, Angelina Jolie and Jessica Chastain.

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Kate Moss wears Saint Laurent for a YSL show in Paris, February 2019 (Credit: Getty Images)

Saint Laurent’s many quotes include “Chanel freed women, I empowered them” as well as the iconic mantra “Fashions fade, style is eternal”.

The brand now create a vast range of YSL products including best selling fragrances, cosmetics, handbags, footwear and jewellery.

One of the most iconic contemporary designs is the vertiginous YSL Opyum heel which uses the logo for the stiletto point.

The iconic YSL Opyum heel
(Credit: Getty Images)

8. Prada

Prada S.p.A. is an Italian luxury fashion house founded in 1913 by Mario Prada.

The world famous designer specialises in leather handbags and accessories, shoes, ready-to-wear clothing for men and for women, fragrances and cosmetics.

Mario’s granddaughter, Miuccia Prada, joined the family business in 1970 and took the helm as head designer in 1978, a position she holds to this day.

Miuccia focused on creating a trademark offering for the brand, namely waterproof nylon bags which remain hugely popular.

Prada launched the “classic Prada handbag” in 1985, which catapulted the name to stardom. A women’s clothing line followed in 1989 characterised by drop waistlines and thin belts.

Miuccia started an offshoot label, Miu Miu, based on her own nickname in 1992, targeting the collections towards younger consumers and celebrities.

high end fashion brands
Italian businesswomen and influencer Chiara Ferragni at Prada’s Milan Fashion Week show 2018 – she carries an iconic Prada leather handbag (Credit: Getty Images)

In recent years, major influencers such as Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, Rita Ora and Hailee Steinfeld incorporate Prada accessories into their street style.

A-list actresses including Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz and Carey Mulligan regularly wear Prada on the red carpet.

According to Paper Magazine, the Prada Nylon Belt Bag was the world’s 4th most popular women’s fashion product in 2018.

high end fashion brands
Fashion blogger Chen Xiaxue carries a classic Prada bag at London Fashion Week 2016 (Credit: Getty Images)

7. Fendi

The house of Fendi was founded in 1925 by Italian designers Adele and Edoardo Fendi in Rome.

The luxury brand creates fur, ready-to-wear clothing for women and men, small leather goods and handbags, shoes, fragrances, sunglasses and watches.

Fendi became a household name during the 1990s thanks to its tiny shoulder bag called the Baguette which has made an incredible comeback over the past two years.

Famous for its FF logo, Fendi is a bonafide family business with the founder’s granddaughter Silvia Venturini Fendi acting as the current Creative Director for Accessories and Menswear.

The late Karl Lagerfeld joined the brand in 1965 and stood as creative director for fur and womenswear from 1977 until his death in February 2019.

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Models walk the runway at the Fendi show, Milan Fashion Week September 2018 (Credit: Getty Images)

Fendi’s creative marketing team leveraged the power of social media to revive the struggling house, garnering international notice after major celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Nicki Minaj wore head to toe Fendi on their respective Instagram accounts.

Supermodel sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid are also major proponents of the Italian label and regularly storm the catwalks for Fendi’s fashion week presentations.

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Gigi Hadid on the runway in head to toe Fendi, February 2019 (Credit: Getty Images)

6. Dior

Christian Dior SE, commonly known as Dior, is a French luxury goods label primarily specialising in clothing for women, handbags, footwear, jewellery, sunglasses, fragrances, cosmetics and skin products.

Founded in Paris in 1946 by designer Christian Dior, the brand remains focused on womenswear but contemporarily branched out to create a Dior Homme collection for men.

Dior was wildly popular among European royalty during the 1950s and 1960s, and modern day designers still draw inspiration from Dior’s first evening gowns.

Diana, Princess of Wales carries a Dior handbag on her 1995 trip to Argentina

So popular was Dior that by the end of 1949 – just three years after its foundation – the company’s fashion made up 5 percent of France’s total export revenue.

Today, the iconic creation of the house of Dior is arguably the saddle bag which comes in a vast range of colours, patterns and fabrics.

In recent years, Dior has employed a vast number of celebrity ambassadors to promote its designs. These include Carla Bruni (1996), Charlize Theron (2004 to present), Marion Cotillard (2008-2017), Natalie Portman (2010-present), Rihanna (2015-present) and Jennifer Lawrence (2012-present).

Former Valentino designer Maria Grazia Chiuri is the current creative director of Dior, following a long line of talent including John Galliano and Raf Simons.

Grazia Chiuri famously designed the two Dior wedding dresses of original Instagram businesswoman Chiara Ferragni in 2018.

5. Hermes

Hermes International S.A. is a French high fashion luxury manufacturer with a history spanning centuries.

Founded as an equestrian accessories workshop in 1837 by Thierry Hermes, a German-French carriage maker, the company transitioned to a budding fashion house in 1918 when it created the first leather golf jacket with a zipper, custom made for Edward, Prince of Wales.

Hermes is best known for its handbags, but the brand began manufacturing them by somewhat of an accident when the director’s wife complained about not finding any bags to her liking.

Today, Hermes market a huge collection of the world’s most expensive and exclusive bag, including the iconic Birkin named for English actress Jane Birkin.

The Hermes Kelly was christened in honour of Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco.

Hermes also produce a range of ready-to-wear clothing for both men and women, as well as footwear, jewellery, watches, fragrances, homewares, stationery and its world renowned silk scarves.

high fashion brands
Queen Elizabeth wears a Hermes scarf (Credit: Getty Images)

The Hermes scarf – or carré – was introduced in 1937 using raw Chinese silk and printed with individual screen patterns.

Notable celebrities who have worn Hermes scarves include Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Sharon Stone, Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway and Madonna.

A plethora of A-listers love to tote Hermes handbags, from Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian to Emma Watson and Sarah Jessica Parker thanks to the status they evoke.

high end fashion brands
Victoria Beckham carries a Hermes Birkin bag (Credit: Getty Images)

Designers who have headed up the historic house include Jean-Paul Gaultier and artin Margiela.

The current creative director is Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski.

high end fashion brands
A model walks the runway at the Hermes show, Paris Fashion Week 2017 (Credit: Getty Images)

Versace is an Italian luxury fashion company founded by designer Gianni Versace in 1978 in Milan.

The brand’s mainstay includes boldly printed, Italian-made ready-to-wear clothing for women and for men, as well as handbags, sunglasses, fragrances, homeware, jewellery and small leather accessories.

Gianni chose the head of Medusa, a Greek mythological figure, as the logo for his now famous label which became renowned for its flashy chain patterns and vibrant colours.

After the murder of Gianni Versace in 1997, his sister and business partner Donatella took the reins as Creative Director, a position she holds to this day.

Back in 1994, Versace made headlines when Elizabeth Hurley wore a jaw droppingly sexy black chain dress – dubbed “THAT dress” by the media” – to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

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Elizabeth Hurley in THAT Versace dress, 1994 (Credit: Getty Images)

Versace continues to attract a vast range of celebrity devotees who adore the brand’s flamboyant and unapologetically sexual designs, including Sir Elton, Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Demi Moore, the Kardashians, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.

J Lo famously created the need for Google Image search by wearing a green printed Versace dress, slashed to the navel, to the Grammy Awards in 2000.

high end fashion brands
Jennifer Lopez in the now famous navel-slashed Versace gown, 2000 (Credit: Getty Images)

Along with Louis Vuitton and fast-fashion brand Fashion Nova, Versace was the most-searched label of 2018.

Versace enjoyed a major moment at last year’s MET Gala, the theme of which focused on the Catholic imagination of art and fashion.

The Italian behemoth dressed major names including Gigi Hadid, Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, Blake Lively, Irina Shayk, Gisele Bundchen, Mary J Blige and Cindy Crawford for the prestigious event.

high end fashion brand
Creative Director Donatella Versace with Russian model Irina Shayk, both in Versace for the 2018 Met Gala (Credit: Getty Images)

3. Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton Malletier – Louis Vuitton – is an esteemed French fashion house founded Paris in 1854 by creative designer Louis Vuitton.

One of the world’s leading maisons, the brand is famous for its trademark LV monogram which appears on almost all of its products, particularly handbags for which the house is best known.

Louis Vuitton create a vast array of lavish goods including luxury luggage, ready-to-wear clothing for women and men, bags, belts, small leather goods, jewellery, sunglasses, shoes and stationery.

For six consecutive years between 2006 and 2012, Louis Vuitton was named the world’s most valuable luxury brand.

The label first launched its signature LV monogram tote bag in 1896, a style which remains hugely popular to this day.

Louis Vuitton’s Speedy and Neverfull bags are worn the world over and continue to be the “It” bag of the fashion industry.

high end fashion brands
Rihanna at the Louis Vuitton menswear show in Paris, June 2018 (Credit: Getty Images)

Renowned designer Marc Jacobs acted as Louis Vuitton’s Artistic Director from 1997 until 2013, when he was replaced by Nicolas Ghesquiere and subsequently Kim Jones.

Since March 2018 Off-White creator Virgil Abloh has been the Louis Vuitton menswear director, the first African-American at the helm of the prestigious label.

In recent years Louis Vuitton has garnered the following of big names from the rap and hip hop industries, including A$AP Rocky and Kanye West who are regularly spotted in the houses’ clothing.

Last August, actress Emma Stone was named the face of the iconic brand ad the LV monogram is consistently seen on stars like Ariana Grande, Hailey Baldwin, Taylor Swift, Rita Ora, Kate Moss, Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Nicki Minaj, DJ Khaled and Selena Gomez.

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Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss walk with Louis Vuitton director Kim Jones during the menswear show at Paris Fashion Week 2018 (Credit: Getty Images)

2. Gucci

Gucci is an Italian luxury fashion brand founded by Guccio Gucci in Tuscany in 1921.

The house went on to become Italy’s top selling label and has enjoyed a recent revival to become the world’s most sought after millennial brand under the creative direction and fresh digital marketing strategy of Alessandro Michele who has headed up design since 2015.

During WWII, Gucci created handbags made of cotton canvas as opposed to traditional leather due to fabric shortages, and distinguished his creations with a double G monogram decorated with red and green bands.

high end fashion brands
The GG Logo belt at Milan Fashion Week 2017 (Credit: Getty Images)

Filmstars and world leaders flocked to Gucci’s Florence store after the war to get their hands on the luxurious designs, and the brand was catapulted onto the international fashion stage.

Despite incredible success, Gucci experienced a difficult time during the 1980s when the founder’s grandson and then president of the company was murdered by a hit man in Milan.

In an effort to salvage the struggling name, designer Tom Ford was hired to restore Gucci’s reputation (while he also designed at Yves Saint Laurent).

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British model and designer Alexa Chung in Gucci at the Gucci at the Gucci Cruise fashion show, London 2017 (Credit: Getty Images)

The brand was reincarnated under his direction and since Michele’s takeover in 2015 has gone on to grow it’s online presence by an incredible margin.

Today, Gucci is worn by the “It” crowd all over the world, and regularly dresses celebrities such as Rihanna, Brad Pitt, Blake Lively, Rachel McAdams, Harry Styles, Kylie Jenner and Salma Hayak for red carpet events.

So impressive is Gucci’s resurrection, Business Insider dubbed it “the designer comeback of the year” for 2018.

According to Paper Magazine, the world’s most popular women’s fashion products of 2018 was the Gucci GG Logo belt.

Kim Kardashian put her own spin on the GG obsession by wearing a Tom Ford era G-string featuring a gold plated double G for an Instagram shoot.

The brand’s Logo Print Swimsuit came in at number three, making it the only house to have two items in the top ten.

It is now the most desired and most loved brand among millennials and teens (for those who can afford it, that is).

high end fashion
A guest carries a Gucci bag at Milan Fashion Week 2017 (Credit: Getty Images)

1. Chanel

Chanel S.A. is a French luxury fashion house specialising in haute couture and ready-to-wear clothing, handbags, sunglasses, footwear, cosmetics, fragrance, jewellery, belts and small leather goods.

Chanel was founded Paris in 1909 as “House of Chanel” by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, a former singer and fashion designer.

Coco Chanel made elegant, minimalistic clothes for women which grew in popularity as ladies moved away from the excessive, maximalist designs of the 19th century.

high end fashion brands
Marilyn Monroe sprays herself with No. 5 de Chanel perfume (Credit: Getty Images)

Some of Chanel’s many legacies include “the little black dress” and the iconic “Chanel suit”, as well as the iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance.

The talented designer also popularised the “flat-chested” model look thanks to her simple but flattering designs which better suited a small bust.

Chanel struggled to stay relevant in the 1980s, and in 1983 German-born designer Karl Lagerfeld was hired as chief creative to revive the dying brand.

Lagerfeld reinvented the label and made it a roaring success thanks to his new ready-to-wear line. He also reimagined the interlocked CC monogram of Chanel and used it as the brand’s logo.

He remained as chief designer until his death in February 2019, when Virginie Viard was announced as he successor.

high end fashion brands
(Credit: Getty Images)

To this day, Chanel favours colour tones usually worn by men such as grey, white, black and navy blue which Coco used to exude feminine dominance and confidence.

Since foundation, Chanel has become the world’s most elite fashion house beloved by the rich and famous from London to Shanghai.

high end fashion
Kaia Gerber walks in the Chanel fashion show in Paris October 2018 (Credit: Getty Images)

Chanel bags, in particular, are worn as status symbols and vintage pieces continue to fetch exorbitantly high prices to the point that some in the fashion world recommend investing in Chanel – the one commodity that never depreciates in value.

Famous faces who have fronted Chanel campaigns include Catherine Deneuve, Vanessa Paradis, Nicole Kidman, Audrey Tautou, Keira Knightley, Kristen Stewart, Margot Robbie and Marilyn Monroe.

high end fashion brands
Chanel ambassador Margot Robbie attends the Chanel Metiers D’Art 2018/19 Show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 4, 2018 in New York City (Credit: Getty Images)

If you want to read more about fashion and trends, check out New Idea’s Beauty and Style page!

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