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 Insiderrun a yearly financial analysis of the best performing brands on earth to determine what fashion house fares best in the sartorial sales stakes.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
It is now the most desired and most loved brand among millennials and teens (for those who can afford it, that is).
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.
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.
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.
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.