Sponsored Post: Top 10 Breakout Designers of the Last Decade

Over the last 10 years, shows like Project Runway have captivated our attention and opened our eyes to the cutthroat industry in which talented emerging designers are forced to compete. Here is our list of the most innovative, successful, and ambitious designers who have broken down the barriers and made their way into the spotlight.

Zac Posen
Zac Posen launched his namesake label at the tender age of 21. His first show — in 2002, in a former synagogue on the Lower East Side—received mixed reviews, but generated major buzz among young socials (including Barbara Bush) and industry insiders. Posen’s work has gained respect for its increasingly streamlined aesthetic of forties-inflected tailoring, mermaid-esque gowns, and itty-bitty cocktail frocks. 

Christopher Kane
Fresh from six years at Central Saint Martins (and a consultancy gig with Donatella Versace), Scottish designer Christopher Kane launched his eponymous label in spring 2007. His clubby, Day-Glo bandage dresses wowed London Fashion Week, and his edgy direction leans toward designs that pop — literally.

Chris Benz
Chris Benz gained early recognition as a recipient of a coveted CFDA scholarship while attending Parsons The New School for Design. Then an intern with Marc Jacobs, Chris had a brief stint at J.Crew before launching his own collection in 2007. His signatures include unabashed use of color and texture, deft use of prints, and inventive subversion of traditional dressmaking codes and techniques.

Jessica Simpson
Aside from Simpson’s entertainment prowess, she enjoys tremendous success as a designer and businesswoman with her Jessica Simpson Collection. Launched in 2005, it has grown to include 22 product categories, including footwear, handbags, denim, eyewear, and coming soon, “tween.” While many celebrity clothing lines come and go like dead leaves on the sidewalk, retail sales of Jessica’s fashion items totaled $750 million in 2011, making her that rare diva that is, in at least one category, outperforming even Madonna.

Proenza Schouler — Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez
The design team of Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough has only been in business since 2002, but the duo has already enjoyed numerous hit collections and earned a rep as one of fashion’s most talked about labels. After meeting in design school and partnering on their graduation project, their first line together featured a modern interpretation of bustiers and corsetry, and has since become most well known for tailored coats, sleek pencil skirts, and color-blocked chiffon evening gowns.

Prabal Gurung
While studying at New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology, Prabal Gurung apprenticed at several local fashion houses before moving to New York City to attend Parson’s School of Design, where he was awarded with the “Best Designer” title at the annual Parsons/FIT design competition. In 2009, after an internship with Donna Karan, Gurung launched his own label to rave reviews, and was most recently chosen by the fashion industry’s power players for one of the highly coveted design studios at the {CFDA Fashion Incubator} for 2010-2012.

Alice & Olivia – Stacey Bendet
The story of two friends coming up with a line of pants because they couldn’t find their perfect fit sounds like the kind of business plan most women daydream about during a trip to Barneys Co-op. Stacey Bendet and her then partner, Rebecca Winn, actually did it in 2002, with alice + olivia. The label, which now encompasses RTW, childrenswear, and yogawear, is currently sold in more than 500 stores worldwide, as well as stand-alone boutiques in New York, Southampton, Los Angeles, Greenwich, and Malibu.

Jason Wu
A former Narciso Rodriguez intern, Jason Wu launched his eponymous line in 2006 and quickly became a favorite of downtown starlets who appreciated his signature brand of fuss-free elegance. From full-length gowns to more casual daywear, Wu’s pieces have clean, classic lines and incorporate bright colors and prints without being flashy. Case in point: Out of an elite cast of wannabe Michelle-dressers, it was Jason Wu — or rather his white, one-shouldered, silk-chiffon-and-Swarovski-crystal gown — that was selected by the First Lady for her inaugural ball appearance.

The Row – Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen
When she was starting college, Ashley Olsen set out on a quest to find the perfect T-shirt. After nearly two years, she and her twin sister, Mary-Kate, got something they felt was right not only for their petite frames, but also on all the other women of various ages and sizes who tried it on. Having put in so much effort in development, they tried to sell the new style and came up with the concept of The Row, a high-end label named to evoke the quality tailoring and synonymous with London’s Savile Row. In 2009, The Council of Fashion Designers of America named both Ashley and Mary-Kate as members, and this spring even honored them as Womenswear Designers of The Year.

Phillip Lim
In 2004, Phillip Lim launched his collection with start-up cash from a friend, and almost overnight, his first line became a critical and commercial darling. Lim’s coveted dresses were quickly spotted around town on “It” girls Natalie Portman and Kate Hudson, fueling demand upwards of $12 million wholesale by his third season. The muse for Phillip Lim’s 3.1 clothing collections is New York City — simple, individualistic and decidedly feminine.

Sponsored Post: Top 10 Breakout Designers