Every era has its stylish faces, talents, and voices that profoundly influence the moment. This cast  is bringing fashion to life right now—and for the years to come. Raf Simons

Call 2012 the Year of Raf, because only a phoenix has risen higher from the ashes. The Belgian Simons departed Jil Sander in February after being dramatically ousted in favor of Sander herself, returning to her namesake label. A few months later, Simons was signed to replace John Galliano as creative director of Christian Dior. On July 2, mere weeks after that, he made his debut, showing an haute couture collection, in a Parisian hôtel particulier festooned with a million flowers, that paid due respect to Monsieur Dior—plays on the nip-waist, jut-hip 1947 New Look Bar jacket and swooningly exquisite strapless evening dresses (feather “stripes,” tiny swirling blooms). Yet it also carried plenty of Simons’s own emotional, intelligent, and empathetic attitude toward designing for women.
Simons, far right, with actress Diane Kruger in Dior Haute Couture, at the Avenue d’Iéna setting of his debut for the house. Hair, Claudio Belizario; makeup, Florrie White for Dior Beauty. Produced by 10-4 Inc. Fashion Editor: Hamish Bowles.

 Sarah Burton, Christopher Bailey, and Stella McCartney

What Sarah Burton, Christopher Bailey, and Stella McCartney share, beyond their English sense of style, history, and humor, are dates of birth in the early seventies—and a genius for turning fashion labels into global brands. Burton, taking over Alexander McQueen in 2010, proved herself the most discreet designer in the world with her wedding dress—and subsequent dresses—for the Duchess of Cambridge, while gently reorienting the brand in a beautifully feminine direction. Bailey, chief creative officer of Burberry, has built a multiplatform, multibillion-dollar organism on the power of trench coats. McCartney, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength as a spokeswoman for working mothers, the designer of the British Olympic team’s Adidas uniforms, and the instigator of such wheezes as the supermodel flash mob that set Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta dancing on tables in red-hot evening dresses last London Fashion Week.
From far left, model Karen Elson in Alexander McQueen, Burton of Alexander McQueen, Bailey of Burberry, model Stella Tennant in Burberry Prorsum, McCartney, and model/designer Claudia Schiffer, both in Stella McCartney. Hair, Martin Cullen; makeup, Gucci Westman for Revlon. Set design, Gillian O’Brien at MFA. Produced by 10-4 Inc. Fashion Editor: Camilla Nickerson.

 Peter Copping and Erdem Moralioglu

Ladylike would be the obvious way to describe what Copping (center), of Nina Ricci, and Moralioglu, of Erdem, can do. But put it that way and you miss the subtleties of their clothes. Their designs, seen here on actresses Emilia Clarke (left, in Nina Ricci) and Ruth Wilson (in Erdem), exemplify modern femininity—a coolly nuanced appropriation of such tropes as lace, flowers, and lingerie that always keeps women at the very center of the frame.
Photographed on location at Harry’s Bar, London. Fashion Editor: Camilla Nickerson.

 Riccardo Tisci and Rooney Mara

She was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who has since turned heads on the red carpet. He is The Boy with the Heart of Romantic Darkness, who has dramatically transformed Givenchy. One may act, the other design, but each never fails to remind us of why less obvious forms of beauty, not to mention the gritty and heady thrill of urban life, matter so very much.
On Mara: Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci dress.

 Phoebe Philo

She had the cool and the composure to offer fashion a semblance of sanity after the financial crash of 2009.
That moment, when Philo (right, with model Marie Piovesan in Céline) took control of the Céline runway with a proposal for clean, rational daywear, she set a new agenda: daywear rather than cocktail dresses; tailoring, big shirts, sweaters, pants, coats. Her system, unflagging and classily consistent, attracts adoring loyalty from all who know how difficult it is to dress with a chic froideur in daily life. It’s only added to her heroine status that she keeps out of the limelight, insisting on taking maternity breaks. She was photographed in June, shortly after the birth of her third child, Arthur.
Fashion Editor: Camilla Nickerson.

The Socials

These ladies—left to right, Vanessa Traina, Jenna Courtin-Clarins, Prisca Courtin-Clarins, Virginie Courtin-Clarins, Claire Courtin-Clarins, Lauren Santo Domingo, Shala Monroque, Alexia Niedzielski, Lily Kwong, and Elizabeth von Guttman—may look good sitting next to the runway, but they’re not just sitting pretty. Enter the new breed of social slasher: Editors, entrepreneurs, artists, eco-warriors, models, advocates for social change, these women do it all and do it with style, inspiring the designers with their original approach to fashion, from the immaculate to the irreverent.
Fashion Editor: Kathryn Neale.

 Jennifer Lawrence

“I have a quickie relationship with fashion,” says actress Jennifer Lawrence, laughing. “I wear a dress for one night on the red carpet, and that’s it.” Fashion, though, can only imagine a long-term future with the star of the cultish The Hunger Games, which catapulted the girl from Louisville into the realms of superstardom because of her turn as the creatively attired Katniss Everdeen. (Think Gaga . . . gone wild.) If designers are fixating on Lawrence, it’s in no small part due to her sunny gorgeousness and her cool casualness toward getting dressed. Her life in L.A. is equally low-key. “I pity the paparazzi,” she says. “There are only so many pictures they can take of me on the boardwalk in Santa Monica.”
The actress in a Diesel Black Gold jacket. Michael Kors swimsuit. From top: By/Natalie Frigo and Cathy Waterman rings. Hair, Jamal Hammadi for Hamadi Organics; makeup, Yumi for Chanel Beauté. Produced by F/32 Productions. Fashion Editor: Lawren Howell.

 Lazaro Hernandez, Jack McCollough, Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy, David Neville, and Marcus Wainwright

Take a quick look at the designers driving American fashion—Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, and David Neville and Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone—and it’s clear two heads are better than one. “Divide and conquer,” says Neville. “That’s our motto.” Yet working in pairs isn’t the only thing that unites these highly individualized teams. They’re also blazing radical new trails toward redefining cool, whether it’s Proenza’s urgent, innovative polish, Rodarte’s imaginative romanticism, or Rag & Bone’s sporty-street mix.
From far left: Hernandez and McCollough of Proenza Schouler, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, and Neville and Wainwright of Rag & Bone. Hair, Tim Rogers for Living Proof; makeup, Virginia Young for Chanel Beauté. Grooming, Laura de Leon for Cutler/Redken. Set design, Nick Des Jardins for Mary Howard Studio. Fashion Editor: Tabitha Simmons.

 Peter Dundas

What girl wouldn’t like a Dundas (with model Caroline Trentini, in Emilio Pucci) on her chaise longue? In a dull, double-dip world, he’s the man who has fought on the side of good-time dressing, turning Emilio Pucci into a hotbed of sophisticated sexiness. Trained in Parisian haute couture and sprung from Norway via America, he’s a cosmopolitan gentleman with a studio in the Florentine Palazzo Pucci and a very healthy twenty-first-century work ethic. Endless numbers of the supergorgeous are his friends.
Hair, Teddy Charles for Orlo Salon; makeup, Gucci Westman for Revlon. Fashion Editor: Tabitha Simmons.

 Olivier Rousteing, Joseph Altuzarra, and Anthony Vaccarello 

None of these young designers—left to right, Rousteing of Balmain, Altuzarra, and Vaccarello (with models Chanel Iman, Kate Upton, and Candice Swanepoel)—shies away from worshipping the curves of a woman’s body, yet they’re not remotely interested in the clichés of “sexy.” If the clothes are hot, it’s simply because the heat flares up with the way they sculpt and shape and sinuously manipulate their silhouettes. It’s as much about empowerment as it is eroticization.
Hair, Jimmy Paul for Bumble and Bumble; makeup, Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel Beauté. Fashion Editor: Camilla Nickerson.

 Nicolas Ghesquière and Kristen Stewart 

Who remembers that Nicolas Ghesquière began as a backroom boy at Balenciaga when the company name meant virtually nothing? The career trajectory of the most innovative French designer of his generation has long since placed the house at the apex of Parisian influence; his blend of high-tech, sci-fi thinking and haute couture technique is inimitable (though many, many try). He’s here with Kristen Stewart, who wears Balenciaga constantly and is the face of its new fragrance, Florabotanica.
The Balenciaga designer and the actress, in Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière. Hair, Adir Abergel; makeup, Jillian Dempsey; grooming, Laura de Leon for Cutler/Redken. Set design, Nick Des Jardins for Mary Howard Studio. Fashion Editor: Tabitha Simmons.

 Karlie Kloss, Arizona Muse, Joan Smalls, and Liu Wen

“We’re kind of a motley crew,” says Karlie Kloss, the first (and most certainly the last) person to refer to these superstar supermodels in such ragtag terms. But in a way, the model with legs long enough to stretch across the time-and-space continuum is right. Not because these women could appear anything other than glorious but because they each evoke a different idea of beauty, be it commanding (Kloss), lyrical (Wen), serene (Muse), or strong (Smalls). If there’s one thing they have in common, says Smalls, it’s this: “We’re a new generation that’s not only about looks. We’re very hardworking and see what we do as a business.”
From left: Models Karlie Kloss (in Marchesa), Liu Wen, Arizona Muse, and Joan Smalls, all wearing Vera Wang Bride dresses. Hair, Teddy Charles for Orlo Salon; makeup, Gucci Westman for Revlon. Fashion Editor: Tabitha Simmons.

 Florence Welch 

Appearing in ethereal swaths of Gucci silk and Valentino lace because “they feel like they’re doing a performance of their own,” she enthralls devotees with her theatrical wardrobe as well as her soulful voice. The Pre-Raphaelite beauty credits “growing up around art history” (her mother is a Renaissance-studies professor) for her sense of artful drama, while Welch’s blend of British eccentricity—a mash-up of every era from the eighteenth century through the 1970s—flaunts a romantic unconventionality. “I like to imagine I’ll wear the things I’m buying now when I’m old and mad!” she says.
The musician in a Chanel dress, Dolce & Gabbana cape and boots, Gypsy necklace. Hair, Eugene Souleiman for Wella Professionals; makeup, Lisa Aharon for Chanel Beauté. Set design, Nick Des Jardins for Mary Howard Studio. Fashion Editor: Tabitha Simmons.

Photographed by Norman Jean Roy