Pop culture is full of tastemakers who influence everything from how we dress to what we watch, read, and listen to.
We decided to take a closer look at some the people who decide what’s “cool” in America, from best-selling music artists to the creative directors behind the nation’s most talked-about brands. We chose both industry heavyweights who hold serious clout and pop culture icons whose every move makes headlines.
Read on to see who’s determining your definition of “cool” — whether you realise it or not.
International human-rights lawyer
Last year, the human-rights lawyer and international fashion icon Amal Alamuddin married longtime bachelor George Clooney in Venice, Italy. Like Kate Middleton before her, Amal has become a beacon of style and class. In April, after she purchased a mink baseball cap on a trip to New York City, the store sold out of its stock and received dozens of calls requesting the vintage hat.
People are dubbing the 37-year-old one of the best-dressed workingwomen in the world and cataloging her every outfit, from the cream Stella McCartney pantsuit she wore to her and George’s civil service to the custom heels she favors by Italian shoe label Ennio Mecozzi.
Editor in chief, Vogue and artistic director, Condé Nast
For more than 20 years Anna Wintour has helmed Vogue, where she curates a fashion handbook for the masses. Wintour is the most watched -- and possibly the most controversial -- woman in high fashion with millions of readers and industry peers emulating her style and hanging on her every endorsement. Her fashion prowess earned her a position as artistic director for Condé Nast, where she oversees the company's 18 print magazines.
We expect to see even more of the fashion icon as the 2016 presidential race heats up. She's been a supporter of Obama in the past two elections and has already been leading the fashion world in support of Hillary Clinton.
Executive editor, Women's Wear Daily
Women's Wear Daily is widely acknowledged as the Bible of fashion, and for good reason: It's the go-to trade publication of the industry, providing up-to-the-minute coverage of both breaking news and trends in fashion, making it a must-read for everyone from designers to bloggers. The paper converted to a weekly earlier this year, but it is expanding its digital and international coverage.
As the executive editor of the iconic publication, Foley oversees everything that makes it into the paper, essentially controlling which designers and styles are seen and hyped and which don't make the cut.
Model and actress
Cara Delevingne has made thick, bushy eyebrows and a brazen attitude chic again. The 22-year-old Brit burst on to the fashion scene after walking runways in Paris, London, and New York and appearing in dozens of print campaigns for the likes of Burberry, Tom Ford, and Chanel. She modelled for three years before
transitioning in 2015 to acting -- look for her as Enchantress in the upcoming film 'Suicide Squad.'
Delevingne's signature look isn't just a copy of the latest in couture -- it's her goofy expressions, fun tattoos, and trademark leather jacket. And with 22 million Instagram followers, there's no denying people are taking notice. At a time when sexuality is a constant topic of debate in America, the Vogue cover girl is also using her platform to dispel stigmas and push boundaries.
Creative director, H&M
As the global creative director for H&M, Donald Schneider has sparked the Swedish brand's biggest collaborations in the last five years, including projects with Versace, Alexander Wang, Jeff Koons, David Beckham, Beyoncé and this fall's highly anticipated Balmain x H&M collection, which Schneider reportedly conceived over a decade ago.
If Schneider's goal, as he claims, is to create surprising and buzzworthy partnerships between H&M and internationally recognised designers and celebrities, then he's succeeded. The Berlin-based creative director and fashion photographer also founded
Donald Schneider Studio, his vehicle for offering innovative strategy and art direction to huge international clients that include Cartier, Chloé, Condé Nast, Hugo Boss, and Karl Lagerfeld.
No one’s bigger in music right now than Drake. You can’t escape 'Hotline Bling' — it’s not only No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, but the video has taken on a life of its own, garnering more than 97 million views on YouTube and inspiring endless spoofs and memes. After Drake wore a cherry red Moncler jacket in the video, sales of the garment skyrocketed, more than doubling the day the video premiered.
Drake’s had a busy year all around. He's released two mixtapes, dropping 'If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late' as a complete surprise in February and joint venture 'What A Time To Be Alive' with Future in September. Drake also proved his talent when he dominated a beef with fellow rapper Meek Mill, shutting down his claim that Drake didn’t write his own raps.
Blogger, Cupcakes and Cashmere
Every day, thousands of readers flock to fashion and lifestyle blog Cupcakes and Cashmere for outfit ideas, delectable recipes, and picture-perfect snippets of blogger Emily Schuman's life. Don't take the term 'blogger' lightly, though: This year, Schuman released her second book and launched her first clothing line on Nordstrom and ShopBop -- all while handling life as a new mum. Her clothes, though met with some criticism, were an immediate hit, with items selling out within hours of release. Following the line's success, Schuman already has a home goods collection in the works as well.
Increasingly, bloggers like Schuman are becoming influential in the fashion world from the top down. Not only does she drive readers to purchase her own collection, but Schuman's approval introduces millions of people to new products and brands every day.
Head of fashion partnerships, Instagram
Previously the editor in chief of Lucky, Eva Chen joined the team at Instagram as the head of fashion partnerships this summer. And her own Instagram presence alone, reaching over 490,000 followers, proves she's worthy of the job. With Instagram influencing fashion more than ever, Chen's in a position of power.
Chen's personal life is widely watched as well -- via her Instagram feed, of course. Her daily shoe/fruit grams, product flat lays, and frequent glimpses into her wardrobe keep followers looking to her for style inspiration time after time.
She's everywhere this year. From becoming a Maybelline brand ambassador to dominating international fashion weeks to finally getting to walk the runway at the Victoria's Secret fashion show, Gigi Hadid is one squad member we can't evade.
The 20-year-old, whose mum is a member of the 'Real Housewives' franchise, has teamed up with BFF Kendall Jenner to usher in a new generation of fresh-faced, social media-savvy supermodels. The pair were the faces of the Balmain x H&M collection, which sold out online and in stores in less than a day. And the Vogue cover girl is a hit on Instagram, where she champions female friendship and body positivity to more than eight
If Jennifer Lawrence does it, it's noteworthy. Whether it's falling at the Oscars or rocking a pixie cut, fans devour every snippet of Lawrence's life and style, flocking to her quirky, relatable personality. Recently, she's gained attention for speaking out about the stark gender pay gap in Hollywood.
Career-wise, Lawrence is at the top of her game as well. She won an Oscar for her role in 'Silver Linings Playbook' and is the star of the ubiquitous 'Hunger Games' franchise, which has grossed over $US2 billion dollars at the box office through the first three movies (the final instalment hits theatres Nov. 20). Last year, Katniss -- the name of Lawrence's 'Hunger Games' character -- even became one of the top girls' names in the US.
Host, 'The Tonight Show'
During the Jimmy Fallon reign, 'The Tonight Show' has once again become a key destination for both celebrities on press tours and presidential hopefuls on the campaign trail. In his third season as host, the comedian and former SNL cast member is more popular than ever. In early October, he had an average nightly audience of 3.5 million viewers, making him the undisputed winner of late night.
Fallon, who's notoriously prone to injury, has one of the most popular channels on YouTube. His Lip Sync Battle videos starring celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Justin Timberlake, and Lena Dunham average tens of millions of views and even inspired a spin-off series in April on Spike, which clocked in as the highest-rated premiere in the history of the network.
Editor in chief, Cosmopolitan
Since she took the helm in 2012, Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles has shifted the magazine's direction to include uncharted and in-depth coverage of politics, feminism, and health. The mag even won its first National Magazine Award in 2014 under her leadership for a 12-page feature on contraception. In fact, she's had such an impact that NBC is creating a sitcom loosely based on the lives of the women behind Cosmo, with Coles as executive producer.
Last month, the Brit invited the ultimate trendsetting family -- the Kardashian/Jenner clan -- to grace the cover of Cosmo's 50th anniversary edition.
Rapper and fashion designer
He may be notoriously narcissistic, but someone as influential as Kanye West may have earned the right to be -- and his fans seem to embrace it. The source of Kanye West's trendsetter status is simple: He's one of the best-selling and most awarded musical artists of all time. West has been music icon for more than a decade now, but from popularising Shutter Shades in 2007 to debuting his Adidas clothing line at New York Fashion Week this year (which sold out almost instantly), he's dominating the fashion world as well. It doesn't hurt that his in-laws, the Kardashians,
often wear his products and happen to be one of the most photographed families on the planet.
And if you're still not convinced, Kanye's first line of shoes -- at $US200 a pop and aptly named after his alter ego, Yeezy -- sold out 12 minutes after release in June. Footwear News named the Yeezy Boost 'Shoe of the Year' because demand for them crashed servers and led to resale values up to $US10,000.
Model Karlie Kloss is more than just a pretty face. The former Victoria’s Secret Angel is also a student, programmer, and entrepreneur. Last spring, Kloss started taking classes at The Flatiron School, where she learned how to code. She was so inspired by her experience that she started Kode With Karlie, a scholarship competition that sends girls ages 13 to 18 to the school, essentially making coding 'cool' to the masses.
Kloss can also be found taking classes at New York University and setting trends as a part of Taylor Swift’s notorious girl squad. She starred in Swift’s 'Bad Blood' music video in May and launched a sunglasses line with Warby Parker last year.
Reality TV star and entrepreneur
The ringleader of the Kardashian clan had another bombshell year. Dozens of this year's biggest fashion trends -- bare and nude, oversized coats, and see-through lace -- originated in her closet. According to Forbes, the reality star nearly doubled her fortune in 2015 to an estimated $US53 million thanks to updates to her app 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.'
Kardashian West's 'glam squad' -- the people responsible for her trove of hair and makeup looks -- helped Kim and her sisters launch Kardashian Beauty, their first collection of hair products, which is expected to rake in $US200 million in sales this year. And while selfies may have been a thing before Kardashian West started sharing them with her more than 52 million Instagram followers, she popularised the act -- so much so that in May she released 'Selfish,' a hardcover catalogue of her favourite selfies from the past decade. Now, the pregnant star is being called a trailblazer of 'self-portrait in the digital age.'
Reality TV star and model (Kendall), reality TV star (Kylie)
People love them, hate them, love to hate them, and want to be them. The youngest of the Kardashian clan, Kendall and Kylie Jenner are bona-fide stars in their own right, with millions of fans watching and copying their every outfit, makeup tip, or hairstyle.
Kendall, who commands 41.7 million Instagram followers, broke the record for the most likes on a single photo in June with a shot of her hair styled into hearts, inspiring hordes of copycat Instagrammers. Kendall's also making a name as a model, walking in shows for the likes of Givenchy and Fendi, as well as in the perennial Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
With over 42 million fans on Instagram, Kylie's even more popular than her sister. This year alone, she inspired girls everywhere to rock pastel hair and bold lips -- some fans even took drastic measures to copy the star's look -- and her app rose to the top of the iTunes store within a day of its launch.
Founder and writer, Man Repeller
Leandra Medine made a name for herself by embracing outrageous fashion trends and celebrating her personal style. She's ridden that mantra to ever-growing success on her site, Man Repeller, which started as a personal blog when she was still in college. Today, Man Repeller covers everything from product reviews to the latest trends to social commentary, with brands striving for a coveted endorsement by Medine and her team.
Medine wears what she wants, with no regard to what's 'in,' inherently making her the pinnacle of cool. This authenticity remains the cornerstone of her company, and Medine only features brands and products she truly likes and uses. A callout from Man Repeller goes a long way too: The site has become a must-read for fashion insiders and boasts more than 1.1 million Instagram followers.
Professional basketball player, Cleveland Cavaliers
Both on and off the court, people are vying to copy LeBron James' moves. The basketball player endorses more products than any other NBA player by far, including deals with Samsung, Kia, Nike, and Coca-Cola, and has tremendous pull and respect within the inner workings the NBA. Fans love him, and he's successfully crossed over into movies as well, with a role in 'Trainwreck' opposite Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, as well as a deal with Warner Bros.
Perhaps the most recognisable pro athlete in the world today, King James has an audience of 25 million Twitter followers and 15 million Instagram followers. This season, he also started wearing shorter shorts and a more fitted jersey in order to appear more professional -- we'll see if the rest of the NBA follows suit.
Creative director, Balmain
Olivier Rousteing is arguably both the rookie and the MVP in fashion this year. He's at the beck and call of several A-list celebrities, and at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards in May he appeared on the red carpet arm in arm with models Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn wearing never-before-seen pieces from the now sold-out Balmain x H&M collection.
The 30-year-old French designer, who's been called 'fashion's BFF,' is on a quest to millennial-ize the industry. He's made his muses into pop-culture soldiers that collectively represent what's known as the Balmain Army: a diverse group of high-demand, next-generation fashion icons.
Chairman and CEO, OWN
Oprah is such an influential figure in America that a term was created to reference the weight her endorsements carry: It’s called 'The Oprah Effect.' Shortly after launching Oprah’s Book Club in 1997, any book that appeared on her list would become an instant best seller, and that trend continues today.
At the peak of her talk show in 2011 her reach was massive, with an average audience of 44 million viewers each week. And for more than 20 years, Oprah has been publishing her annual list of 'Favorite Things' — a Christmas gift guide filled with product endorsements for clothing, toys, books, and household items. This year, the billionaire tapped into the ecommerce trend and partnered with Amazon to publish her list.
And perhaps the most sobering realization that Oprah is still determining what’s cool: She bought a 10% stake in Weight Watchers in October and caused the stock to jump 105% as a result.
Creative director, Givenchy
After taking over as Givenchy's creative director in 2005, Ricardo Tisci reinvented the brand, once again making it a highly coveted designer label. In recent years, Tisci's also
gained notoriety for his social connections. He's close to Hollywood elite like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Madonna, and Kate Moss, just to name a few.
His clothes can be found on celebrities all over Hollywood, from Beyoncé's wardrobe during the On The Run tour to the custom dress Julianne Moore wore as she accepted the Golden Globe for best actress earlier this year.
Ryan Murphy is one of Hollywood's premier showrunners. In the last decade, he's created and produced television hits 'Nip/Tuck,' 'Glee,' 'American Horror Story,' and most recently 'Scream Queens.' Each of his shows boasts an ensemble cast, typically anchored by Hollywood heavyweights like Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange as well as next-generation stars like Lea Michele and Emma Roberts.
It's thanks to Murphy's expert direction and industry clout that these primetime horror-comedy-dramas have become cultural mainstays. Next up for Murphy? The debut of anthology miniseries 'American Crime Story' and a buzzed-about musical TV series he's working on with Gwyneth Paltrow.
Television writer and producer
Between massive hits 'Grey’s Anatomy,' 'Scandal,' and 'How To Get Away With Murder,' Shonda Rhimes keeps us glued to our TVs. Few understand captivating television drama better than Rhimes, who has perfected the art of the cliffhanger and is a master at keeping people talking and coming back for more. Her three shows own ABC’s Thursday nights — they run back to back to back — and have been a ratings boon for the network.
Not content limiting herself to TV, this year Rhimes released her first book, 'Year of Yes,' which has become a bestseller.
Head women's designer, J. Crew
Previously the designer spearheading Madewell's signature laid-back look, Somsack Sikhounmuong headed back to sister brand J. Crew this summer as its head women's designer. At Madewell, Sikhounmuong clarified the brand's look, differentiating it from its previous position as a watered-down version of J. Crew. His first collection garnered a 35% increase in sales and solidified Madewell as an arbiter of cool.
With J. Crew on a downswing, executives hope Sikhounmuong will restore the iconic brand to its former glory. A tall task, but if anyone is capable, it's him.
With the release of her latest album, '1989,' last November, Taylor Swift debuted a new sound and a new attitude. She's built up a notorious girl squad featuring the who's who of Hollywood, from Karlie Kloss to Selena Gomez, who all starred in her music video for 'Bad Blood,' which won the
MTV video music award for video of the year.
Not to mention, her record sales are off the charts -- '1989' sold over five million copies by July, making it the fastest-selling album of the last 10 years.
Not only is she breaking album records left and right, but the singer holds major clout on the business side of things. Within the last 12 months, Swift both pulled her music from Spotify -- stating that the streaming service doesn't pay artists enough -- and published an open letter to Apple, criticising its decision to not pay artists royalties during the three-month free trial period of Apple Music. Her letter ultimately convinced the company to change its policy.
Singer and actress
This year, Zendaya Coleman became a fixture in fashion and a co-producer and star of her own Disney Channel original series, 'K.C. Undercover.' The 19-year-old also made an appearance in Taylor Swift's viral 'Bad Blood' music video, and like her real-life friends and costars, she's a champion of female empowerment who frequently makes headlines for defending the integrity of women.
After an incident on February's Academy Awards red carpet where she was criticised by an interviewer for pairing dreadlocks with a couture gown, Zendaya spoke out to her 15 million Instagram followers. This fall, she partnered with Mattel to
create a Zendaya look-alike Barbie doll, encouraging girls 'to raise their voices.'
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