Though we’ve forever been proponents of the little guys, it’s never been more important to highlight buzzy, new designers than it is right now. In our current economy, support is in high demand for small brands. So if you’re in a position to shop, our list of 18 up-and-coming designers is the perfect place to start the hunt for creative, cool pieces that are anything but standard fare. From gender-fluid collections, a fresh a take on shirting, and brands that leverage artisanal Nigerian textiles to kilts gone high fashion, and minimal standouts, the following designers are the gems you’re going to want to keep on your radar going into 2021.
1. Kenneth Ize
Kenneth Ize is a Lagos-born designer who melds a modern eye with an artisanal approach. He works with a small community of weavers and a variety of artisan and design groups across the country to create collections that leverage stripes, color, and traditional Nigerian fabrications for smart, cool separates. As the designer told BAZAAR.com earlier this year, “The work that I’m trying to do speaks to freedom. It speaks justice. And it also speaks to intelligence.”
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2. Piece of White
Founded in Istanbul in 2017 by Zeynep Tansug as a shirt brand with an emphasis on white poplin, Piece of White has recently expanded into more ready-to-wear and leather and silk options, while also expanding her palette to include gray, beige, and khaki. Tansug launched the label with her Mediterranean home and culture as her main source of inspiration, and her fluid, airy, elegant pieces continue to reflect that vibe.
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LVIR melds the nearly three decades of experience that designer Ji Young and her husband, Won Seob Lee, had accrued in the design and business side of the fashion industry before they founded the brand in 2017. The South Korea–based label takes cues from traditional workwear and menswear. The vibe is “Jean Cocteau’s loose-fit dandy suits meet Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine“—minimal with just the right bit of traditional preppy.
4. Harris Reed
One of the reigning leaders in fluid fashion, Harris Reed was discovered by names like Harry Styles, Solange Knowles, and Alessandro Michele of Gucci while still a student at Central Saint Martins. The brand is self-described as “Romanticism bone nonbinary,” with an inherent beauty and drama that defies gender and champions inclusivity. It’s also the perfect place to procure a killer pair of platform boots.
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5. ART SCHOOL
ART SCHOOL, founded by Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt, is a thoroughly of-the-moment label. Read: unisex, London based, and with a focus on “redefining the limitations of ready-to-wear gendered fashion” with an “aim to celebrate idiosyncratic individuality of queer style,” according to its brand bio. Already the recipients of many accolades, the design duo has worked with prominent emerging designers including LVMH prize winner Grace Wales Bonner and first debuted at London Fashion Week Fall 2017 with the support of Fashion East.
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Rok Hwang is the talent behind London-based fashion house Rokh. Born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in Austin, Texas (before moving to London and showing his collection in Paris), Hwang effortlessly melds British Saville Row masculine tailoring and fabrications with a laid-back American vibe. His collections reference conceptual art and avant-garde women’s fashion, a cool mix he’s mastered since launching in just 2017. A grad of Central Saint Martins, Hwang was the 2018 recipient of LVMH Special Prize.
7. Chopova Lowena
The common kilt has received a major upgrade and a lot of fanfare in the innovative hands of designers Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena. The duo who are American and British, respectively, joined forces during their bachelor’s program at Central Saint Martins. With an emphasis on sustainability and craft while reworking classic styles, we consider these pieces a modern heritage investment.
Founded by Michelle Perrett in 2015, Matin takes a laid-back Aussie mood (her family has long been in the Australian garment industry) and marries it with a decidedly French attitude. Perrett created Matin out of a desire to make wearable, elegant, locally made clothing. The fabrications are soft and tactile with easy shapes that leverage just the right amount of drama—like an extra-long coat, an open back, or a bit of an oversized sleeve for that something standout on an otherwise simple design.
9. Sindiso Khumalo
A Central Saint Martins graduate with a degree in architecture as well, Sindiso Khumalo takes a unique approach to design that melds interesting patterns, shapes, and colors. This textile designer based in Cape Town puts an emphasis on sustainable practices and has made craft a hallmark of the label, while also drawing on her Zulu and Ndebele heritage for impactful collections. Her vibrant, feminine dresses will be a hit in beach towns come summer.
10. Thebe Magugu
Thebe Magugu is a breakout South African design star and the first African designer to take home the celebrated LVMH Prize. He leverages the history and unique aesthetics of the African diaspora with an eye on modern, streamlined design. Magugu’s ready-to-wear collections always have celebrating women in mind, explaining on his brand site, “We are constantly surrounded by women, and on a personal level, the trait I have always found most admirable is their powerful ability to possess both strength and vulnerability.”
We’d venture it’s not too much of a coincidence that fashion label Aeron shares its name with a famed Herman Miller–designed chair. Both leverage human-based design to create sleek, cool, effortless items. The Budapest-based brand was founded by Eszter Áron, a designer who hails from generations of tailors. Inspired by the arts and fashion thanks to her mother, the designer looks to beautiful materials, traditional craftsmanship, and the brutalist aesthetics of her hometown when creating her sustainable collections.
Svetlana Bevza is not new to the fashion game, but her brand, Bevza, is hitting its stride Stateside. After showing collections for more than a decade in the Ukraine, Bevza debuted in New York in 2018 and put her brand on the map. Minimal yet feminine with a fervent celeb and influencer following, Bevza is approachable luxury that feels current without falling into trend traps. The designer recently added sustainable knitwear to her collection of sleek dresses, pearl bra tops, and ’90s-inspired suiting.
Camille Perry and Holly Wright joined 15 years of design experience to launch their London-based label. Known for streamlined basics and simple yet statement-making open-back summer dresses, the pair creates clothing with a sense of ease and an emphasis on forever pieces. Tove is named for the Danish girl’s name, which means strength and beauty—two ideas the brand is founded upon.
14. Cecilie Bahnsen
After graduating from the Danish School of Design, working as a design assistant at Erdem, and freelancing at Christian Dior, Cecilie Bahnsen debuted her spring/summer 2016 collection. Soon after, it was stocked exclusively in Dover Street Market, and now she’s primed to take over the fashion world, one decadent, frothy creation at a time.
15. Peter Do
Peter Do launched his eponymous brand in 2018. The bio on his website reads, “Peter Do is a uniform for the modern woman, founded on tailoring, construction, and fine textiles.” The refined simplicity and restraint, even in words, perfectly defines the designer. He is well known for having worked under Phoebe Philo at Céline, but in a very short amount of time has established himself as a major newcomer in the space. Do’s innovative jacket designs and inspired approach to minimalism set him apart.
16. Paris Georgia
Launched in 2015 by friends Paris Mitchell Temple and Georgia Cherrie, the It girl brand uses sustainability as a hallmark, as 95 percent of the collection is made in New Zealand. Sleek but still feminine, Paris Georgia has built a loyal following of models and influencers, but its approachable price points make it ideal for all girls who love a pretty but special piece.
Monika Silva is a Colombian-born knitwear specialist with a decade of industry experience who had a fateful meeting with the founder of Parrot (a global fashion agency), which led to the creation and launch of GAUGE81 (pronounced “GO-SH”) in 2019. Once we heard of this brand, we couldn’t miss it, as it hit every major retailer right out of the gate, thanks to its “crisp, no fuss ’90s [aesthetic] with a dash of Sex and the City.” These are clothes made for dancing in.
Offering both menswear and womenswear, Arjé is breathing new life into the luxury fashion world. A see-now, buy-now brand helmed by husband-and-wife duo Bessie Afnaim Corral and Oliver Corral, the label launches three collections a year, each of which is available to shop two weeks after its debut. With luxe shearling coats, chunky knits, and wardrobe essentials, Arjé is bringing forth a new wave of classics for your closet.
This article first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US