It’s taken time, but the truth is palpable now: There is a new vanguard of fashion designers establishing themselves as voices of the present and ones to watch for the future. This was made particularly clear when Karl Lagerfeld died and the venerable house of Chanel—at which the designer seemed immortal and untouchable—had to appoint a successor and move on.
This crop, however, are still in the earliest stages of their own labels, although between them they have formidable industry experience. Under their own names, however, we get to see their talents truly shine. It also illuminates the cultural zeitgeist, concerns and priorities in these designers’ voices—ideas which are shaping up to be drivers for the next decade of fashion design. Here are the
ones to watch (and shop).
New York City-based designer Peter Do is carrying the torch of minimalism left behind by Phoebe Philo, who in fact mentored him during his time with Céline. That’s not to say that Do is simply mimicking. Rather, he is creating his own vocabulary of elevated essentials rooted in a philosophy of reality and the need to dress women. Tailoring, in particular, is a strength—seen in the various ways simple silhouettes like shirts, jackets and trousers are deconstructed and remade with cerebral touches. Also of note are the spliced jackets, which can function either as a modern iteration of an office staple or worn as an abridged bolero for a more avant-garde style.
Then, there’s the fascinating “spacer” fabric that Do has developed. Unique to the brand and developed with a German mill, the spongy fabric offers insulation and durability despite its sheer appearance. The upshot is eminently wearable clothing, graced by intriguing details and a rigorous sophistication.
A NEW HIGH-LOW MIX
Big congratulations are in order for Christelle Kocher, the founder and designer behind the Koché label, for having won the ANDAM grand prize. Kocher has a formidable CV, having worked for Armani, Dries Van Noten, Chloé and Bottega Veneta. She was also recruited by Virginie Viard to become the artistic director at Maison Lemarié, the artisan feather house that supplies to haute couture designers. The Koché style is one of the most unique and convincing combinations of lofty luxury and pragmatic streetwear today. It addresses the women who are more likely to wear sneakers than heels; who would sooner celebrate over the perfect pair of jeans than a little black dress. There’s a sense of the everyday being elevated, and the codes of luxury and haute couture made relatable. In a time when the definitions of casual and formal are being rewritten, Christelle Kocher is offering an elegant middle ground.
SPACE AGE EXPERIMENTS
The designers behind Coperni—Sebastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant—aren’t new to the game, but they’re back, having relaunched their own label after a two-year stint leading the revival of French fashion house, Courrèges. Both brands have great affinity—Courrèges itself having been a respected modernist fashion label in the ’60s, and Meyer and Vaillant being inventive experimenters. Today,
Coperni is leading with the tool of the future: Instagram. Their fall/winter 2019 collection was presented on the app, a fitting home for the razor-sharp focus of their minimalist tailoring and separates. There is a future-ready sense to the designs, which were created to quickly become a go-to for perfected building blocks of your closet. Before 2016, the label had its own brand of underground cool, bolstered by connections to Parisian It girls like Lolita Jacobs. This time around, with new financial backing and a finalist finish in the prestigious ANDAM prize, Coperni looks ready to take off to greater heights.
MYSTERY & MOOD
This London label is, as they say, a big mood. A cinematic mood, to be precise, if you can pick up on the films that the designers Léa Dickely and Hung La reference for their collections. The name Kwaidan is itself pulled from a 1965 Japanese film anthology of folk horror tales; and while horror might not be an immediate association with the sharply cut and beautifully made clothes, it’s present as an undercurrent that gives the elegance a necessary tension. This season’s collection was inspired in part by underground raves of the ’90s and the secret agent movie trope. Think trench coats, high-shine leather suiting, crossed with tiger stripes and an all-seeing eye print. Kwaidan is special too because of how press-shy its designers are. Like a certain Martin Margiela, that Dickely and La can disappear behind the label and let the work speak for itself is a testament to its strength.
’80S CORPORATE REDUX
Maybe it’s the Crazy Rich Asians phenomenon, but Asian-Americans are having a moment in the spotlight. It’s apparent in the work of Commission NYC, a fledgling label founded by three first-generation immigrants in the Big Apple, which celebrates cultural intersections through a very specific lens of ’80s and ’90s corporate dressing in Asia, and an audience that was adopting Western style
habits. The three co-founders—Huy Lluong, Dylan Cai, and Jin Kay—credit the inspiration to their own mothers’ office attire. Slightly abstract, the style traffics generally in power dresser separates and
conservative knits, with a taste for floral prints. Although the founders hail from Korea (Kay) and Vietnam (Lluong and Cai), they share a strong inclination toward diasporic fashion with a sly twist. Cuts are modern and sexy, and fabrications sensual and luxurious. Industry insiders have taken notice, and the brand is now an exclusive on Net-a-Porter and part of the e-tailer’s Vanguard programme to support and bolster emerging designers.
AN AMERICAN VOICE OF CHANGE
A label that is embodying the triumphant rise of the African American voice is Pyer Moss, founded in 2013 by the designer Kerby Jean-Raymond. In two quick seasons, it’s already taken home the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund award, a major achievement for a brand that is black-owned and intent on celebrating that blackness. For spring/summer 2019, the brand was inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, a ’30s guidebook that directed black travellers to safe spaces. The resulting collection is
surprisingly uplifting: A beautiful rendition of what a normal black person’s life might be like sans
racism, in the form of clothes like a fully embroidered dress with the image of a father cradling his child. Jean-Raymond is known to eschew the streetwear description for his label, calling it “lazy and singular”. And indeed he’s right because Pyer Moss has far too much poetry and political bite to be simplified so summarily.
One of the most important cultural conversations at the moment centres around race and post-colonialism. Hard topics to approach even academically, but the British-Jamaican designer Grace Wales Bonner has managed to parse and dissect these ideas—through fashion, no less—and with sensitivity and intelligence. Though Wales Bonner started as a men’s brand, it made its foray into women’s fashion in spring this year and has already established itself as a brand of refinement and
purpose, one which deftly navigates contemporary blackness and culture. For her fall/winter 2019 collection, she drew from African academia and the stylistic codes of the collegiate experience. The result was a synthesis of thought and fashion rarely seen today, which perhaps makes her one of the most stimulating and exciting talents to watch develop.
PRIORITIES OF A GENERATION
French designer Marine Serre won the LVMH prize in 2017 but really gained prominence when she showed her spring/summer 2019 collection at Paris Fashion Week. Entitled “Hardcore Couture”, her show was current and urgent in the way it took on board matters of the day: The models had a sincere diversity while nearly half the clothes were made from upcycled materials, used in a way to evoke and update the tropes of haute couture. Serre’s appropriation gave the styles new life, sliding
commentary on social politics and sustainability effortlessly into her very desirable clothes. For this
season, Serre imagined a post-apocalyptic future, presenting padded outerwear and crescent-printed bodysuits (which looked suspiciously like gimp suits), referencing protection and kink culture. For being able to put across things that desperately need to be said, Marine Serre has quickly established herself as a voice worth listening to.
Of the four major fashion capitals, London is the most conducive to youth and counterculture in emerging fashion designers. But that sense of freewheeling verve has been missing for a while—until the Loverboy label by designer Charles Jeffrey took off in 2018. Both brand and designer are the club kid sort, and the cultures and references that Jeffrey pulls for his work are often in that vein: Queer, alternative and gleeful. Loverboy is exciting to watch because it is technically really good fashion and just plain fun in an industry that tends to take itself very seriously. It’s current and reflects a growing
optic and mainstream acceptance of queer culture and LGBT narratives in the media today. It’s also perhaps why the brand speaks to this generation of youth, who are finally finding representation
on the Loverboy runway.