In every episode of Project Runway, host and judge Heidi Klum never fails to remind the contestants that “in fashion: one day you’re in and the next day, you’re out”. Being a fashion designer is not for the faint of heart and one has to continuously keep up with consumers’ needs and demands—which isn’t easy. Yet, every year there is a fresh crop of fashion designers with a unique perspective hoping to make their mark in the world. Here’s our take on the top eight rising Western fashion designers that are making a splash in the industry.
Photo: Instagram / @rotatebirgerchristensen
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Following his win of the coveted LVMH Prize for Graduates at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Peter Do started working under Phoebe Philo at Celine in 2014. There, Philo became his creative mentor and he often attributes his success to her tutelage in interviews by publications such as Vogue and i-D magazine. For his inaugural Spring/Summer 2019 collection, he took inspiration from American photographer Irving Penn’s “Small Trades” photographs of everyday people in the 1950s and Tokyo street style in the 90s.
He has a unique approach to shirting where, unlike designers such as Rei Kawakubo, he doesn’t deconstruct silhouettes to prove a point—he does it with tailoring, unique details and in fabric choices. From the use of sheer fabrics to cut-outs with surgical precision, his designs embody an understated femininity that also has a dose of masculinity.
We’re in the fourth-wave of feminism. And fashion designers such as Do who combine traditionally feminine and masculine aspects to create a modern uniform and wardrobe for every women are doing their part in breaking down patriarchal notions of what it means to dress like a modern women. It’s too early to say if and how he will inspire the next generation of fashion designers, but he’s off to a good start. Thank you, Phoebe.
Available exclusively on www.net-a-porter.com.
Photo: Instagram / @the.peterdo
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A list of up-and-coming fashion designers making an impact in the fashion industry wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Henry Bae and Shaobo Han, the creators of Syro—a New York-based high-heeled shoe line for men. They too, are addressing the topic of gender-roles in fashion, but about femme men. They created their Instagram shop, @shopsyro, in response to fashion industry’s offering, or lack thereof, of high-heels for men.
Fresh out of college, Bae started working in the footwear industry and had an epiphany that men had little to no options when it came to femme footwear. So when it came time to create shoes, for queer men such as himself, “it was clear that our very existence would be our mission. Femme expression and representation is Syro’s mission”, he said in an interview with Refinery29.
Their offerings normalise what it means for men to wear high-heels, steering away from the notions that the footwear is only reserved for drag queens or fetishism in the bedroom. A great example of how they’ve done this is when American drag queen, RuPaul, wore it on his mainstream reality-TV competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race, out of drag and in a suit.
The best part about their brand is that if you’re a woman, have large feet and can’t find heels in conventional stores, you too can shop at Syro. #inclusivity
Available at www.shopsyro.com.
Photo: Instagram / @shopsyro
The term sustainability has become a buzzword in fashion. Everyone, from fast-fashion giant H&M to luxury fashion label Stella McCartney, have incorporated it not only into their vocabulary, but in their business proposition as well. Which is great, but what does it really mean? In fashion, sustainability could mean anything from ethical and environmentally ways of farming and harvesting of natural fibres to create fabric to a brand’s longevity in the market. However, Pratt Institute graduate Margaret Burton subscribes to neither. To her, the idea of creating new products when the market is already saturated with new brands and new products seemingly every week, didn’t make sense.
For her thesis, Burton employed a zero-waste approach, inspired by her trip to India. There, she visited factories that manufacture fast-fashion and was stunned by the volume of clothing that becomes waste. So, she took donated pairs of Levi’s jeans from friends and families and repurposed them into new jeans through millennials lenses. And during Pratt’s annual jury day, her innovative work caught the attention of Eckhaus Latta’s Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, whose fashion label revamps dead-stock clothing in a comparable manner.
Think boxers made from Dad’s shirt and your ex-boyfriend’s shirt, or jerseys made into drawstring bags.
For her latest collection, Collection 3, Burton continues to use donated garments to juxtapose sportswear and tailored wear. She reinterprets business casual in shirts made from T-shirts and a suit made from American basketball star, Lebron James’ jerseys. Her designs destigmatise the notion that repurposed clothes are ‘ugly’ and she does it with a never-before-seen flair. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing a lot of her in the coming years.
Available at www.margaretburtoninc.com/repurposed.
Photo: Instagram / @_margaretburton_
When it comes to Seoul-born Parsons graduate, Song Ryoo, think Hussein Chalayan meets contemporary Scandinavian furniture via the lenses of a young women. She was one of the 12 finalists of the Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination design competition back in 2016. And whilst at Parsons in New York, she interned with Thai-American fashion designer Thakoon and Korean Vogue.
Ryoo was primarily inspired by her interior stylist mother and developed an appreciation for modern Scandinavian homeware such as globe floor lamps and curvilinear furniture. And when it came time to execute her thesis whilst at Parsons, she came up with the concept of fashion as furniture (think: Hussein Chalayan table dress but more abstract). Her thesis consists of a jacket and skirt featuring transparent panels reminiscent of Venetians blinds coupled with geometric shapes. She has since gone on to create her own luxury handbag label, Song Ryoo, which launched this year.
In the world of fashion, very few designers have successfully translated architecture into fashion, save for Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyake, to name a few. Akin to Kawakubo, Ryoo interprets architecture as space and uses that philosophy in her bag designs to create something unique and long lasting.
To her credit, Ryoo has successfully demonstrated her unique perspective on this topic via her collections and the fashion industry is taking notice. Which is why it’s so interesting to see what else this young designer has to offer in her upcoming collections.
Available at www.songryoo.com/.
Photo: Instagram / @songryoo_official
Londoner A Sai Ta, of Vietnamese and Chinese heritage, graduated from Fashion East, a non-profit organisation and created his label Asai in 2017. This seems like a prototypical fashion designer’s story right? Wrong. Ta’s come-up in the fashion industry was as unique as his interpretation of fashion.
Generally, Fashion East supports selected graduates for up to three collections. But for Ta, they broke their own rules and decided to continue to support his fourth collection and give him one final push to come into his own—and he did. With his fourth collection, he wanted to turn the Western gaze on the East on its head. At his Autumn/Winter 2019 runway show entitled “Ground Up” in London, models walked down the runway in autumn-hued yarns, drooping wool jester hats and duvet coats. British Blogger, Susanna Lau, described his collection as “a Britishness that is shaded in loden, moss-tinged, slate, oak and mire”. But even deeper than that, his collection was a commentary on Brexit and is a quiet exploration of identity and diversity. A trend we’re seeing in young designers’ work in a Trump-Brexit world.
With the success of his fourth collection, Ta took his brand from being sold via DM on Instagram to being stocked at Rei Kawakubo’s multi-label store, Dover Street Market and online luxury retailer Ssense. We have no doubt that we’ve yet to see the last from this talented young fashion designer.
Available at www.ln-cc.com/en/brands/women/asai/.
Photo: Instagram / @asaitakeaway
Haitian-American fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond founded his label Pyer Moss back in 2013. But it wasn’t until September 2018 that the fashion world at-large took notice of him when he showed his Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear collection at New York Fashion Week, which was an unapologetic celebration of black culture.
Prior to designing his collection, during the research phase, he stumbled upon a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guidebook for African-Americans first published in the 1930s during the Jim Crow-era in America. He mused over the idea of what life in America would be like for black folk if they didn’t have to worry about racism. So, he recruited emerging artist Derrick Adams to breathe life into his vision by commissioning 10 painting that were woven into his collection. One of the paintings depicted an image of a young black man grilling burgers, and was printed on a plain white T-shirt. Another painting of a black page boy and flower girl at a wedding was also printed but this time on an oversized silk shirt. According to Jean-Raymond, it was “just black people doing normal things”. There was nothing negative or hateful in his commentary, instead it was an imagination of a Utopian world where people of colour were going about their ordinary day doing ordinary tasks—and it was beautiful.
Pyer Moss’ collection on the celebration black culture came at a very important time in the fashion industry and in history—a time when people of colour in the industry are saying enough is enough and are looking for change, from inclusivity in model castings to hiring hair and makeup artists equipped to perform their roles on black talents. He made a statement and sparked a conversation that was long overdue without a hint of negativity. As if that wasn’t reason alone to celebrate Jean-Raymond, he was also named the winner of 2018’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award.
Available at www.pyermoss.com.
Photo: Instagram / @pyermoss
Nina Kharey, founder of Calgary-based ready-to-wear fashion label, Nonie, rose to fame as the designer who created Meghan Markle’s iconic sleeveless trench coat dress. Riding on the coattails of her new found fame, Kharey decided to show her Spring/Summer 2019 collection at New York Fashion Week in 2018 where she received critical acclaim.
Thanks to what’s touted as the “Meghan Effect”, the venue where she showed her collection was overflowing with guests, all in anticipation of what Kharey had up her sleeves. And the collection did not disappoint. She took inspiration from her Indian heritage and reflected it in her collection in the form of silk and draping. The garments were a reimagination of the traditional Indian culture through Western lenses.
Kharey’s ambition for her label is to provide the wearer with an effortless and timeless style that’ll become a wardrobe staple for everyday women. She has the royal seal of approval and ours too.
Available at www.houseofnonie.com.
Photo: Instagram / @nonie.official
Social media influencers, Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Friis Madsen founded their label Rotate, in response to women’s desires to be feminine and opulent at the same time—and they’ve done exactly that whilst keeping them wallet-friendly.
They attributed their work ethic from being at a magazine for their success, while admitting neither of them have any formal design training but know what looks flattering on a woman. That said, the true inspiration behind the label was their lifestyle. They were both working in the fashion industry and always had an event to attend, but with their monthly salary, they couldn’t afford a new party frock (dresses were either too expensive or weren’t fabulous enough) each time they had somewhere to be. So, they came together to create Rotate and the success of their brand speaks for itself.
Sometimes it takes a simple idea like creating affordable yet extravagant party-appropriate dresses to disrupt the fashion industry. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what the duo has to offer next.
Available at www.rotatebirgerchristensen.com.
Photo: Instagram / @rotatebirgerchristensen