These are not necessarily the most buzzed-about new designers — although many of them are that as well — but, importantly, they are the ones that seem to be designing for the right now. Their vision is specific enough to feel special, while also remaining accessible for a contemporary consciousness. We have spoken a lot about the loss of history in fashion and the loss of a subcultural underground also having had a negative impact on the creativity of the industry as a whole. But these are the designers whose work actually manages to defy all that and to feel rooted in a sense of subculture — largely because they are the brands focused around designing for their friends. This is certainly a different approach to many of the great designers of the past, but then that seems to make sense in a way, given that our world has become so incredibly small as a result of the Internet.
Meaning in general has been in constant flux since fashion, media and consumerism have all become such global beasts. It follows, then, that in 2015 we now need to find new ways of creating meaning in fashion. Certainly, this still should be responsive to both the now and to what has come before, but in the absence of geographically defined subcultures, the vision needs to find some semblance of singularity. A perspective that certain consumer groups can connect with and also respond to. From new Belgian masters, to the rebellious French designers and innovative New Zealand creatives, this is the new guard of fashion designers that are shaping the way we want to dress now. And in my opinion, they are also the ones that are busy writing fashion’s new history.
1) Demna Gvasalia
Image: Vetements spring-summer 16. Image source.
There has been a lot of buzz about Georgian-born designer Demna Gvasalia lately. Firstly it was for his work with Vetements — one of the most buzzed-about labels to come out of Paris over the past few years — and then, even more recently, it came down to his appointment as the new creative director of Balenciaga, where Gvasalia has just replaced Alexander Wang. What is so unique about Gvasalia’s approach is that, first of all, he is quick not to take all the credit. In fact, Vetements always maintained that they were a ‘team of creative directors’ — he was just an unofficial leader in this regard. But also, similarly to Simon Porte Jacquemus, Gvasalia designs with a certain sense of subcultural specificity. Much of this comes down to the fact that he is designing for what his friends actually want to wear. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see how he goes at the house of Balenciaga, but with design chops earned at the likes of Louis Vuitton and Maison Martin Margiela, I suspect that his vision will be just what Balenciaga is looking for. And meanwhile, we will all just continue to covet Vetements everything — perhaps without even knowing that we’re doing so.
2) Caitlin Price
Image: Deconstructed ball gowns and reimagined sweatpants at Caitlin Price spring-summer 16. Image source.
Caitlin Price is a young London designer who just recently showed her second collection as part of the Fashion East emerging designer lineup for spring-summer 16. By all accounts, Caitlin Price’s customer is a new kind of girl. She has a distinctive look but also a sense of attitude — and it is the latter in particular that seems to be emerging as a key quality all these new guard designers seem to incorporate into their creations. Hers is an amalgamation of high and low aesthetics — which is very ‘now’, but is also something that I can’t see going away anytime soon. As life becomes increasingly busy, it only makes sense that we would embrace a sense of practicality in our clothing choices. And as the increasing commerciality of fashion leads to ever more homogenisation, we are also more likely to want a look that stands out. It doesn’t have to be garish, but it does need to feel like one’s own. And be well made, of course. In all of these aspects, Price just hits the nail on the head.
3) Faustine Steinmetz
Image: Faustine Steinmetz spring-summer 16 Image source.
Everyone has been talking about Marques’Almeida lately when it comes to both deconstruction and a fresh take on denim. And while that particular is are certainly going places — especially having taken home the LVMH Prize this year — I am also really loving what Faustine Steinmetz has been bringing to the table in this regard. Spring-summer 16 was the French designer’s third season and one of her most experimental to date. Since Steinmetz burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, she has been turning our idea of denim inside out and, this season, she also leant her hand to deconstructed tracksuits and other manifestations of marle. What is so special about this designer, though, is her couture-like precision. There is a real sense of skill to all of her pieces, but also an inherent wearability — resulting in a very well executed elevation of everyday wear. On behalf of Vogue, Chioma Nnadi likened Steinmetz’ pleat work for this collection to the manner of Issey Miyake, though Steinmetz’ way with denim really took that concept in a whole new direction as far as I’m concerned.
4) Molly Goddard
Image: Molly Goddard spring-summer 16. Image source.
In a sea of androgyny, London designer Molly Goddard is bringing back the girliness. She is reclaiming saccharine colour palettes and diaphanous fabrications for a modern consciousness and, in doing so, asserting that there is real strength to be found in ‘pretty’ clothing. This feels very antithetical to what a lot of other designers are doing right now — especially a lot of other emerging designers — but therein lies its power. It comes down to a sense of subcultural specificity again and Goddard is one of the only designers delivering hyper feminine clothing for a highly independent, intelligent modern woman. Her clothing makes a powerful statement about feminism and demonstrates that, in 2015, women can be and wear whatever the hell they want — if that so happens to be a pastel pink tutu, then that’s totally cool.
5) Simon Porte Jacquemus
Image: Jacquemus spring-summer 16. Image source.
Simon Porte Jacquemus makes clothes that you want to wear — there’s no other way to put it, really. Part of this has to do with the fact that he makes what many of his French friends like Jeanne Damas want to wear… and who doesn’t want to look like a chic Parisian blogger? But it is more than this too, because there is a sense of taking something really simple and everyday like a blazer and deconstructing that idea so that it carries more interest. In other words, his pieces are at once very statement making, but also totally capable of blending into the crowd. This is at the core of his power as a designer, I believe and really comes down to the fact that Jacquemus is a self-taught in his craft. From this perspective, his design choices are very much informed by real, everyday life and relationships, which lends a sense of subcultural specificity to his creations. You could have bought that white t-shirt anywhere, but the red patch pocket also gives it away: you are truly a Jacquemus girl, after all.
6) Georgia Alice
Image: Georgia Alice autumn-winter 15. Image source.
Georgia Alice is a homegrown hero and one that we just couldn’t not include on this list. The New Zealand designer may have only been around for a few years now, but her designs have already become instantly recognisable. In this way, she is not so dissimilar to Jacquemus and we want to be a part of her girl gang. Hers is an aesthetic more brooding — which is, of course, what we love about it — and there is always a point of interest to each and every piece that she creates. Whether it’s a raw hem, or an unusual off-shoulder silhouette, it is the attention to detail that really seems to set Alice’s work aside from the crowd. She is designing exactly what we want to wear today, but with the added measure of that distinctive touch.
Image: Y/Project spring-summer 16. Image source.
Glenn Martens is the young Belgian designer at the helm of Paris-based label Y/Project, which is seriously going places and fast. Initially conceived as a menswear brand, Y/Project introduced womenswear simply because their men’s line was so popular with women. To me, nothing feels like a more perfect reflection of where we at right now, culturally speaking. When asked what he thinks sets the brand apart, Martens told Revs Magazine “The attitude! It´s about the attitude. Comfort is the ultimate base for a vibe which accentuates strength and power. It’s all about being straight forward – no bullshit.” Comfort is definitely at the core of this label’s design ethos, but so is a sense of identity — and I think, in 2015, we all just basically want to be comfortable, but individual at the same time. “The collections have been described as a mix of Belgian concept, French chic, and British cool,” Martens continued. “That’s exactly where I want to go. We’re living in a melting pot. I love to translate that duality and versatility in our garments.” In other words, get on board with Y/Project asap.
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