Kate Wendelborn first appeared on our radar in 2013, as the designer of the Protagonist, the in-house line for Vanessa Traina’s e-commerce site, the Line. Now the 36-year-old, who is based in New York, where she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, is striking out on her own. But she is keeping the venture, which debuted last season with slouchy hand-knit sweaters, deliberately small: Instead of runway shows, Wendelborn prefers to “connect directly with the women who wear my clothes” on Instagram. Her spring lineup is filled with cozy yet special pieces, like slinky silk bodysuits that appear to be inside out, and flowing trousers with an oversize asymmetric button—all in painterly pastels. “I wanted the clothes to have a one-of-a-kind quality,” Wendelborn says.
Anaïs Jourden Mak, who was nicknamed Michael Jordan in school, is certainly showing superstar potential. The 27-year-old Hong Kong–based designer, whose brand Jourden was shortlisted for the 2015 LVMH Prize, started out as a fashion writer. She studied French and fashion at Studio Berçot, in Paris, but returned regularly to Hong Kong to put her ideas into practice with local tailors. “Hong Kong’s mix of high and low, old and new, refined and raw is a constant inspiration,” she says. Such contrasts are evident in pieces like a tulle miniskirt covered in embroidered polka dots, or a knockout paisley jacquard coat that resembles the bedraggled plumage of an exotic bird. “This collection is a reflection of the complex nature of girls.”
The London-based South Korean designer Rejina Pyo co-authored with her husband, the chef Jordan Bourke, Our Korean Kitchen, the winner of last year’s Fortnum & Mason Cookery Book award. Her diverse interests are no doubt what gives Pyo’s work a sui generis appeal. “My clothes are elegant but also playful,” she says, referring to a little black dress with Lucio Fontana–esque slits, a tinsel-fringe cocktail number, and wide-leg jeans peppered with large holes. Pyo, 33, studied under Central Saint Martins’ revered professor Louise Wilson before assisting designer Roksanda Ilincic; but she is also, it seems, a talented photographer, so it comes as no surprise that Pyo shot and styled her own lookbook.
Phylyda’s Lydia Maurer launched her swimwear brand in 2015 with the promise of taking the agony out of bathing suit shopping. Based in Berlin, Maurer employs eight different fit models to fine-tune her flattering silhouettes, which are executed using lingerie constructions, shirring, bonded seams, and high-elastane Lycra that doesn’t lose its shape. For spring, she’s delved into the steamy aesthetics of the photographer Guy Bourdin for color, texture, and mood. “I felt particularly drawn to the play between rigor and sensuality,” she says. Ironically, Maurer, 34, got her start working for grandes maisons like Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Paco Rabanne, where a size 36 is the standard. “Fashion is a wonderful dream factory, but I felt a yearning for diversity and kindness. I wanted to shake up the mean girls’ club.”
Heng Shu Atelier
The designer Eric Qu launched Heng Shu Atelier (in Chinese heng means “horizontal” and shu, “vertical”) in 2014, after becoming disheartened with the industry’s emphasis on trends. Working with six artisans and a cobbler in a cat-filled studio in Shanghai, the 26-year-old creates shoes like an old-school dressmaker, using prominent heel loops, satin ribbons, and laces that wrap under the foot. His Wave shoe is made from leather encased in linen, and his Lantern slippers are fashioned from ramie, a silk-like fabric once used for mummy-wrapping in Egypt. “The materials inspire the design,” Qu says. “My aim is to preserve the trace of the fabric, and make each pair of shoes unique.”
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