Wendelborn 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.
Jourden 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.”
Rejina Pyo 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 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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Edith Marcel’s designers Gianluca Ferracin and Andrea Mastato looked to the color palette of Francis Bacon’s swirling, distorted portraits for inspiration in their genderless, tailored collection. The end result included exaggerated volumes and silhouettes, artificially flattened trousers, and shirts with oversized cuffs in shades of black, bottle green and pumpkin.
Alexander Flagella, 31, of Greta Boldini imagined a woman “determined to conquer the world with her beauty” in his collection. His warrior femme fatales wore embroidered layers underneath a patchwork of mink, fox and Mongolian lamb mixed with mohair and wool.
Marianna Cimini’s “Bamboo Theory” collection, which was inspired by Wong Kar-Wai heroines from “2046,” was both romantic and complicated. The designer’s long, elegant silhouettes were made out of rich textiles like silk velvet and playful bamboo prints.
Brognano’s Nicola Brognano, the 26-year-old designer who won Who is on Next last summer, drew inspiration from his experience working on the couture collections for Giambattista Valli and Dolce & Gabbana. “This season I thought of ‘Hot Couture,’ a kind of fake couture, an unpretentious approach to high fashion,” he explained of the collection, which included a red hot bustier dress with a tiered tulle skirt worn with a coordinating baseball cap.
Italian American Jezabelle Cormio, 26, launched Cormio with the mission of creating an evening-wear line that’s “mystical, anarchic, and naively glamorous.” The result: unexpected combinations of tailoring, draping, delicate fabrics and embellishment that looks like a wild child had her way with mama’s finery. The young designer, who is based out of Italy’s Veneto, is now sold at Opening Ceremony in L.A. and New York.
Vien Atelier’s Vincenzo Palazzo took menswear classes, like the universal trench and plaid trousers, and reinterpreted them in supersized, beautifully tailored versions.
Sisters Lulu and Anna Poletti continue their family’s shirt-making tradition with Melampo Milano, a new label that mixes embroidered florals with stripes, plaids, and tapestries inspired by surrealist painter Dino Valls.
Morphosis’ Alessandra Cappielo experimented with velvet’s range in her collection, by using it in almost every look, in a variet of colors, and mixed with transparent florals, tulle and ruffles. The designer’s customers–romantically inclined clients like pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque and violinist Viktoria Mullova–will certainly be pleased.
Miahatami’s Narguess Hatami left her native Iran to study and work in fashion in Italy for MSGM, and now has her own brand. Her new collection, “Oasis in the Desert,” was inspired by Iran’s Ghashghai and Bakhtiari tribes, and utilizes traditional techniques such as taspesty-style bouclé loop stitch knitwear, sculpted fringe and kilim carpet weaves.
Parden’s Daniele Giorgio layered fabrics and colors to create an assymetrical maze that looked like a moving painting.
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