The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion

The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion

From psychedelic explorations of Nigerian masculinity to subversions of prom-dress Americana and punk glamour – meet the new generation of radical creatives refreshing luxury fashion.

The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion


Born in Woolwich, A Sai Ta spent his childhood alternately assisting his seamstress mother with piecework on their living-room floor and taking orders at the local Blue Sea Noodle Bar. Clearly, those two activities have played formative roles in his nascent brand. His bestseller is his Hot Wok Top – a tie-dye nylon number assembled with seams of curling ribbons – while his expertise with fabric appears in tangle-threaded trousers and monofilament knits. Creating collections that are at once an homage to his Vietnamese roots and his south London youth, his tongue-in-cheek mash-ups of East-meets-West stereotypes have found cult status on both sides of the globe – and deservedly so.

The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion


Patric DiCaprio, Bryn Taubensee and Claire Sullivan often describe their brand, Vaquera, as “fashion fan fiction”, saying that they “aim to question industry norms and often reference iconic fashion in order to do so”. Thus far, that has meant polo shirts starring illustrated idols such as Martin Margiela and Andre Walker, a contemporary reworking of Vera Wentworth’s 1909 Suffragette uniform and subversions of prom-dress Americana – all contained within collections that strive to redefine the meaning of luxury. “We believe luxury can be conceptually rich clothing, and not just made with expensive materials,” they explain. “We’re interested in telling stories through our clothes – and we want our customers to feel like they can be a part of that.”

The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion


Born and raised in Lagos, Mowalola Ogunlesi’s Central Saint Martins graduate collection was a psychedelic exploration of Nigerian masculinity: an erotically charged take on Lagos’s high life and “petrol heads” rendered in paint-splattered leathers. It went global, garnering fans from Dev Hynes to Kanye West, and now the designer has resolved to take her aesthetic further with her official debut this month. “When I was growing up, the only thing people knew about Nigeria was internet scams,” Ogunlesi explains. “But I’m interested in exploring more about my culture, my history. Nobody ever talks about it – and I want to open up new conversations, connect to people, change their ways of thinking.”

The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion

Art School

Founded by Tom Barratt and Eden Loweth, Art School’s genderless approach to fashion might sound complex at first but, in their words, it simply means, “we don’t have to subscribe to how society believes people should be dressed”. That manifests in slip dresses and tailoring cut on the bias (the natural stretch of the stitch flatters evolving trans bodies and curves alike), casting models of all genders to wear their designs and creatively collaborating with their close-knit queer community. Their determination not to be limited by clear-cut binaries makes for a contemporary spirit in both their philosophy and aesthetic – after all, as they say, “Gender is now passé, people just want beautiful clothes!


The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion

Richard Malone

Irish-born Malone has built his brand with remarkable resourcefulness: from making clothes out of discarded local building materials and staging his debut show in Old Street Tube station to using repurposed ocean plastics to fabricate many of his recent offerings. Lately, his staunch commitment to sustainability has evolved into collaborating with Italian fabric house Taroni (whose sumptuous satins have been used by couturiers from Givenchy to Balenciaga, and whose eco credentials are impressively thorough), blending their exquisite luxury with purposeful practicality. “Looking at sustainability is critical to creating something modern,” he explains of his resolve. “My job is to address that, while making desirable, functional clothing. You have to want the product before knowing its credentials – and eventually, I hope that will be the norm.”


The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion

Matthew Adams Dolan

It wasn’t until, at age 17, this Massachusetts-born designer happened upon a Vivienne Westwood exhibition that he understood how fashion could reflect its sociocultural surrounds. That realisation prompted Dolan’s graduate thesis (titled From Calvinism to Calvin Klein) and the investigation into American style now contained within his namesake brand. Exploring the quintessentially preppy Americana mode of dress – this season took Claire McCardell as its primary reference point – Dolan is imbuing familiar codes with an energetic spirit of inclusivity during a time when American society is particularly divided. “Even if you aren’t interested in fashion, you’ll have seen the idea of the American dream plastered across billboards,” he says. “The idea of making that visual language more reflective of broader society – of real society – is a political comment in and of itself.”


The 7 Young Designers Who Are Redefining Contemporary Fashion

Symonds Pearmain

The brainchild of designer Anthony Symonds and stylist Max Pearmain, this brand presents a brilliantly nuanced – and completely covetable – perspective on contemporary design. “We believe in fashion and we want to make clothes that reflect that,” explains Pearmain – or, in Symonds’s more oblique terms, think “a light-hearted conversation between a pair of vintage Katharine Hamnett fatigues and an Yves Saint Laurent status blouse, refereed by a Buffalo Gal”. What results is a glamorous vision of casual wear, paying tribute to punk theatricality with exacting finesse – what more could you want?

Photo Credits: Campbell Addy

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