Move over Marc (Jacobs), Michael (Kors), Ralph (Lauren), Stella (McCartney) and all of you French heritage brands, there’s some new kids in town who are nipping at your heels. While the fashion capitals of the world, New York, London , Milan and Paris have long been touted as the breeding grounds for creativity, innovation, and style, it is really the up & comers are making their way into the spotlight. No, they can’t afford million dollar fashion show productions like the big guns but thanks to social media and and tons of talent, there is a new crop of young designers who are stealing the spotlight and captivating audiences with their fresh perspectives and daring designs.
From avant-garde creations to sustainable fashion statements, these young designers are not only making a name for themselves but are reshaping the fashion landscape as we know it.
In New York, the runway buzzed with excitement as designers like Jacques Agbobly and Meruert Tolegen made their fashion week debut, infusing the city’s fashion scene with a sense of youthful energy. Their collections, inspired by a fusion of cultural influences and personal experiences, offered a refreshing take on modern elegance. From striking silhouettes to unexpected fabric combinations, each piece told a story, inviting viewers to embark on a journey of sartorial exploration.
Meanwhile, across the pond in London, a similar sense of innovation permeated the catwalks as emerging talents such as Talia Byre and Zeng Yue, the creative directors for Momonary, captivated audiences with their bold vision. Embracing diversity and inclusivity, their collections celebrated individuality in all its forms, challenging traditional notions of beauty and style. With nods to streetwear and couture alike, these designers showcased the eclectic spirit of London’s fashion scene, where creativity knows no bounds.
But beyond the glamour of the runway, the importance of young designers presenting their collections extends far deeper. In an industry often dominated by established names and commercial giants, Fashion Week provides a crucial platform for emerging talents to make their mark. It’s a chance for them to share their unique perspective, connect with industry insiders, and gain invaluable exposure globally.
Moreover, the rise of young designers signifies a broader shift towards sustainability and ethical practices within the fashion industry. Many emerging talents are placing greater emphasis on eco-conscious design, opting for organic materials, ethical production methods, and zero-waste principles. By championing sustainability, these designers are not only shaping the future of fashion but also driving positive change within the industry as a whole.
In a world where creativity knows no bounds, the importance of supporting young designers cannot be overstated. Their fresh ideas, bold experimentation, and fearless innovation are the lifeblood of the fashion industry, driving it forward into uncharted territory. As we reflect on the Fall 2024 shows in New York and London, let us celebrate the next generation of talent and embrace the endless possibilities they bring to the world of fashion. Because after all, the University of Fashion is the breeding ground for training new talent.
So, here’s to the dreamers, trailblazers and visionaries—these new young designers are reshaping the future of fashion, one collection at a time.
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK 2024
Jacques Agbobly is a 26-year-old designer whose namesake knitwear brand, Agbobly, honors the designer’s Togolese heritage while celebrating Black culture. Stemming from the designer’s first brand, BlackBoyKnits, Agbobly embodies numerous layers of the designer’s identity, through colorful knit pieces that tell a story with every stitch.
“Grateful,” Jacques Agbobly told WWD, a few minutes before his first show at New York Fashion Week. This up-and-comer was WWD ‘s One to Watch honor and was also just nominated for the LVMH Prize. Fall served as a “bienvenue” he said to WWD, a welcome to his work, his culture and his skills at a time when a lot of industry eyes are directed at the brand.
Agbobly seamlessly merges his Chicago and Togolese (African) roots in his collection. Western-inspired shirts with detailed topstitching came from watching countless western movies, while his suits had flashes of the Togo flag colors. The collection also featured plenty of bold knitwear, which is quickly becoming his signature look. Agbobly also played with eveningwear with a vibrant green corset minidress, proving that the designer is more than a one-trick pony.
New York-based designer Meruert Tolegen presented her first runway show with a calming, romance-tinged fall collection. After debuting her namesake label in 2020, the bio-scientist turned fashion designer has honed in on mixing elements from her Kazakh culture and her New York life, with fanciful, and often historical fashion, touches.
“I’ve been exploring a lot with textures in previous seasons. This time, I haven’t shifted focus — I’m still mixing fabrics, but in a smarter way. In the creative aspect, I wanted to balance that with creating those interesting shapes and prints, which add to the quirkiness,” she explained backstage to WWD. Her whimsical “floral” print, was created with AI tools, and was seen on the season’s myriad sweet dresses and quilted topcoat. It’s actually a motif of flying ghosts, “which ties into that search of yourself, which is what the season is quite a bit about.”
In her runway debut, Tolegen featured bustiers, fitted shapes and interesting volumes, crafting a mix of calico dresses, voluminous mantle, and pannier gowns. But the real winners of the collection were her bow-adorned, beaded, and ruffle-trimmed romantic dresses.
Tolegen also introduced menswear for the first time. “Let men be whimsical as well,” she said to WWD. And UOF couldn’t agree more.
Nigel Xavier completed in Netflix’s show, “Next in Fashion” and went from reality TV star to fashion week darling. His unique upcycled designs struck a chord with judges and viewers, as he won the show’s second season last year.
“It was the perfect opportunity for me to just show all my talents because I always approached [design] from a more art standpoint than just fashion design,” he told WWD. “There, I could actually show just one piece and not have to worry about the business side of it. It was just like tailor-made for how I approached fashion this whole time. Then I got the win and now I’m just building the brand to be even more on that fashion house level, rather than just staying in the mode of what I’ve done before.”
Tapestry Collection is the title of Xavier’s debut collection, which continues the nostalgic vibe he’s always incorporates in his pieces. The limited-drop collection offers puffer jackets and trousers made from upcycled tapestries depicting images of angels, wolves, eagles, and other motifs. Xavier is making sustainability oh so fashion forward.
LONDON FASHION WEEK 2024
Who doesn’t love a stripe? Talia Byre sure does. They were the central motif in her collection, which included every incarnation from Breton to candy and awning to pin.
Not only was the designer inspired by her love of stripes, but she also looked to the artist Amedeo Modigliani’s portraits of Beatrice Hastings, his longtime partner. The color palette took cues from Modigliani’s hues of browns and tans, with pops of blue and red.
“This season we wanted to hone the silhouette. We added collars, detailing, zip trims, but stayed true to our quite tight silhouette with flared flamenco hem,” the designer explained to WWD.
Lucila Safdie’s emerging brand is an expression of femininity and empowerment, but with a flirty, girlish twist.
Motivated by the writer Sylvia Path’s work “The Bell Jar”, Safdie created a collection inspired by ’50s shapes, but with a more contemporary edge. Safdie told WWD, her label has a “schoolgirl, coming-of-age aesthetic of my brand”.
The line-up was filled with A-line mini dresses, as well as cropped polo shirts and jackets. There were also low-waisted denim trousers, slouchy shirts and leggings.
Zeng Yue, the creative director for the brand Momonary, was inspired by map-making and said in an interview with WWD, the aim was to layer lightweight material to create a heavily textured look. “Thin, map-printed chiffon layers cascade, revealing the ever-changing terrain. Gold-stitched embroidery flowers act as coordinates, marking our journey.”
Yue worked with a delicate wash of soft pastels and adding fragile floral and sparkling crystal appliqués to the collection.
For fall, Yue also created a partnership with 3M and used the organization’s animal-free loose fill insulation for outerwear. They were quilted and dotted with fluttering silk flowers and were paired with wide-leg trousers and bubble skirts.
FINANCIAL CHALLENGES YOUNG DESIGNERS FACE
Amidst the glamour of fashion, young designers encounter a formidable foe: financial hurdles that threaten to overshadow their creative vision.
In the competitive landscapes of fashion capitals, the journey from sketchbook to runway is fraught with challenges, particularly for those at the dawn of their careers. For budding designers, the quest for financial stability can feel like navigating a labyrinth, with numerous obstacles blocking the path to success.
One of the foremost challenges facing young designers in New York and London is the exorbitant cost of living and operating a business. In both cities, sky-high rents for studio spaces and storefronts devour a significant portion of a designer’s budget before a single garment hits the market. Securing a prime location in SoHo or Covent Garden may be a dream, but the reality often entails sacrificing profitability for visibility.
Moreover, the expenses associated with production and materials add another layer of complexity to the financial puzzle. From sourcing high-quality fabrics to hiring skilled artisans, the costs can quickly spiral out of control, especially for independent designers with limited resources. While mass production offers economies of scale, it dilutes the artisanal essence that sets emerging designers apart in a sea of fast fashion.
In the age of social media and influencer marketing, establishing a brand presence is essential for success. However, building a strong online presence requires a significant investment in digital marketing and e-commerce platforms. From website development to targeted advertising campaigns, the costs can accumulate rapidly, leaving young designers grappling with the dilemma of allocating limited funds between creativity and commerce.
Despite these formidable challenges, the resilience and ingenuity of young designers continue to shine through. Many have embraced innovative approaches to circumvent financial barriers and carve out their niche in the competitive fashion landscape. Collaborations with established brands and retailers offer a mutually beneficial opportunity to gain exposure and access additional resources, albeit with compromises on creative control.
Furthermore, the rise of sustainable and ethical fashion presents a silver lining for environmentally conscious designers seeking to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. By prioritizing transparency and responsible sourcing practices, they not only appeal to a socially conscious consumer base, but also align with the values of a younger generation increasingly disillusioned with the excesses of fast fashion.
In recent years, initiatives such as mentorship programs and incubators have emerged to support aspiring designers in overcoming financial obstacles and realizing their entrepreneurial ambitions. Through guidance from industry veterans and access to funding opportunities, these programs empower young designers to navigate the complex terrain of fashion business with greater confidence and resilience.
Ultimately, while financial hurdles may persist for New York and London’s young designers, they are not insurmountable. With perseverance, creativity, and strategic thinking, emerging talents can defy the odds and carve out a niche for themselves in the fiercely competitive world of fashion. As they navigate the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, they embody the spirit of innovation that defines the cultural fabric of their beloved cities.