SHAMROCK STYLE: A LOOK AT IRELAND’S FASHION LEGENDS THROUGH THE DECADES

Couturier Sybil Connolly photographed at the launch of her US collection in June 1953. (Photo Credit: Irish Independent)

March is not only known as Woman’s History Month, but it is Irish American Heritage Month as well. So, it is only fitting on St. Patrick’s Day, to pay homage to Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, including its vibrant contributions to the fashion world. From the traditional craftsmanship of tweed and lace to the avant-garde designs of contemporary couturiers, Irish fashion designers have left an indelible mark on the industry.

As we honor Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, let’s also take a moment to salute the visionary designers who have helped to put Irish fashion on the map. From the timeless elegance of Sybil Connolly to the avant-garde creations of Simone Rocha, their contributions to the world of fashion will continue to inspire generations to come. So, whether you’re donning a piece of Irish knitwear or a bold statement hat, let’s tip a beer to the creativity, innovation, and style of Ireland’s fashion legends. Sláinte!

Join UOF as we take a journey through the decades to explore the legacy of some of Ireland’s most influential fashion icons.

SYBIL CONNOLLY: DUBLIN’S DIOR

A look by Sybil Connolly. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

No discussion of Irish fashion would be complete without mentioning Sybil Connolly, often referred to as Dublin’s Dior. Connolly gained international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s for her exquisite couture creations, which often featured traditional Irish textiles like handwoven tweed and delicate lace. Her designs were celebrated for their romantic elegance and attention to detail, earning her a devoted clientele that included Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.

IRENE GILBERT: PIONEER OF IRISH FASHION

A selection of Irene Gilbert’s designs on display at the Little Museum of Dublin. (Photo Credit: Little Museum of Dublin)

Irene Gilbert was another true pioneer of Irish fashion, breaking boundaries and challenging conventions throughout her career. Gilbert became Ireland’s first ever couturier and the first woman to successfully run a fashion business in Ireland in 1947. She was known for dressing high society ladies throughout Ireland, as well as Grace Kelly. She will forever be known as the Irish designer who helped pave the way for Irish fashion designers.

NEILLI MULCAHY: HAUTE COUTURE

Designer Neillí Mulcahy at work. (Photo Credit: Little Museum of Dublin)

Neilli Mulcahy ran an haute couture salon in Dublin from 1951 to 1970 and was known for her bold use of color and extensive use of local materials such as linen, poplin and printed wool, but specifically tweed for evening wear. Along with fashion designers Ib Jorgensen, Irene Gilbert and Clodagh Kennedy, she founded the Irish Haute Couture Group to promote Irish fashion in the U.S..

SIMONE ROCHA: A MODERN VISIONARY

Looks from Simone Rocha’s Fall 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar)

Simone Rocha has emerged as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary fashion, blending elements of Irish tradition with a distinctly modern sensibility. Since launching her eponymous label in 2010, Rocha has garnered widespread acclaim for her romantic yet rebellious designs, which often feature delicate embroidery, voluminous silhouettes, and unexpected twists on femininity. Her ability to seamlessly blend the old with the new has cemented her status as a true fashion visionary.

ORLA KIELY: QUEEN OF PRINTS

Orla Kiely and her playful bags. (Photo Credit: The Times)

Orla Kiely’s bold prints and retro-inspired designs have made her a household name in the world of fashion. Since founding her label in the late 1990s, Kiely has become known for her playful yet sophisticated aesthetic, which often draws inspiration from mid-century modernism and vintage motifs. Her iconic stem print, in particular, has become synonymous with her brand and has been featured on everything from handbags to home goods.

PHILLIP TRACY: MASTER MILLINER

Naomi Campbell modeling Philip Treacy’s iconic butterfly hat. (Photo Credit: Vanity Fair)

Phillip Treacy is not only one of Ireland’s most celebrated fashion designers but also one of the world’s foremost milliners. Known for his whimsical and avant-garde approach to hat design, Treacy has created iconic headpieces for everyone from royalty to pop stars. His sculptural creations push the boundaries of traditional millinery, transforming hats into works of art that defy convention and captivate the imagination. Camilla Parker wore a Philip Treacy hat at her wedding with Prince Charles in 2005. He’s also created hats for some f the most iconic women including Madonna, Lady Gaga, Princess Beatrice of York, Victoria Posh Beckham, Isabella Blow and Sarah Jessica Parker. Treacy has also created runway hats for Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and Valentino, to name just a few.

JW ANDERSON: REDEFINING FASHION

A look by JW Anderson’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Lauchmetrics)

Joathan Anderson has earned a reputation as one of the fashion industry’s most innovative and boundary-pushing designers for his label JW Anderson. Born in Northern Ireland, Anderson has become known for his gender-fluid designs and eclectic aesthetic, which often combines elements of British and Irish heritage with a modern twist. His eponymous label has garnered critical acclaim for its bold silhouettes, unexpected fabric combinations, and subversive approach to fashion.

LOUISE KENNEDY: TIMELESS ELEGANCE

Various looks from Louise Kennedy. (Photo Credit: Forbes)

Louise Kennedy is synonymous with timeless elegance, thanks to her sophisticated designs and impeccable tailoring. Since launching her label in the 1980s, Kennedy has dressed everyone from royalty to Hollywood stars, earning a reputation for her classic yet contemporary aesthetic. Her luxurious creations often feature clean lines, luxurious fabrics, and subtle embellishments, embodying the epitome of understated glamour. In 2013, Kennedy was called the “uncrowned queen of Irish fashion”.

SINEAD O’DWYER: PUSHING BOUNDARIES

Looks from Sinead O’Dwyer’s Fall 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Yahoo)

Sinead O’Dwyer is a rising star in the world of fashion, known for her boundary-pushing designs and commitment to inclusivity. O’Dwyer’s work often challenges traditional notions of beauty and body ideals, celebrating diversity and self-expression. Through her experimental use of materials and avant-garde silhouettes, she seeks to challenge the status quo and redefine the parameters of fashion.

PAUL COSTELLOE: FASHION ROYALTY

Princess Diana wearing a Paul Costelloe suit. (Photo Credit: ncweb)

With a career spanning over five decades, Paul Costelloe is a true Irish fashion legend. Known for his exquisite tailoring and timeless designs, Costelloe has dressed everyone from Princess Diana, Laura Whitmore, Vogue Williams and Binky Felstead. His eponymous label embodies the essence of classic elegance, with a modern twist, earning him a loyal following around the world.

So, tell us, which Irish designers have inspired you?

Celebrating Women’s History Month: A Tribute to Fashion’s Inspiring Muses

Jean Paul Gaultier and his muse Madonna. (Photo Credit: Herb Ritts)

Happy Woman’s History Month! As we celebrate women and their innumerable accomplishments, UOF would like to pay tribute to the many fashionable women, throughout history, have inspired some of the most influential designers through the decades. Like they say…”behind every great man is a great woman”!

Givenchy and Hepburn go for a stroll together in Paris in an undated photo. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In the world of fashion, the relationship between designers and their muses is a tale as old as time, a symbiotic dance of  inspiration, creativity and innovation. Throughout history, these duos have shaped the very essence of style, leaving an indelible mark on the fashion landscape. From the glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood to the avant-garde runways of Paris, the bond between male designers and their muses has been a driving force behind some of the most iconic fashion moments. To prove it, we are dedicating this blog to some of these timeless partnerships and would like to hear from YOU as to others you may be in the ‘know’ about and want to share.

PAUL POIRET AND DENISE BOULET

“My wife is the inspiration for my creations, she is the expression of all my ideals,” Poiret said. Here is the designer with his wife Denise Boulet. (Photo Credit: Getty)

At the dawn of the 20th century, Paul Poiret revolutionized fashion with his bold designs and visionary approach. Central to his creative vision was his wife, Denise Boulet. Poiret’s muse and collaborator, Boulet embodied the spirit of his designs, infusing them with grace and elegance. Together, they pioneered the shift from restrictive corsets to flowing, avant-garde silhouettes, forever changing the course of fashion.

HUBERT DE GIVENCHY AND AUDREY HEPBURN

Hubert de Givenchy and his muse Audrey Hepburn in 1988. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

In the enchanting world of couture, few partnerships have captured the imagination quite like that of Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. Their collaboration began serendipitously when Hepburn, seeking a wardrobe for the film Sabrina,  crossed paths with Givenchy. The rest, as they say, is history. Hepburn became the epitome of chic sophistication, while Givenchy’s timeless designs adorned her with unparalleled elegance, creating an enduring legacy of style.

CHRISTIAN DIOR AND MIZA BRICARD

Christian Dior’s and his muse Mizza Bricard. (Photo Credit: MilkX TW)

In the aftermath of World War II, Christian Dior emerged as a beacon of hope, ushering in a new era of luxury and opulence with his iconic New Look. Central to his creative vision was Miza Bricard, his muse and confidante. With her impeccable taste and innate sense of style, Bricard inspired Dior to redefine femininity, thus shaping the fashion landscape for generations to come.

COCO CHANEL

Coco Chanel in her Paris apartment. (Photo Credit: Architectural Digest)

Not only male designers had muses. A fiercely independent Coco Chanel was her own muse, embodying the liberated spirit of the modern woman. Chanel’s timeless designs, from the iconic little black dress to the revolutionary Chanel suit, continues to resonate with women worldwide, a testament to her enduring legacy.

YVES SAINT LAURENT, BETTY CATROUX AND LOULOU DE LA FALAISE

Designer Yves Saint Laurent, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise. (Photo Credit: WWD)

Yves Saint Laurent’s illustrious career was defined by his close relationships with muses Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise. With their androgynous allure and bohemian spirit, Catroux and de la Falaise inspired Saint Laurent to push the boundaries of fashion, creating groundbreaking designs that captured the zeitgeist of the era.

ROY HALSTON AND LIZA MINNELLI

Halston with his muse Liza Minnelli. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

In the dazzling world of Studio 54, Roy Halston reigned supreme, transforming American fashion with his minimalist yet glamorous aesthetic. At the heart of his creative vision was Liza Minnelli, the iconic entertainer whose charisma and allure captivated audiences worldwide. Together, they epitomized the hedonistic glamour of the ’70s, leaving an indelible mark on fashion history.

BOB MACKIE AND CHER

Bob Mackie and his muse Cher. (Photo Credit: Elle)

Few partnerships have ignited the imagination quite like that of Bob Mackie and Cher. With her fearless style and boundary-pushing creativity, Cher became Mackie’s muse, inspiring some of the most unforgettable looks in fashion history. From the infamous sheer gown at the 1974 Met Gala to the elaborate costumes of her concert tours, Mackie’s designs transformed Cher and secured this duo’s place in fashion history books.

AZZEDINE ALAÏA AND GRACE JONES

Azzedine Alaïa and his muse Grace Jones. (Photo Credit: L’Officiel)

Azzedine Alaïa and Grace Jones forged a legendary partnership defined by their shared passion for sexy, avant-garde design. Jones’s striking beauty and fearless attitude inspired Alaïa to create sculptural masterpieces that defied convention, blurring the lines between fashion and art.

RALPH AND RICKY LAUREN

Ralph Lauren with his wife and muse Ricky Lauren. (Photo Credit: Architectural Digest)

Ralph Lauren’s iconic brand epitomizes the American Dream, embodying a vision of timeless elegance and sophistication. Central to his creative vision is his wife, Ricky Lauren, whose impeccable taste and refined sensibility have shaped the brand’s aesthetic for decades, creating a legacy of enduring style and luxury.

MARC JACOBS AND SOFIA COPPOLA

Marc Jacobs and his muse Sofia Coppola. (Photo Credit: L’Officiel)

Another dynamic duo is Marc Jacobs and Sofia Coppola. This creative partnership is defined by their shared love of art, culture, and style. Coppola’s effortless chic and understated elegance inspired Jacobs to create designs that resonate with women of all ages, blurring the lines between fashion and culture.

GIANNI AND DONATELLA VERSACE

Gianni Versace and his muse Donatella Versace. (Photo Credit: Elle)

Gianni Versace’s bold, provocative designs epitomized the excess and glamour of the ’80s and ’90s. Central to his creative vision was his sister, Donatella, whose fierce style and unwavering support propelled the Versace brand to international acclaim, creating a legacy of bold, daring fashion that continues to captivate the world. When Gianni was murdered in 1997, Donatella took control of the Italian Luxury brand and kept her brother’s legacy alive.

HERMÈS AND JANE BIRKIN

Jane Birkin and her namesake bag created by Jean-Louis Dumas of Hermes. (Photo Credit: Wonderland)

The former chairman of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas met actress Jane Birkin in 1984 and witnessed the contents of Birkin’s carry-on bag fall out while on a flight.  In a 2015 interview with The Telegraph, Birkin recounted that Dumas, who was sitting next to Birkin, said, “you should have one with pockets.” Birkin replied, “The day Hermès make one with pockets I will have that”, and he said: “But I am Hermès and I will put pockets in for you.”  Shortly after the two collaborated, the Birkin was created, becoming one of the most covetable accessories in fashion history. It has been reinvented many times since it was first introduced to the public in the 1980s. The Hermès bag’s classic elements include two rolled handles, a flap top, a touret, a clochette, and four clou “feet” and is available in sizes, 20, 25, 30, 40, 42 and 50 centimeters, some featuring exotic crocodile skin paired with diamond-encrusted white gold hardware. Today, there’s a year’s long wait list with some vintage Birkin bags selling for up to $2 million. Now that’s one successful female muse collaboration!

Care to share your designer muse story?

 

MOVE OVER HERITAGE BRANDS- THERE’S SOME NEW KIDS IN TOWN PART 2

- - Fashion Shows

Looks from Feben’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

In the vibrant world of fashion, Milan and Paris stand as bastions of innovation, creativity, and timeless elegance. With their rich cultural heritage, a plethora of heritage brands and unwavering dedication to craftsmanship, these fashion capitals have finally opened their arms to new design talent. This week’s blog is part two in our coverage of fashion’s newest darlings.

Initiatives such as fashion incubators, mentorship programs, and grants are gaining momentum, providing invaluable support to emerging designers as they embark on their creative journeys. Through these initiatives, Milan and Paris are reaffirming their commitment to fostering the next generation of fashion visionaries and ensuring that their legacies endure for years to come.

By embracing and nurturing young talent, they are not only preserving their rich sartorial heritage, but are also pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation. As emerging designers continue to make their mark on the global stage, one thing is certain: the future of fashion shines bright in the hands of those who dare to dream in the shadow of Milan and Paris.

MILAN

Milan, Italy’s fashion capital, is synonymous with luxury and sophistication. It’s a city where tradition seamlessly intertwines with modernity, providing a fertile ground for emerging designers to thrive. One of the defining features of Milan’s fashion scene is its commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail, traits that are instilled in aspiring designers from the outset.

Milan’s Fashion Week serves as a platform for emerging designers to showcase their collections alongside established fashion houses. This exposure not only catapults their careers but also solidifies Milan’s position as a nurturing hub for burgeoning talent.

Here are a few of Milan’s emerging designers:

FEBEN

A look from Feben’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

This season, Feben was selected and sponsored by Dolce & Gabbana. Feben, is a London designer with Ethiopian roots who was born in North Korea and grew up in Sweden.

A Central Saint Martins 2020 graduate, Feben sells her designs to established retailers, Ssense and Browns. She is known for her colorful, form-fitting clothes and has developed a cult following with celebrities like Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monáe.

The designer often plays with texture in her work, and claims “Because if you can work with textures, you can create really cool things.” She went on in an interview with Vogue: “I want you to feel something, either with your eyes, heart, or your hands, and I find texture so fun.” This season Feben cut her signature puckered “Twist” dresses in velvet, which was oh so flattering.

MICHAELA STARK LAUNCHED HER NEW LINGERIE LINE PANTY

A look from Panty’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Michaela Stark)

Australian artist/designer Michaela Stark’s bold lingerie and ready-to-wear line, Panty, goes up to a size 5XL, which is truly size inclusive. The collection is a celebration of all body types with its transparent bloomers, corsets, garters and baby-doll dresses. Panty celebrates the body’s natural curves and does not conceal them with rigid shapewear. Stark showcased her debut collection in Milan at the Fondazione Sozzani via an exhibition and a performance called “Michaela Stark’s Panty Show.” “I put an obscene amount of time into making lingerie that makes fat desirable,” Stark told Kerry Olsen for The New York Times.

Stark launched her couture business in 2022, operating on a made-to-order basis. She has quickly become known for creating avant-garde pieces created from corsets and ribbons. The pieces are constructed with strategically placed holes to create bulges or cradle the curve of a breast or stomach, according to Vogue Business.

Stark’s creations has been featured in photoshoots for a number of publications, including Vogue Italia, Dazed and Perfect magazine. She has also collaborated with Jean Paul Gaultier and in September 2023, was selected to design a capsule for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, as the brand’s aim is to be size inclusive.

SAGABOI

A look from Sagaboi’s Fall 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Tagwalk)

Sagaboi was founded in 2015 by Geoff K. Cooper. The label is inspired by the Caribbean region’s culture, history, lifestyle, people and practices. So naturally for his Milan Fashion Week debut, Cooper brought Caribbean Flair to Milan with a calypso music-filled show for both his menswear and womenswear collections.

Cooper’s background was not in design, according to WWD, he was a menswear editor. Launching Sagaboi was very personal to him because he wanted to give a voice to the Caribbean culture he felt was underrepresented in the industry. Drawing its name from the West Indian word meaning “a playboy” or someone who dresses fashionably, the collection captures the essence of the Caribbean with vibrant colored skirts, tailored suits, fanciful furs, and a nod to safari.

PARIS

Across the border, Paris exudes an aura of romance and refinement that transcends generations. As the birthplace of haute couture, the city is revered for its unparalleled craftsmanship and visionary design. However, Parisian fashion isn’t just about adhering to tradition; it’s about pushing boundaries and challenging conventions. Young designers flock to Paris, drawn by its reputation as a melting pot of creativity and innovation.

During Paris Fashion Week, the world’s fashion elite converge to witness the unveiling of groundbreaking collections by both established and emerging designers. This global stage provides young talents with a rare opportunity to showcase their work on an international platform, attracting attention from buyers, influencers, and press alike.

Here are a few of Paris’ emerging designers:

MAXHOSA AFRICA

Looks from Maxhosa Africa’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo launched his Maxhosa Africa label in 2011 at the age of 24. The designer studied textile and pattern design in school before pursuing a degree in textile design and technology at Nelson Mandela University in his hometown of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He then received his 2-year master’s degree at London’s Central Saint Martins.

A Missoni fan, Ngxokolo viewed knitwear as the best medium to translate traditional beadwork. These techniques rely on networks of pixel-like units — a stitch or a bead — but the Italian brand’s artistic approach echoed the way he wanted to “apply our [Xhosa] art in an African-centric way,” he stated in a WWD interview.

While it’s important for Ngxokolo to preserve his cultural heritage, he is adamant that people approach the brand as a high-end fashion line, one that is “sacred on the celebration of culture.”  He believes that  “Culture is magnificent and therefore can be celebrated globally as much as people celebrate heritage. My culture is bold and extravagant but the point I wanted to prove is that culture can be fashionable, tasteful and worn on a daily basis — if done right.”

RENAISSANCE RENAISSANCE

Looks from Renaissance Renaissance’s fall 2024 collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

For designer Cynthia Merhej, her label Renaissance Renaissance is the story of renewal and keeping hope alive in the direst of  circumstances, as the name indicates.

Merhej grew up in the aftermath of Lebanon’s 30-year civil war, “everything was decimated and was just starting to be reconstructed,” the designer recalled to WWD. “A lot of what I learned about design, culture, art and so on came from a huge curiosity and desire to see what’s out there.”

Leaving Lebanon for London, the designer pursued visual communication and illustration courses at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art. “But everything I was doing inevitably led back to fashion, my first love, [particularly] as the way I saw storytelling was always through clothes,” she said to WWD. After all, her mother, aunt, and great-grandmother all had ateliers of their own.

Merhej created her first collection in 2019, and in 2020 she was selected as part of Net-a-porter’s Vanguard program in 2020. The brand was on the way up when COVID-19 struck. To make matters worse, when she was back home in Beirut, the 2020 explosion at the city’s port happened, which left hundreds dead, thousands injured and scores without homes or livelihoods. “It was really like being stuck on a roller coaster and not knowing when it’s going to end,” she said to WWD. Yet she proceeded. Merhej opened an atelier for her brand Renaissance Renaissance in the Lebanese capital in 2022. The designer produces her collection in her homeland to foster creativity after all the trauma in her country.

Bringing her collections to Paris has already put Merhej’s work on fashionista radars. She was chosen to create the costumes for an upcoming adaptation of “Bonjour Tristesse,” the 1954 novel by French author Françoise Sagan, starring Chloë Sevigny.

JULIE KEGELS

A look from Julie Kegel’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

“For me, it’s all about finding a balance between beauty and ugliness, seriousness and ridiculousness because while designing I just want to have fun,” Belgian designer Julie Kegels told WWD ahead of her debut collection. “I also want to feel a lot of emotions while also coming out of my comfort zone.”

Fashion design was a dream Kegels wanted since childhood, after all, her father worked in accessories and bags. She attended the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts’ prestigious fashion department, where she sharpened her skill under the wings of Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Van Saene. She’s also worked under Pieter Mulier at Alaïa.

Eventually, she launched her namesake brand Julie Kegels. “I always had in mind the desire to start something when the time was right, but I thought that if I waited too long, I’d be a bit afraid,” she said in an interview with WWD.

 

So, if you are an aspiring and/or an up-and-coming designer, we hope this blog post will give you some encouragement. Passion is everything. So are the right skills. That’s why the mission of the University of Fashion has always been “Learn fashion design, one step at a time”.

 

So, tell us, as an emerging designer which city would you want to unveil your brand?

 

 

MOVE OVER HERITAGE BRANDS- THERE’S SOME NEW KIDS IN TOWN

- - Fashion Shows

Looks from Agbobly’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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.

A look from Kate Barton’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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

AGBOBLY

A look from Agbobly’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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.

MERUERT TOLEGEN

A look from Meruert Tolegen’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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

Looks from Nigel Xavier’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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

TALIA BYRE

A look from Talia Byre’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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

A look from Lucila Safdie’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: 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.

MOMONARY

Looks from Momonary’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: WWD)

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

Designer Carly Mark of Puppets and Puppets presented her final RTW collection deciding to shift her focus to accessories only. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

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.

So, tell us, what is the biggest challenge you’re facing as an emerging designer?

CELEBRATING EXCELLENCE: THE INTERSECTION OF BLACK HISTORY, ART & FASHION

Black History Month Image. (Photo Credit: Break The Tape Leadership)

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded of the mark that African Americans have left on the arts. Within this kaleidoscope of expression, the realm of fashion emerges as a vibrant canvas where Black visionaries have sculpted history, broke barriers, and have redefined norms. Join UOF as we delve into the world of African American creativity, as we explore the narratives, styles, and some of the individuals who are shaping the fashion industry today.

At the nexus of cultural expression and sartorial innovation, Black designers stand tall, their creations echoing the richness of their heritage while pushing the boundaries of contemporary fashion. Names like Telfar Clemens, Duro Olou, LaQuan Smith, and Christopher John Rogers resonate with a new generation of fashion enthusiasts, infusing their collections with narratives that transcend mere garments, weaving stories of resilience, empowerment, and identity. Join us as we explore these influential persons of color, who are leaving an indelible mark on the fashion landscape.

TELFAR CLEMENS

Telfar Shopping Bag. (Photo Credit: Telfar)

A pioneer of inclusivity and accessibility, Telfar Clemens has revolutionized luxury fashion with his unisex designs and iconic Telfar Shopping Bag, also called the “Bushwick Birkin,” the brand’s best-selling item. His eponymous label, Telfar, stands as a testament to his commitment to democratizing style and celebrating individuality.

AURORA JAMES

Aurora James and her Brother Vellies Shoes. (Photo Credit: Dre Bless)

Founder of the 15 Percent Pledge, Aurora James has emerged as a leading voice for diversity and representation within the fashion industry. Through her advocacy and her brand, Brother Vellies, James champions BIPOC designers and artisans, amplifying their voices and ensuring their inclusion on the global stage.

OLIVIER ROUSTEING

Cher with Olivier Rousteing Closes Balmain Spring 2023 Runway Show in Custom Jumpsuit. (Photo Credit: WWD)

As the creative director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing has redefined luxury with his opulent designs and boundary-pushing aesthetic. With a focus on diversity and empowerment, Rousteing has transformed Balmain into a symbol of inclusivity and modernity.

DURO OLOWU

A look from Duro Oolowu’s Spring 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Renowned for his eclectic prints and masterful use of color, Duro Olowu celebrates the beauty of diversity in every stitch. His eponymous label reflects his global perspective and unwavering commitment to craftsmanship, earning him accolades from fashion insiders and enthusiasts alike. Oh, and did you know he is married to Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, the world’s leading institution devoted to visual arts by artists of African descent.

KENNETH IZE

A look from Kenneth Ize’s Fall 2023 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Drawing inspiration from his Nigerian heritage, Kenneth Ize infuses traditional textiles with a contemporary twist, creating vibrant and dynamic collections that celebrate African culture. His innovative designs have garnered international acclaim, positioning him as a rising star in the fashion world.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN ROGERS

A look from Christopher John Rogers’ Pre-Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

With his bold use of color and theatrical silhouettes, Christopher John Rogers captivates audiences with his unapologetic celebration of joy and self-expression. His eponymous label reflects his belief in the transformative power of fashion, empowering individuals to embrace their true selves.

LAQUAN SMITH

A look from LaQuan Smith’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

From dressing global icons to redefining notions of sensuality and empowerment, LaQuan Smith is a force to be reckoned with in the world of fashion. His eponymous label exudes confidence and sophistication, embodying the essence of modern glamour.

VICTOR GLEMAUD

Designer Victor Glemaud walks the runway with a model from his Spring 2023 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Championing knitwear as a canvas for self-expression, Victor Glemaud creates luxurious and versatile pieces that blur the lines between fashion and art. His inclusive approach to design celebrates diversity and individuality, inspiring a new generation of knitwear enthusiasts.

THEBE MAGUGU

A look from Thebe Magugu’s Spring 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Hailing from South Africa, Thebe Magugu infuses his designs with storytelling and symbolism, exploring themes of heritage, identity, and empowerment. His eponymous label reflects his commitment to social commentary and cultural preservation, earning him acclaim from critics and consumers alike.

TORISHEJU DUMI

Naomi Campbell walking the runway for Torishéju Dumi’s spring 2024 collection in Paris. (Photo Credit: Torishéju Dumi)

With her avant-garde designs and sculptural silhouettes, Torisheju Dumi pushes the boundaries of fashion, creating wearable works of art that defy convention. Her visionary approach to design reflects her belief in the power of fashion to inspire and transform.

A SHOUT OUT TO THE QUEEN BEAUTY MOGUL

Widely regarded as one of the most influential makeup artists of all time, Pat McGrath has revolutionized the beauty industry with her visionary artistry and boundary-pushing creativity, she is also deemed the most influential makeup artist in the world by Vogue magazine. As the founder of Pat McGrath Labs, she has created a cosmetics empire that celebrates diversity and empowers individuals to express themselves through makeup.

Social media has been a hotbed of speculation about how Pat McGath created the waxen shiny skin on models for the Maison Margiela couture show. (Photo Credit: Pat McGrath Labs)

In the world of haute couture, innovation and artistry reign supreme. Pat McGrath’s collaboration with Maison Margiela for their Spring-Summer 2024 show exemplified the pinnacle of creativity. With her masterful use of color, texture, and technique, McGrath transformed the faces of the models into living works of art, each one a testament to the beauty of individuality and self-expression. “The legendary creative transformed models into living dolls, complete with porcelain skin, pencil-thin eyebrows and strikingly shaded eyes, lips and cheeks. But it was the waxen, glazed complexions she created that really stole the show, spawning countless pieces of magazine analysis and TikTok tutorials, some of which have already amassed millions of views”, according to CNN.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let us honor the contributions of these trailblazing designers and visionaries who continue to shape the future of fashion. Their creativity, innovation, and unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come, reminding us of the transformative power of art and the enduring legacy of African American excellence.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Let us celebrate the metamorphosis of Black creativity, embracing the myriad hues of expression that adorn our world, enriching it with depth, vibrancy, and soul.

So, tell us, how are you supporting the 15% Pledge?

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES: THE THRILL OF EXPLORING FASHION EXHIBITS

Looks from The Met’s Women Dressing Women Exhibit. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In a world that’s constantly on the move, where trends come and go in the blink of an eye, there’s something undeniably magical about stepping into a fashion exhibit. It’s not just about admiring exquisite garments or marveling at the ingenuity of designers – it’s an immersive journey into the heart of creativity, a celebration of beauty, history, and culture.

In this week’s UOF blog, we are highlighting a few fashion exhibits that are currently on display and where you will find tons of great inspiration.

EXPLORING THE ESSENCE OF STYLE IN THE CITY BY THE BAY

Rodarte’s gold evening dress from the Spring 2011 Collection. (Photo Credit; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco0

San Francisco, the city that birthed the Beat Generation, fostered the Summer of Love, and continues to be a hotbed of creativity and innovation, has always been a bastion of style. Now, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) celebrates this rich sartorial heritage with its latest exhibit, “Fashioning San Francisco: Celebrating the Style of a City” the exhibit is now open and will run through August 11, 2024.

This immersive exhibition is a love letter to the unique fashion sense that has defined the City by the Bay for generations. Curated from one of America’s largest collections of fashion, the exhibit presents a carefully curated selection of garments and accessories that collectively tell the story of San Francisco’s evolving style identity.

As visitors step into the exhibit, they are transported through time, beginning with the Gold Rush era when San Francisco was a bustling frontier town. Here, they encounter opulent Victorian dresses adorned with lace and intricate beadwork, reminiscent of the city’s affluent elite who sought to flaunt their newfound wealth.

Moving forward in time, the exhibit captures the bohemian spirit of the 1960s, a period that forever altered the city’s cultural landscape. Vibrant tie-dye shirts, bell-bottom jeans, and psychedelic prints evoke memories of the Summer of Love, when Haight-Ashbury became ground zero for the counterculture movement.

But “Fashioning San Francisco” is not merely a nostalgic journey through the past; it also highlights the city’s ongoing influence on contemporary fashion. A section dedicated to the tech boom of the late 20th and early 21st centuries showcase sleek, minimalist designs favored by Silicon Valley’s elite. Visitors marvel at innovative garments crafted from cutting-edge materials, reflective of San Francisco’s position at the forefront of technological innovation.

What sets this exhibit apart is its immersive approach to storytelling. Visitors are not passive observers but active participants in the narrative. Interactive displays invite them to try on replica garments from different eras, allowing them to experience firsthand the evolution of San Francisco style. Additionally, multimedia installations featuring archival footage and interviews with fashion designers offer deeper insights into the city’s fashion landscape.

Fashioning San Francisco” not only celebrates the past, but also serves as a reminder of the city’s enduring spirit of creativity, individuality, and innovation. In a world where trends come and go, San Francisco’s style remains timeless.

EXPLORING THE VIBRANT WORLD OF PACITA ABAD

Pacita Abad with her trapunto painting Ati-Atihan, 1983, wearing garments and jewelry collected on her travels. (Photo Credit: Pacita Abad Art Estate)

Sadly the exhibit ended on Jan. 28th, but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) featured the kaleidoscopic universe of Pacita Abad. The exhibit offered a vibrant tribute to one of the Philippines’ most celebrated artist, whose work transcends boundaries of culture, geography, and medium.

Walking through the doors of SFMOMA, visitors were greeted by a riot of color that spills across the gallery walls. This is the world of Pacita Abad – a world where every stroke of the brush, every splash of pigment, tells a story of joy, resilience, and the unbreakable human spirit.

Curated with a keen eye for detail, the exhibit traces Abad’s artistic journey from her early explorations of social realism to her later experiments with abstract expressionism. Here, visitors are treated to a visual feast of paintings, textiles, and mixed-media installations that showcase Abad’s boundless creativity and relentless pursuit of beauty in all its forms.

One of the exhibit’s most striking features is its emphasis on Abad’s use of everyday materials to create art. From traditional canvas and paint to repurposed fabrics, found objects, and even whole cars, Abad’s work defies convention and challenges viewers to reconsider their preconceptions of what constitutes art.

But perhaps what sets Abad apart is her unwavering commitment to social justice and human rights. Throughout her career, Abad used her art as a platform to raise awareness of issues such as poverty, environmental degradation, and political oppression. Her iconic “Trapunto” series, which features large-scale textile paintings adorned with stitched motifs and embellishments, served as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by marginalized communities around the world.

As visitors delved deeper into the exhibit, they were struck by the sheer diversity of Abad’s oeuvre. From her colorful “Sail” series, inspired by her travels to remote corners of the globe, to her haunting “Portraits of Exile” series, which captured the faces of refugees fleeing war and persecution, Abad’s work transcends the boundaries of culture and language to speak to the universal human experience.

Interactive displays invited visitors to engage with Abad’s work on a deeper level, prompting them to reflect on their own experiences of migration, displacement, and belonging. From interactive storytelling sessions to hands-on art workshops, the exhibit offers something for everyone, regardless of age, background, or artistic ability.

In a world that often seems bleak and divided, the art of Pacita Abad offered a ray of hope – a reminder that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, and that art has the power to heal, inspire, and unite us all.

UNSUNG WOMEN: THE MET CELEBRATES WOMEN DRESSING WOMEN

Looks from The Met’s Women Dressing Women Exhibit. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In the heart of Manhattan, where the pulse of fashion beats strongest, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) unveils its latest exhibit, “Women Dressing Women” which will run until March 10, 2024. It’s a celebration of femininity, creativity, and the transformative power of fashion. Stepping into the hallowed halls of the MET, visitors are transported into a world where women are not just the wearers of fashion but also its creators, visionaries, and muses.

Curated with meticulous care, “Women Dressing Women” showcases the work of female designers who have shaped the landscape of fashion throughout history. From Coco Chanel’s revolutionary designs that liberated women from the confines of corsets, to the boundary-pushing creations of contemporary designers like Rei Kawakubo and Phoebe Philo, the exhibit offers a panoramic view of women’s influence on style.

Women Dressing Women” is not just a retrospective; it’s a celebration of diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. Throughout the exhibit, visitors are introduced to designers from diverse backgrounds and cultures whose work challenges traditional notions of beauty and femininity. The exhibit will include iconic pieces established designers, including looks by Sarah Burton, Gabrielle Chanel, Ann Demeulemeester, Elizabeth Hawes, and Jeanne Lanvin. Pieces representing designers who have maintained a significant presence in The Costume Institute’s collection and exhibition history—such as Germaine Émilie Krebs, who created under the names Alix and Mme. Grès; Miuccia Prada; and Elsa Schiaparelli—are also featured.

Contemporary designers are also included, such as Hillary Taymour for Collina Strada, Anifa Mveumba for Hanifa, Iris Van Herpen, Norma Kamali, Ester Manas, Jamie Okuma, Simone Rocha, Marine Serre, Yeohlee Teng, and Isabel Toledo, among others, illustrate the creative and conceptual possibilities of contemporary design, highlighting inclusive definitions of womanhood, collaborative practices, a sustainable mindset, and the plurality that has come to define the spirit of fashion today, according to the Met’s press release on the exhibit.

Interactive displays invite visitors to participate in the conversation, prompting them to reflect on their own relationship with fashion and identity. From discussions about body positivity to explorations of cultural appropriation in fashion, the exhibit encourages visitors to think critically about the ways in which fashion shapes our perceptions of ourselves and others.

Here, women are not passive objects of desire, but active agents of change, using fashion as a tool for self-expression, empowerment, and social transformation.

BLOSSOMING ELEGANCE: THE ORCHID SHOW AT THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Orchid Show Florals in Fashion. (Photo Credit: New York Botanical Garden)

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle that is New York City, there exists an oasis of tranquility and beauty – The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Every year, this verdant sanctuary plays host to The Orchid Show, a dazzling celebration of one of nature’s most exquisite creations. But in 2024, the show takes on a new dimension with the introduction of the “Florals in Fashion” installation, inviting visitors to explore the intersection of nature and haute couture. This year the exhibit will run from Feb. 17 to April 21st.

Visitors are transported into a world of unparalleled beauty and elegance. The air is filled with the intoxicating scent of orchids in full bloom, their delicate petals unfurling in a riot of colors – from vibrant purples and pinks to soft pastels and pristine whites. Against this backdrop of natural splendor, mannequins adorned with exquisite floral-inspired garments stand as silent sentinels, their ethereal beauty capturing the essence of the Orchid Show’s theme.

Curated in collaboration with leading fashion designers and floral artists, the “Florals in Fashion” installation showcases the creative ways in which orchids have inspired fashion. The installation features works from Collina Strada by Hillary Taymour, Dauphinette by Olivia Cheng, and FLWR PSTL by Kristen Alpaugh, fashionistas sure to create dramatic, picture-perfect floral displays at the Garden that always capture the orchid’s good side.

But “Florals in Fashion” is not just a celebration of beauty; it’s also a reminder of the importance of conservation and sustainability. Throughout the exhibit, interactive displays educate visitors about the fragile ecosystem that orchids inhabit, and the efforts being made to protect these delicate flowers from extinction. From initiatives to combat deforestation and habitat destruction to programs aimed at curbing the illegal trade of rare and endangered orchid species, the exhibit encourages visitors to reflect on their role in preserving the natural world for future generations.

So, tell us, which fashion exhibit are you most excited to see?

Haute Couture Renaissance: Spring 2024 Collections

- - Fashion Shows

Looks from Chanel’s Spring 2024 haute couture fashion show. (Photo Credit: Su Shan Leong)

In a world marked by fast fashion and fleeting trends, the magnificent realm of haute couture stands as a beacon of unwavering elegance and artisanal excellence. The term “haute couture” itself invokes images of meticulous craftsmanship, exquisite fabrics, and runway shows that transcend mere fashion, evolving into wearable art. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of style, one cannot help but ponder the relevance of haute couture today and acknowledge its enduring mark on the fashion industry.

Looks from Valentino’s Spring 2024 haute couture fashion show. (Photo Credit: The Impression)

The  words “haute couture” translates to “high sewing” in French, and this meticulous craftsmanship is at the heart of what makes it so unique and relevant. Unlike ready-to-wear collections that cater to mass markets, haute couture is a celebration of bespoke tailoring, where garments are meticulously crafted by skilled artisans to fit the individual client’s body like a second skin. This dedication to perfection ensures that each piece is not merely clothing but a work of art, an embodiment of the designer’s vision, and a testament to the client’s personality.

One might argue that haute couture is an anachronism in our fast-paced, digitally driven world, but it is precisely this anachronism that makes it so significant. In an era dominated by immediacy, haute couture is a reminder that true artistry takes time. The months spent handcrafting a single gown, the attention to every minute detail, and the emphasis on quality over quantity are a stark departure from the disposable nature of contemporary fashion. Haute couture embodies a philosophy of mindful consumption and an appreciation for the art of slow fashion.

Looks from Fendi’s Spring 2024 haute couture fashion show. (Photo Credit: CNN)

Beyond its intrinsic value, haute couture serves as the laboratory of innovation for the fashion industry. Designers who partake in this rarefied world push the boundaries of creativity, experimenting with avant-garde techniques, materials, and designs that often find their way into more accessible fashion later on. The runway shows become a visual symphony, where designers collaborate with skilled artisans, photographers, and makeup artists to create a mesmerizing experience that transcends the mere display of garments and produce some of THE most amazing social media images. Many of these posts are suitable for framing.

Looks from Robert Wun’s Spring 2024 haute couture fashion show. (Photo Credit: People)

The allure of haute couture extends beyond its aesthetic splendor. It is a powerful storyteller, reflecting the spirit of its time. Designers often draw inspiration from cultural, historical, or social influences, using their collections to make powerful statements or challenge conventional norms. Haute couture is a canvas for self-expression, allowing designers to weave narratives that resonate with the collective consciousness.

Furthermore, haute couture plays a pivotal role in sustaining traditional craftsmanship. In an era where technology threatens to replace skilled artisans with machines, haute couture remains a sanctuary for the preservation of age-old techniques. The ateliers are a haven for master embroiderers, seamstresses, and tailors whose expertise has been honed through generations. By investing in these crafts, haute couture ensures the survival of skills that might otherwise be lost in the relentless march of progress.

Kris Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner are seen arriving at the Maison Margiela Fashion show. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

And while Haute couture was filled with celebrity sightings such as Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, the Kardashian and Jenner clan, Rihanna, and Natalie Portman to name a few, the stars did not outshine the triumphant return of Haute Couture at its best.

Looks from Christian Dior’s Spring 2024 haute couture fashion show. (Photo Credit: LVMH)

Of course, there were plenty of beautifully crafted pieces such as airy chiffon and tweed at Chanel, and Dior’s quiet luxury extravaganza. But there were a few shows that really broke the mold and pushed boundaries, that we are highlighting below:

MAISON MARGIELA

Video of Maison Margiela Haute Couture Spring Summer 2024 Collection. Video Courtesy of YouTube FF Channel.

John Galliano is a master at storytelling and for his Maison Margiela Couture Spring 2024 collection, the maestro turned out one of the most celebrated and emotional couture collections for the luxury fashion house to date. The show had it all, theatrical, rebellious, and oh so sexy. According to the house notes —it started with Brassai’s 1920s and ’30s portraits of the night-time underbelly of Paris’s clubs and streets.

This dark yet sexy inspiration turned into a dramatic work of art in Galliano’s hand. The extremely creative designer created a collection filled with extreme corsetry, padded hips, and erotically sheer lace dresses, paired with wildly imaginative hair, chiffon-masked makeup, and eerie doll-like body-modifications. “Galliano also created some scandalous hourglass dresses there was pubic hair to be seen through tulle and lace (they were merkins on underwear, but still bound to stir up a storm)” according to Vogue.

This certainly will be one show that will be praised for years to come as one of Galliano’s best and most theatrical for the House of Mason Margiela. And after years of Quiet Luxury fashion, we are all ready for dramatic fashion again.

SCHIAPARELLI

Video of Schiaparelli Haute Couture Spring Summer 2024 Collection.  Video Courtesy of YouTube FF Channel.

In a galaxy far, far away….. Daniel Roseberry had ignited the Schiaparelli house into one of the most sought out brands in only a few short seasons, and for his Spring 2024 Couture Collection, he did not disappoint his A-List fans. His Sci-Fi meets Western-inspired collection came complete with a robot baby and all.

Roseberry looked to both the future and the past for inspiration. The creative director for Schiaparelli melded retro technology, classic sci-fi movies and a nod to his Texan childhood. He created an exquisite exoskeleton dresses and an entire 3D spine inspired by both Elsa Schiaparelli’s radical 1938 skeleton dress and Giger aliens from the Alien movie series. “Dressage braids” inspired the knots on a cream leather suit that nearly looked like it could have been a space uniform from NASA and let’s not forget the nestling robot baby on a model’s hip – she was wearing a white singlet and conceptual couture cargo pants—Roseberry’s tribute to Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. “I’ve watched the Alien series, like, six times,” he said in a backstage interview with Vogue.

As for Roseberry Texas roots, there were silver-tipped Western belt buckles which formed a corset, an intricate embroidered jacket with fringe detail, and let’s not forget the horse-tail gown that Zendaya rocked at the show.

JEAN PAUL GAULTIER

Video of Gaultier by Simone Rocha Haute Couture Spring Summer 2024 Collection. Video Courtesy of YouTube FF Channel.

All eyes are on the Maison Jean Paul Gaultier as the illustrious designer, Simone Rocha takes the helm for the Haute Couture Spring 2024 show, a mesmerizing fusion of two visionary forces.

Simone Rocha, renowned for her poetic designs that seamlessly blend tradition and modernity, steps into the spotlight, bringing her signature ethereal touch to the hallowed halls of Gaultier.

The show opens with a flourish of cascading ruffles, paying homage to Gaultier’s bold and irreverent spirit. The juxtaposition of Rocha’s signature pearl embellishments against Gaultier’s iconic Breton stripes creates a visual symphony that resonates with both innovation and tradition. As each model glides down the runway, the fusion of these two design philosophies becomes a harmonious celebration of fashion’s ever-evolving tapestry.

The collection was filled with Gaultier-inspired pink cross-laced satin corsetry, and paid tribute to the house classics, turning his Breton stripes into a t-shirt made entirely of ribbons and bows.

Rocha also created exquisite haute couture ballgown—romantic-ballerina shapes made from layers and layers of tulle. It was a magnificent show that won the audience over—and according to Vogue, Rocha received a giant hug from Monsieur Gaultier himself.

So, tell us, what was your favorite haute couture show this season?

What is a Visual Merchandiser & Why Should I Care?

Visual merchandising is one of those design disciplines that benefit both retailers AND fashion designers, alike. Whether you have your own brand and are lucky enough to afford your own retail store, OR you’re a brand who plans on selling to retail stores, our 9-part visual merchandising series provides valuable information to help you succeed. Visual merchandising is the very plan to use to communicate to the customer what the brand is all about.

Fashion designers benefit from the study of visual merchandising because it helps them understand the mind of the retailer, especially as the retailer plans their retail open-to-buy for a particular season. This blog post will provide you with a taste of what you’ll learn by viewing our 9-part visual merchandising series taught by Marcie Cooperman (author of Color: How to Use It) and who has been teaching this topic at UoF and at Parsons for years. Sit back and enjoy… get the popcorn popping!

University of Fashion's 9-part Visual Merchandising series poster frames University of Fashion’s 9-part Visual Merchandising video series (Photo images: University of Fashion videos) 

The Psychology of Visual Merchandising

So, it all starts outside the store, with the entrance and store windows. You’re walking by, and suddenly you see a terrific display window that makes you stop and look.  What did the trick?

Maybe it was the perfect dress or coat that you’d been thinking you need to find. Or… maybe it was the colors in the display, or something fun about it.  Or maybe, it was even a sale sign.  If it made you decide to go inside, that’s a successful display window.Example of colorful store window

Examples of colorful & eye-catching store windows (Photo excerpt: University of Fashion video)

And, when we walk into a store, we usually know within about three seconds whether we want to stay there and shop, or whether we just want to turn and leave. We know right away whether we are going to find something we like, or whether it’s going to be a waste of time.  It’s all about the store’s interior design. Does it look organized, so that we might feel confident about moving around easily without asking for help?  Or is it a messy store where we are not clear on how to find things?

Example of a messy store display

Example of a messy & uninviting in-store display (Photo excerpt: University of Fashion video)

In retail visual merchandising, there are two essential parts of the store interior to think about:  merchandising presentation and visual merchandising.  Although they work together, they are actually two different activities. To keep the store fresh, both elements should be updated frequently. That encourages customers to come back to the store often to see what’s new.

Example of an interesting store display Example of an interesting, in-store thematic merchandising presentation and visual display (Photo excerpt: University of Fashion video)

The Planogram

In-store visual merchandising begins with the planogram. The planogram is a detailed set of drawings of a store with two main goals:  to plan the use of the space, and to make decisions on where to place all the merchandise.a planogram image

Example of a store planogram (Photo excerpt: University of Fashion video)

 

Using Color & Texture plus Graphics & Signage in Visual Merchandising

For starters, and to really understand the power of color, view our lessons entitled: Color Relationships and Color Theory-The Basics.

Color Relationships and Color Theory Lessons

Color and texture are critical tools to use in visual merchandising, because when you put wonderful colors and textures together in a display, it sends customers the feeling that this brand is organized and beautiful. That makes the customer feel positive about the brand and makes her want to shop there.

 Visual merchandisers like to use textures that contrast with the merchandise, because they highlight the qualities of the products, and help customers see them.

Image of good use of color and texture

The successful use of color and texture in store windows. (Photo excerpt: University of Fashion video)

Using Line, Shape & Balance in Visual Merchandising

Lines and shapes are the basic building blocks that visual merchandisers use in putting together a merchandising display. We see them on tabletop displays, on walls, and in display windows.  Lines and shapes can be created by clothing on mannequins and on garments hanging on racks or walls, and they can even come from the shelves and the store furniture.

Balance means that every line and shape of the display works to support the whole display, and every part is integral to the entire display. We must be able to look around the entire display, and all the lines will keep leading our eye back to the central focal point.

Examples of Line $ Shape

The use of line and shape in visual merchandising (Photo excerpt: University of Fashion video)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of what you’ll learn as you make your way through our visual merchandising series. With over 5 hours-worth of instruction, and hundreds of store display images, you are sure to be inspired and enlightened on the role of the visual merchandiser. Heck, it may even encourage you to want to pursue it as a career!

Do you know what’s the biggest selling color in fashion, and one that you’ll almost never see an entire store window devoted to and why?

 

 

 

THE POWER OF THE COLOR

The REDress Project installation. (Photo Credit: ABC News)

Color has long been used to signify social and political status and to convey other critical messages without saying a word. During the Byzantine era, only royals could wear the color purple, which represented rarity, piety, magic, and mystery. In the Middle Ages, red symbolized the blood of Christ and was worn by kings to signify their God-given right to rule. According to Hannah Craggs, senior color editor at trend-forecasting consultancy WGSN, “Throughout history, color has been used as a tool of self-expression and peaceful protest.”

 

demonstrators wearing pink pussyhats

Women wearing pink pussyhats as part of the 2017 anti-Trump Women’s March movement. (Photo credit: Wire)

In present day terms, we only need to look at the first Women’s March in January 2017, whereby millions of women and their allies banded together globally wearing pink pussyhats as a visible symbol of protest to the Trump presidency. At the 75th Golden Globe Awards in 2018, the color black was strategically worn by female actors to support the #TimesUp movement. In 2019, women politicians wore white to the State of the Union as a way to honor suffragists, while also making a pointed statement about the landmark number of women elected to the US Congress. And today, the color purple, used by Alice Walker and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in their novels, The Color Purple and Purple Hibiscus, is used to signify and signal a new awakening and rebirth of their characters.

In last week’s UoF blog entitled Threads of Unity, we discussed Kirstie Macleod’s Red Dress Project, a red dress that took 14 years to complete and was stitched together by the hands of 380 embroidery artisans, across 51 countries.

Today, we will focus on the REDress Project, National Ribbon Skirt Day and the Red Ribbon Skirt Project, projects that draw attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) epidemic in the United States and Canada.

The REDress Project

Video of The REDress Project at the National Museum of the American Indian. (Video Credit: YouTube, Smithsonian NMAI)

Picture a landscape adorned with red dresses hanging from trees, billowing in the wind like ghostly echoes of untold stories. The REDress Project, conceived by artist Jaime Black, is a public art installation that began in 2010, and that breathes life into a poignant symbol aimed at raising awareness about the staggering number of missing and murdered Indigenous women(MMIW) across North America.

The REDress Project installation at the University of Winnipeg. (Photo Credit: National Museum of the American Indian)

Each red dress, carefully selected or donated, represents a life lost or a woman still missing. The installation art project serves as a visual reminder, challenging communities to confront the harsh realities faced by Indigenous women. The choice of the color red is deliberate – the artist chose the color after conversations with an indigenous friend, who told her that red is the only color the spirits can see. “So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community”, Jaime Black told CTV news. The artist has also suggested “red symbolizes both vitality and violence” according to The Washington Post.

As these empty dresses sway in the wind, they carry with them the weight of countless narratives, invoking a call to action for justice and systemic change. The REDress Project transcends its artistic origins, becoming a powerful voice for Indigenous communities advocating for the safety and well-being of their women.

The REDress Project installation at the Seaforth Peace Park, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo Credit: Wipkipedia)

The project has inspired other artists to use red to draw attention to the issue of MMIW, and prompted the creation of Red Dress Day, which occurs on May 5th. The first Red Dress Day was observed in 2010 and is a day to honor and bring awareness to the thousands of Indigenous women and girls, who have gone missing or who have been murdered.

National Ribbon Skirt Day

Isabella Kulak was the center around the National Ribbon Skirt Day Movement. (Photo Credit: CBC News)

Amidst the sobering echoes of the REDress Project, a day of celebration and cultural pride emerged – National Ribbon Skirt Day. This event is observed on January 4th and was first celebrated in 2023. The day was inspired by Isabella Kulak, an Indigenous girl in Saskatchewan who was humiliated for wearing a traditional ribbon skirt to a formal dress day at her elementary school in 2020.

The ribbon skirt, a traditional garment worn by Indigenous women, serves as a testament to the strength and spirit of Indigenous cultures. It embodies a connection to heritage, land, and community. Red Ribbon Skirt Day invites individuals to don this symbolic garment, fostering a sense of unity and pride within Indigenous communities.

The Red Ribbon Skirt Project

The Red Ribbon Skirt Project aims to help grieving Indigenous families heal. (Photo Credit: APTN News)

Complementing National Ribbon Skirt Day is the Red Ribbon Skirt Project, a grassroots movement that empowers Indigenous women through art and storytelling. This initiative encourages women to create and share their own red ribbon skirts, each adorned with personal symbols and stories that reflect their unique journeys.

The Red Ribbon Skirt Project transforms the red ribbon skirt into a canvas of empowerment, giving a voice to those who have been silenced for too long. Through the creation of these symbolic garments, women reclaim their narratives and celebrate the strength inherent in their identity.

According to the Museum on Vancouver, “ribbon skirts and dresses have been worn by Indigenous women in Canada since the early 1800s. Large amounts of ribbon were imported by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 19th Century for the Indigenous wives of fur traders and their children. The clothing made with ribbon has become an important part of Indigenous culture. Ribbon dresses continue to represent the wearer’s identity and are viewed as symbols of resilience.”

Jamie Smallboy cuts fabric to make a red ribbon skirt at Strathcona Community Centre in Vancouver. (Photo Credit: APTN News)

Jamie Smallboy/Nohtikwew pisim is Plains Cree but lives in Vancouver. In 2019, she began the Red Sisters Gathering, a group that sews red ribbon skirts for the families of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls—and the skirts were worn at the Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver on Feb. 14, 2022. In 2021, Smallboy also founded the non-profit society Sweetgrass Sisters Healing, which now administers the Red Ribbon Skirt Project.  Below is a video to learn more about the movement.

Video of the Red Ribbon Skirt Project. (Video Courtesy of YouTube, Museum of Vancouver)

In a world where the echoes of the REDress Project linger, and the National Ribbon Skirt Day and Red Ribbon Skirt Project flourish, the power of red becomes a unifying force. It is a hue that transcends sorrow while embodying the resilience, pride, and strength of Indigenous communities. Through art, color, activism, and cultural celebration, these projects invite us to listen, learn, and stand in solidarity with those who have long been marginalized.

To learn more about color, color theory and color relationships, view these lessons: on the UoF website:

Color Relationships                                                                         Color Theory-The Basics

poster frame images of color lesson on UoF website

So, tell us, how has color inspired your work?

THREADS OF UNITY: THE RED DRESS PROJECT

- - Women in Fashion

Somerset artist Kirstie Macleod and the amazing red dress changing women’s lives all over the world. (Photo Credit: Somerset Live)

In the heart of British artistry, where creativity knows no bounds, a compelling project has been quietly unfolding over the past fourteen years (from 2009-2023). The Red Dress Project, conceived by the visionary artist Kirstie Macleod, stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, community, and the enduring spirit of femininity. An ambitious effort that began with a single red dress, this artistic journey has grown into a mesmerizing tapestry of stories, stitched together by the hands of 380 embroidery artisans, across 51 countries.

It all began with a vintage red dress that sparked the flame of inspiration in Macleod’s mind. This dress, with its timeless elegance and echoes of bygone eras, became the muse for a project that would unfold over the next fourteen years. The artist envisioned a collaborative effort where women from diverse backgrounds would come together, each leaving their unique mark on the scarlet canvas. According to the dress’s website, RedDressEmbroidery.com, Macleod “provided an artistic platform for women around the world, many of whom are vulnerable and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through embroidery.”

Women of various cultures working on The Red Dress Project. (Photo Credit: MyModernMet.Com)

What began as a solitary journey soon transformed into a vibrant community of women. The garment has been worked on by “367 women/girls, 11 men/boys and 2 non-binary artists from 51 countries”, according to RedDressEmbroidery.com. “All 141 commissioned embroiderers were paid for their work, and receive a portion of all ongoing exhibition fees, merchandise, and the opportunity to sell their work through the Red Dress Etsy shop. The rest of the embroidery was added by willing audiences at various exhibitions & events.” All these embroiderers were connected by a shared purpose: to weave their stories into the fabric of The Red Dress Project. Through the meticulous art of embroidery, each participant added a personal touch, a symbol of her individuality, struggles, triumphs, and dreams.

The red dress became a canvas for shared experiences, a space where women could express their resilience, celebrate their strengths, and acknowledge the beauty in their imperfections. As the dress evolved, so did the collective narrative, creating a rich tapestry of human connection that transcended time and space.

Woman working on The Red Dress Project. (Photo Credit: MyModernMet.Com)

Over the course of fourteen years, The Red Dress Project underwent a fascinating metamorphosis. The scarlet threads encapsulated stories of joy, pain, love, loss, and the myriad emotions that define the human experience. The dress became a living document, a tangible expression of the resilience of women across generations and continents.

From delicate floral patterns, symbolizing growth and renewal, to intricate knots representing life’s complexities, the dress transformed into a visual masterpiece that mirrored the diversity of the female experience. The artists, once strangers, became a sisterhood, bound by a shared commitment to celebrating the strength and beauty inherent in womanhood.

Lekazia Turner, embroiderer from Jamaica, 2022. (Photo Credit: RedDress Embroidery.com)

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, The Red Dress Project stands as a beacon of social impact. The collaborative effort empowered women to reclaim their narratives, fostering a sense of unity and solidarity that transcends cultural and societal boundaries. The project has become a symbol of empowerment, inspiring countless others to embrace their stories and find strength in vulnerability.

According to RedDressEmbroidery.com. “The Red Dress has been exhibited in various galleries and museums worldwide, including Gallery Maeght in Paris, Art Dubai, Museo Des Arte Popular in Mexico City, the National Library of Kosovo, National Waterfront Museum in Wales, Fashion and Textile Museum, London, an event at the Royal Academy in London, and the Premio Valcellina Textiles award in Maniago, Italy where it won first prize in 2015.”

The Red Dress’s 14-year creation journey around the world is just about completed, with the garment assembled in its final formation. RedDressEmbroidery.com states that the dress is  “covered in millions of stitches, the 6.8 kg. silk Red Dress is weighted as much by the individual stories and collective voices waiting to be heard as by the threads and beads that adorn it.”

A close up of the embroideries from The Red Dress Project. (Photo Credit: MyModernMet.Com)

Kirstie Macleod’s vision has given life to more than just a dress; it has birthed a movement—a movement that celebrates the diversity, strength, and beauty that resides within every woman. As The Red Dress Project takes its final bow, it leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire and empower generations to come, reminding us that, like the threads that bind the dress, our stories are intricately connected, creating a tapestry of resilience that withstands the test of time.

Do you have any tories of how fashion and art unite people?