Over 200 designers will show collections at New York Fashion Week, which kicks off today. But who should you be watching?
Welcome to the Fashionista 15. There's no complicated methodology to this--no rigid ranking. These 15 labels are simply the ones we know you should be paying attention to. We've used our own research and reporting--as well as recommendations from our industry friends and sources--to bring you the brands that in two, three, five years will be winning Swarovski Awards and CFDA mentorships. They'll be collaborating with Target or Urban Outfitters. They're changing New York fashion. And they're having fun doing it. Click through to see our picks--who tops your list?
SUNO When filmmaker Max Osterweis decided to build a stable of dresses created from his archive of African fabrics, he brought on industry vet Erin Beatty, and SUNO was born. Their friends at Opening Ceremony began stocking the colorful, shapely collection and in no time Vogue was calling. While the duo has undeniably lead the tribal print trend revival, it's their work in Africa that is most important. Nearly everything SUNO sells is produced by African villagers, who the company has given training and experience. Osterweis and Beatty are strengthening otherwise unstable economies by creating beautiful clothes. --Lauren Sherman
Nomia It's easy to envy Nomia designer Yara Flinn. When you're gorgeous enough to star in your own lookbook and you've already sold pieces to the likes of Kim Gordon, the haters will emerge. But thankfully, Flinn's clothes are lovely enough to make any hints of jealousy turn right into gratitude. Sexy, body-con looks have been de rigueur for some time now, and we're over it. Flinn makes beautifully structured pieces that aren't too tight, too revealing, but ultimately sexy. We're sold. --Lauren Sherman
More on Nomia: Nomia's Yara Flinn Inspires Us
HONOR A friend of mine cried when he saw this collection, and I understand why. Honor, designed by Giovanna Randall, fills the void that Mayle and Lyell have left with long, sheer skirts in the most beautiful, muted pastels, dress coats, and painterly party frocks. The daughter of an artist and an architect, Randall was in medical school when she decided leave the world's third oldest profession for design. We can't wait for her show tomorrow. --Lauren Sherman
More on Honor: Pre-Fashion Week Mad-Libs: Honor
Wes Gordon This baby-faced designer is a St. Martins grad with apprenticeships with Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta under his belt. His first collection--Fall 2010--was clean, sophisticated, and above all, rich. To be sure, he is the new designer for the ladies who lunch. We wouldn't mind one of his fur-lined blazers, either. Expect to see Gordon's looks popping up on the red carpet sooner than later. --Lauren Sherman
More on Wes Gordon: Pre-Fashion Week Mad-Libs: Wes Gordon
TEN by Daphne Javitch Despite the success of incredible brands like The Lake and Stars, VPL, and Araks, the market for cool, interesting underthings is still incredibly small. Enter Daphne Javitch, who's launching her new line at Opening Ceremony this fall. (This is a picture of her modeling Scott Sternberg's BOY pajamas, by the way.) The differentiator for Javitch? Her pieces are priced gently, which means those of us who can't afford the Stella McCartney days of the week undies have something to look forward to. --Lauren Sherman
JF & SON Jesse Finkelstein and Katie King are the designers behind JF & SON, a line they launched just over three years ago and sell out of their store on Kenmare Street. It's all about the textiles at JF and Son. They source fabrics, create prints and develop techniques out of their studio in New Delhi--not to be confused with a factory--where they pay workers three times the living wage and foster a collaborative, creative environment. That collaborative feel extends to their Kenmare store, where they make alterations for shoppers on the spot, allowing them to order garments in prints to suit their fancy. We like that they're a brand with a mission--to produce fairly abroad as outsourcing sadly becomes an inevitability--and their clothes are pretty cute too. --Leah Chernikoff
LaQuan Smith Queens native LaQuan Smith is just 21, and last I checked in on him, he was making clothes out of his 150 square foot bedroom at his grandparents house in St. Albans. Despite space and age constraints, Smith's clothes--mostly his coveted lattice-like legging and Balenciaga-inspired neoprene mini dresses--have been worn by everyone from Lady Gaga to Rihanna to Alicia Keys to Tyra Banks. We like him because he's a true New York City story: He hustles nonstop and it's starting to pay off. Andre Leon Talley is his outspoken supporter, and since his first show last season, he toured the world attending different fashion weeks, and befriended Courtney Love who has helped him out with fabric costs. Despite all that, he's still a lovely humble guy. And he's bringing some much needed diversity to the designer pool. --Leah Chernikoff
Mandy Coon Mandy Coon is a former model, current DJ (she's one half of Two Mandy DJs) and overall downtown girl. She is also the designer of her eponymous line, and will show her third collection this week. Modeling past aside, she's got some serious fashion cred. She apprenticed with Camilla Staerk, and Jaime Bochert modeled her last lookbook. Her line has a goth vibe, her colors tending towards black and white and nudish pinks with occasional bursts of print and color, and she plays with texture, mixing leather with gauzy silks with thick knits. Her pieces are drapey and sexy and dark and we can't wait to see what she'll do next. We hope there's another leather bunny bag involved. --Leah Chernikoff
WHIT Whitney Pozgay is the Brooklyn-based designer behind WHIT, a charming line of preppy-ish separates loaded up on quirk (she styled her first collection last season based on Henry Darger's drawings of creepy adorable young girls, hence the cheerful model with an arrow through her head). The preppy influence is thanks in part to her fashion pedigree: She's Kate Spade's niece and worked at the company while studying at Parsons and FIT, and oversaw the brand's collab with Three Asfour. But there's no nepotism at play here. Pozgay's clearly got talent, and the rest of her fashion resume--she's the former lead women's wear designer for Steven Alan--makes that plain. This week Pozgay presents her second collection. --Leah Chernikoff
Timo Weiland Timo Weiland is Timo Weiland and Alan Eckstein. The New Yorkers are 27 and 25, respectively, have no formal design training and will be showing their third men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections at Lincoln Center this week. The collection started with a line of unisex neckwear and grew into a full-fledged clothing line when the pair realized people needed something to wear the neckwear with, and they were best suited to decide what. The expansion has been seamless and successful. Their beautiful clothing, which is sold in places like Pas de Deux and Barney’s, reflects their own dapper aesthetic met with their desire for a return to the art of dressing. We anticipate only good things from this talented team. --Dhani Mau
More on Timo Weiland: Pre-Fashion Week Mad-Libs: Timo Weiland!
Kai-Aakman Kai-Aakmann is based in Seoul, Korea and designed by Soojin Park (not to be confused with former MTV VJ Suchin Pak). Her designs are clean, modern, largely unisex and very, very reasonably priced. Park successfully does that whole masculine meets feminine deconstructed thing in a wearable and accessible way. Though a fraction of the price, a Kai-Aakmann piece could easily hang next to Alexander Wang or Yohji Yamamoto on a rack without looking entirely out of place. --Dhani Mau
More on Kai-Aakman: Label to Watch: Kai-Aakman
Victor de Souza Victor de Souza was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and knew from an early age that fashion was in his future. He studied at three Argentinian couture academies and designed his first collection by the age of 18. In October 2002, de Souza showed a collection in Paris as part of a special “Americans in Paris” group. He then started designing stage outfits for people like Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige. From 2006-2008, de Souza worked as creative director at Ruskin. He launched his first eponymous ready to wear collection for S/S 2009. His clothing is dramatic, feminine evening wear with highly structured silhouettes. --Dhani Mau
Park Choon Moo Choonmoo Park was born in Kimje, Korea to parents who owned a children’s apparel company. She was a fixture in her father’s factory and showroom and later studied industrial design and fashion design. In 1988, she launched her first label, Demoo, and started to become well-known in Korea for her avant garde aesthetic. The same year, she launched Parkchoonmoo, opened her first retail store in Korea, and expanded into other Asian markets. Park has since won numerous design awards, is Chairman of Korean fashion association NWS (New Wave Seoul) and has been elected President of Fashion Group International on the Board of Directors in Seoul. --Dhani Mau
Nonoo Misha Nonoo, formerly of Nonoo Lyons, is launching her first collection on her own. Like her previous collections, Nonoo is comprised solely of jackets that are so cool, whimsical and well-tailored that it doesn’t really matter what you wear with them. These are jackets that make an outfit. Misha’s designs are inspired by her diverse background. She was raised in Bahrain and then London and has spent time in the Arabian souks and Paris. --Dhani Mau More on Nonoo: Nonoo Lyons Is Like the Icing on the Most Delicious Cake
Lady Grey Jill Martinelli and Sabine Le Guyader, the designers behind the Brooklyn-based jewelry line, are much more than the girls behind the bone bangles that became an instant hit with celebrities. The duo met while studying metalsmithing at Mass Art, and started Lady Grey over two years ago. They continue to work together out of their East Williamsburg studio, where they churn out hand-crafted dark, geometric statement pieces that have garnered a cult following. --Leah Chernikoff More on Lady Grey: Inside the Designer's Studio: Lady Grey Jewelry