Before New York Fashion Week started, we compiled a list of designers who would be showing for the first time, and then we went to their shows.
Not all of them made lasting impressions, but here's a list of the ones who did. They're not all technically fashion week freshmen, but all of them have been showing for less than three seasons, and we think they have something special -- whether it's a well-executed point of view, sheer talent or a clear knowledge of what women want right now. From a minimalist line beloved by editors to a knitwear brand working to preserve nomadic life in Mongolia, read on for our 10 favorite collections by fashion week newbies.
Youseff followed up his buzzy New York Fashion Week debut last season with a collection that further refined his aesthetic signatures, including zig zags, seen as a trim on coats and dresses, and architectural elements. He manages to make every piece feel special without sacrificing wearability -- no wonder Barneys picked up his last collection as an exclusive. We'll probably be seeing this fall collection in a lot more doors. --Dhani Mau
For a Fashion Week first-timer, Protagonist is already remarkably successful. The two-year-old label, born out of industry favorite store The Line (designer Kate Wendelborn is the twin sister of its co-founder, Morgan) has already been picked up by Barneys and Net-a-Porter. It's not difficult to see why Protagonist is doing so well with buyers: Wendelborn's background is in pattern-making, and she consistently churns out perfectly tailored, minimalist separates in neutral, luxurious fabrics. Hers are the kinds of clothes that high-powered women looking for a sophisticated uniform could live in, whether they work in a corporate environment or something more artistic. --Lauren Indvik
Designer Alejandra Alonso was inspired by the culinary arts for her third-ever fashion week presentation (her mother was a chef) with allusions to chef's jackets and table settings , rendered in details like a subtle check pattern on a sweater dress and in hidden apron tie closures that gave pretty volume to a cream dress. In a cute touch, a few pieces were dotted with a nod to Pablo Picasso's fish paintings, plated up in fur. Standout pieces included a luxurious striped mink fur coat and a mustard yellow number which added just enough color to the lineup. --Tyler McCall
Founded by Matt Scanlan (CEO), Diederik Rijsemus (COO) and Hadas Saar (CCO), Naadam's debut fashion week presentation at the gorgeous Highline Hotel turned out to be a surprise hit. Clothes aside, it had that 'something's happening here' energy you don't feel that often at presentations. “The feedback has been crazy,” said Scanlan after two big menswear editors briefly interrupted our interview to sing their praises. The brand’s focus is on creating the highest quality knitwear possible, sourced responsibly from Mongolia (Naadam is the name of a traditional festival there) as well as Peru, India and Kenya, where they invest in local artisans and workers. Scanlan describes the men’s and women’s clothes as “casual luxury,” and we pretty much wanted to rip the scarves, sweaters and jackets right off the models’ bodies. The looks had that effortlessly elegant quality we all strive for, like, “hey, I’m just swathed in fancy knitwear and really cool.” --Dhani Mau
The husband and wife duo behind Brock Collection, Kristopher Brock and Laura Vassar, took inspiration from their personal lives for their debut NYFW presentation -- namely, the birth of their newborn. “You’ll see there are big oversized wraps, hooded things, cashmere fabrics to wrap yourselves in. We’ve been doing a lot of swaddling lately,” said Brock. They presented a pretty full wardrobe of luxurious, wearable dresses, coats, sweaters and trousers. Add this brand, already picked up by The Line, to the growing list of New York designers doing comfortable, chic American sportswear for modern women -- and, very soon -- men. --Dhani Mau
Chinese designer Ranfan reimagined a vibrant, spice-filled Chiang Mai night market with a dynamic color palette and rich, touchable textures. A bold orange reconstructed wool cocoon coat sprang to life with a fluffy cotton candy pink collar, a crisp white shirt dress was so much more with brilliant cerulean blue buttons trailing down the front (and layered over a chili powder red shift) and mustard yellow leather jackets were delicately embellished with saffron, black and white florals. The Central Saint Martins graduate also accessorized a few looks with the Street Style-favored fur stole casually thrown over a lone shoulder. --Fawnia Soo Hoo
For her NYFW debut, Ji Oh appealed to a concept that might, well, hit home with all of us. The Central Saint Martins and Parsons-trained designer told us that her fall 2015 collection was inspired by the entrepreneurial, work-from-home lifestyle made possible by the digital age. Hence the elevated lounge-y silhouettes and shapes; structured, but relaxed, pinstripe culottes; a billowy shirt dress and a low-slung pencil skirt with a leg-baring slash; and a chic bathrobe-like floor skimming mohair coat. Oh injected shots of caffeine into the mix with splashes of chartreuse, lively giant white polka dots on navy, copper feathery fringe on a maxi-skirt and timely emoji icons on knits. --Fawnia Soo Hoo
For her second show as part of MADE Fashion Week, designer Hillary Taymour was influenced by minimalist Japanese architecture and a desire to do a more creative take on her signature leather pieces. “We’re playing around with layering of sheers and leathers and just trying to keep it very naked, but leather in a way,” she said. The theme translated into a thick shearling lined black leather jacket layered over airy wide leg pants and a buckle-strap camel bralette worn over a gauzy matching blouse. Her signature classic-with-a-vintage-vibe handbags received updates, but only slight ones. “I just play around with the shapes that work for my customer,” she said about the new cylinder-shaped Solo bag.
In collaboration with stylist Gillian Wilkins, Taymour also introduced homeware, dubbed Social+Studies. Her first foray into the category features funky geometric marble framed mirrors, which created a fitting backdrop for her architectural fall collection. --Fawnia Soo Hoo
Gabriela Hearst launched her bohemian contemporary line Candela in 2004, but this season marks her first foray into the designer price point with a collection under her own name (and the name of her husband Austin, whom she married in 2013). It may be a passion project that she is financially fortunate enough to indulge, but the quality of fabrics and the detailed construction of everything from a simple cashmere coat to an intricate chiffon blouse are undeniably impressive. The line includes shoes and simple-but-distinctive cross-body pouches. She incorporated subtle brand details, like her almost invisible embroidered initials on the left inside wrists of the sweater (where she has a tattoo) and custom-made hardware that resembles a fish shackle hooked onto a horse stirrup, alluding to her background and her husband’s love of fishing. The collection will be available online in September, though the retailer has yet to be announced. --Chantal Fernandez
Oliver Luhr and Thomas Bentz launched Achtland in 2011, but the line made its first appearance in the U.S. this week at The White Space. The inspiration for their fall collection came oddly enough from Daphne Oram, a British sound engineer who pioneered an electronic sound machine in the 1960s. She had a quirky, geeky style that the designers used as a jumping off point for a “British countryside goes Palm Springs” aesthetic. That means that while many of the silhouettes are boxy or prim, there are also big, bright appliqué flamingos and fully transparent skirts. Achtland is not yet available in the U.S., but that status is sure to change before the collection is available next fall. --Chantal Fernandez