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10 Designers to Watch in 2016

Here's who we'll be keeping an especially close eye on this year.
Kate Valentine, wearing Frances Valentine shoes. Photo:

Kate Valentine, wearing Frances Valentine shoes. Photo:

Monday's talk of Hedi Slimane leaving Saint Laurent may have turned out to be no more than a rumor, but it also served as a reminder that the fashion world is in a state of flux. In 2015, many designers left big companies or shuttered their own, while others prepared to get back into the game after a long break. Meanwhile, prominent members of the industry are questioning the pace of the fashion cycle and whether the biannual fashion weeks as we know them make any sense at all. There's no doubt about it: 2016 is going to be a year of change for the industry on many levels.

There are a few designers who we think could be at the forefront of this change. In addition to waiting to see who will fill the top design roles at Dior and Lanvin, and how the designs of Gucci's Alessandro Michele perform at the cash register, these are the people we'll be keeping a close eye on over the next 12 months

Kate Valentine (fka Spade)

In February, Kate and Andy Spade will debut Frances Valentine, a line of shoes and handbags that will mark Kate's first venture since leaving her namesake brand in 2007. It's difficult to associate Kate Spade, the person, with a brand that is not called Kate Spade, which is presumably why she now goes by Kate Valentine. (Valentine is a family name.) But the ultrafeminine accessories — think low-heeled metallic sandals, dainty espadrilles and cheeky bags — are unmistakably her. Though, the marketing strategy is (relatively) new: images of the line are embargoed until it hits stores.

Reed Krakoff

Reed Krakoff was one of several designers to surprise us with the all-out shuttering of his label in March. However, a few months later, he announced plans to relaunch, most likely with a more accessible, commercial business model based on things he said in a recent interview with Fashionista, and on the casual items seen on his website's landing page.

Jonathan Saunders

Another sudden closure came from Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders, who announced in December that he had left his namesake label for personal reasons. It was surprising due to the many accolades Saunders accumulated over the years, from British Fashion Council awards and sponsorships to a slew of celebrity red carpet credits — including plenty from Kate Middleton. Hopefully, that talent won't go to waste, and we look forward to seeing where Saunders ends up.

Rihanna in a Raf Simons coat. Photo: Rommel Demano/Getty Images

Rihanna in a Raf Simons coat. Photo: Rommel Demano/Getty Images

Raf Simons

Last year's biggest bombshell was Raf Simons's departure from Dior — which Simons attributed to a "desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside of my work." No doubt, we can look forward to an expansion of that namesake line, which will hopefully include more womenswear. Rihanna may be able to pull off his menswear, but it's not for everyone.

Alber Elbaz

Alber Elbaz is one of fashion's most beloved designers. For years, he has been inextricably linked to the house of Lanvin, and his ousting from that house gives him the chance to make a name for himself. He started with Instagram, which he'll use to keep up his personal brand until he's ready to announce his next chapter. Surely, we'll be seeing those glasses and bow ties at the end of a runway again soon.

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Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez

Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are making a play for the big leagues. Having succeeded in striking that rare balance of forward-thinking and commercially viable, the brand sold a minority stake to Boston-based private equity firm Castanea Partners last year. Expect global store openings, expansion into new categories and perhaps flashier runway shows in 2016.

Fernanda Ly wearing Gypsy Sport, with Rio Uribe. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Fernanda Ly wearing Gypsy Sport, with Rio Uribe. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Rio Uribe

One of the winners of last year's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was a designer many people in the industry hadn't even heard of: Rio Uribe of wacky, gender-fluid streetwear label Gypsy Sport. The brand has only shown twice during New York Fashion Week and found a fan in the unimpeachably cool Jaden Smith. Like the breaking down of gender roles, streetwear is having a moment, and clearly the fashion powers-that-be see something special in Gypsy Sport. With $300,000 in his pocket, Uribe seems poised to impact the fashion world in some way this year.

Honorable mentions go to fellow winners Brother Vellies's Aurora James, who employs artisans in Africa to create statement shoes, and Jonathan Simkhai, whose commercially successful (and very cute) women's clothes you've likely seen before.

Demna Gvasalia

It's time to learn how to pronounce Demna Gvasalia. In addition to being behind one of fashion's buzziest labels, Vetements, he has also been named Alexander Wang's replacement at Balenciaga. The 34-year-old Georgian made Vetements an overnight success thanks to a wearable-yet-distinctive aesthetic. We're excited to see if he'll be able to do the same for Balenciaga when their partnership debuts at Paris Fashion Week in March, though we'll also be paying attention to how Vetements evolves in the coming year.

Vetements spring 2016. Photo: Imaxtree

Vetements spring 2016. Photo: Imaxtree

Johnny Coca

Nearly three years after Emma Hill left her position as creative director of Mulberry, her replacement, Céline alum Johnny Coca, will present his debut collection during London Fashion Week in February. Mulberry was always one of the shows we looked forward to the most in London: cute, wearable clothes; bags we wanted to rip right off the models; live animals; great front-row celebs in a good mood — it was all there. Though, fortunately for Coca, Mulberry hasn't been on everyone's radar over the past few seasons, which allows him to start somewhat fresh. Still, he'll be under pressure to deliver a collection that's commercially viable, as the brand is still in the midst of a turnaround — one that's actually going pretty well, all things considered.

Rachel Roy

Rachel Roy recently announced that after suffering through a bit of a nightmare with her former parent company that resulted in the closure of her designer line, she would be relaunching it this September. Aside from her diffusion line Rachel Rachel Roy, she hasn't designed a collection since fall 2014. The landscape has changed quite a bit since then, and she's had some time to cook up some fresh ideas. We look forward to seeing them.

Homepage photo of Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler: Andrew Toth/Getty Images