Yoon Ahn

If fashion is a reflection of the times, shoppers are in for a flurry of excitement from brands culturally immersed in the space.

To examine the changing vignettes of the fashion front more closely, in late January WWD Digital Events took part in a “Fall 2021 Preview Series” of live webinars hosted by Milan-based New Guards Group, and led by WWD’s fashion editor Alessandra Turra, to take a deep dive into brand identity and inspiration.

The series homed in on designers Yoon Ahn, cofounder and creative director of Ambush; Heron Preston, founder of his eponymously named brand; and Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, cofounders of Opening Ceremony, leading viewers through an exclusive preview of their upcoming collections, sharing inspirations, key ready-to-wear looks and accessories, and their collective focus on Made in Italy and Europe production.

But perhaps what’s most obvious is the distinctive DNA woven through the brands’ new collections each season — and openness to innovation and change — that wholly differentiates them among their peers.

Take Ambush, a brand that began as an experimental line of jewelry with a penchant for a “distinct Tokyo aesthetic.” Today, the brand has evolved into a cultural hub and fashion label focused on a blend of luxury and glamour and is also a pioneer in the industry that treks into new territories — namely, designing unisex collections.

Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, founders of Opening Ceremony. Image courtesy of NGG Group. 

Ahn told WWD, “If you know the history of our beginnings, we started as a jewelry brand. I didn’t have to separate that into men’s and women’s categories because I felt they could be worn by both.”

Eventually, Ahn felt it was time to transition the brand. “Last year, we started a new chapter at Ambush. Prior to that, it was more about clothes supporting the jewelry; but I think we’ve matured enough to bring apparel into the forefront.”

She added, “When we started to introduce apparel, it was the right thing to show them [women’s and men’s collections] together. It made sense for us.”

Opening Ceremony, too, shows its men’s and women’s collections together. Carol Lim, cofounder, said “There’s always been a dialogue between the men’s and women’s collections” for the brand. “We thought it was a modern approach to show men’s and women’s together.”

And Humberto Leon, cofounder, explained that its creative process is informed and inspired by culture. “We always think about culture first, that has always been our foundation. We are not trying to follow the rules in the fashion world, and that has always been our strength.”

Heron Preston, founder of Heron Preston. Image courtesy of NGG Group.  Jason Leiva

Designer Heron Preston also foregoes the “rules” with his oft irreverent take on streetwear, and Preston’s collection for fall 2021, “Between Two Worlds,” follows suit.

Preston’s latest collection is a tribute to the working class — and he sought to make them “visible” through his authentic, certified workwear made of flame-retardant material that can actually be worn on a worksite.

When conferring with construction workers about the ins and outs of workwear, they cited authenticity as a priority — so certifying the workwear became integral to the soul of the collection. “I started to research and look into what it means to be real workwear,” said Preston. “There are certain guidelines you have to follow. Stitching, materials, kind of everything.” Preston explained that it’s “fire-retardant fashion, not just workwear,” which “really [blurs] those lines between fashion and workwear.”

Preston also emphasized his respect for Italian craftsmanship and its foundation in the brand, as its manufacturing takes place on the outskirts of Milan. “Italy is known for its craftsmanship,” he said. “I know the clothes will be as top-notch as possible.”