If any designer managed to seize the zeitgeist this season, it was fast-rising newcomer Marine Serre with her collection “Manic Soul Machine.”
Fresh from winning the 2017 LVMH Prize for Young Designers last June — an event that propelled the then 25-year-old into the international spotlight only a year after her graduation from Belgian school La Cambre — this was her first catwalk show. (The precocious talent, who was working in the studio of Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga at the time of her win, in the same year was finalist of the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography and the ANDAM Fashion Award Creative Label prize.)
In terms of first runway shows, it generated a level of excitement in Paris not seen since the debut of Vetements in 2014. Front row guests included Michèle Lamy, the wife and muse of Rick Owens, and Adrian Joffe of Comme des Garçons International and Dover Street Market.
Jackets and pants, some bearing a Futurewear logos, featured utility pockets for stashing an iPhone, water bottle or lipstick — fashion’s version of an emergency survival kit. Serre built lightweight protective layers from elements of activewear, moiré taffeta and secondhand scarves.
Her signature crescent moon pattern, which has its roots in Islamic culture, appeared on flesh-colored balaclavas and catsuits. The masks covered the mouth like a niqab, but Serre shrugged off the symbolism. “It’s a winter collection so it’s cold today, no?”
In her short time on the scene, Serre, who likes to sponge up references and see what sticks, has managed to carve out an identity, one hooked on unexpected mixes of genres, juxtaposing Nineties sportswear, logos and luxe 19th-century Arabic garments; melding easy and couture vibes infused with sociopolitical undertones. Outfits meld stretch jersey with opulent moiré taffeta, and reference items of clothing like caftans and sarouels.
As part of the “woke” generation, she’s also about probing the raison d’être of yet another fashion brand, with the desire to contribute to change part of her ethos.
One of the focuses here was “inventing fundamentally new solutions to produce garments today,” including an upcyling approach. The designer has stockpiled scarves and set up a system for producing her one-of-a-kind pieces, which included trompe-l’œil bra tops, patchwork dresses and a handkerchief hem skirt worn with a black scuba top.
In terms of other mentors, Serre — who was born in the Corrèze department in southwestern France, and lived in Marseille and Brussels before moving to Paris in September 2016 — has worked on the teams of Matthieu Blazy at Maison Margiela and Raf Simons at Christian Dior. But with her own reinforced team and confidence levels, courtesy of the LVMH nod and cash injection, plus a willing audience, she’s ready to go it alone. — Katya Foreman
London designer Richard Quinn was turning heads even before Britain’s monarch made a surprise appearance at his February show, handing him the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in her first appearance at London Fashion Week.
It wasn’t Quinn’s first accolade: The designer, whose MA degree from Central Saint Martins was funded by a scholarship from the Stella McCartney Foundation, established his namesake label after graduation in 2016, and went on to win the H&M Design Award a year later.
A women’s wear and textiles specialist who’s known for his sustainable approach to design and community spirit, Quinn is proving a wizard with prints, mashing them up, layering them and, of late, poking through the Liberty archives for inspiration. His stockists include Matchesfashion.com, Lane Crawford and L’Eclaireur.
For spring, Quinn worked with Liberty, revisiting some of the retailer’s Sixties flower prints, scattering them across stretchy velvet leggings and tops. For fall, he took scarves as his inspiration, piling them onto models’ shoulders, twisting them into halter dresses, or knotting them under chins — a last-minute nod to his surprise royal guest.
His obvious talent wasn’t the only reason for his Queen’s award: Initiated in recognition of the role the fashion industry plays in society and diplomacy, the accolade is given to an emerging British fashion designer who shows exceptional talent and originality, while also demonstrating value to the community and/or strong sustainable policies.
Working with Epson’s Surecolor system at his studio in Peckham, south London, Quinn has been using digital technology to create his own styles, but he hasn’t been keeping that know-how to himself. He’s opened up his studio — and printing capabilities — to fellow designers.
Next up for Quinn is an exclusive collection with British retailer Debenhams for spring 2018 that will feature more bold and floral prints and statement silhouettes and an accessories collaboration with Liberty that will be revealed later this month. — Samantha Conti
Conner Ives first became known as the 21-year-old Central Saint Martins design student behind Adwoa Aboah’s Met Gala look — an asymmetric, sequined number layered over a deconstructed, tailored coat done in white taffeta and paired with a statement crystal ear cuff.
Since then, everyone in the industry has been wanting a piece of him: Rihanna commissioned the designer to create one of his repurposed signature T-shirt dresses for her; Liberty London hosted a pop-up of his work alongside other emerging names; Browns launched an exclusive capsule of his T-shirt dresses to mark the start of London Fashion Week last February, and editors, buyers and stylists go to him regularly to place private orders of the pieces he shares on Instagram. His work, which is largely based on deconstructed silhouettes and upcycled fabrics, seems to have struck a chord for the beauty of its simplicity, as well as its commitment to sustainability.
“My style is inspired by my upbringing, it’s inherently American. I always look at American sportswear, so a lot of the clothing that I do is quieter than other things happening in the industry. I love a humble piece of clothing, I think there’s something really honest about that and the idea that it comes from something preexistent,” said the designer, who tends to use secondhand fabrics sourced in markets.
He describes the opportunity to dress Aboah for the Met Gala as “the most magical experience of [his] life” yet also admits that being cast into the spotlight from so early on has had its challenges. “Thinking about the Met Gala was just thinking about the dress, it wasn’t thinking about all the things that would come with that exposure. I was working on custom pieces for Rihanna, while going back to school. At times it had gotten so overwhelming that my career was going better than my schoolwork and I would wonder which one was going to give,” said Ives, who is currently completing the second year of his design degree at Saint Martins.
Halfway through his degree, Ives has no intention of quitting school despite his newfound stardom. He describes Saint Martins as “almost like an incubator,” forcing you to grow up quickly, deal with criticism and learn to wholeheartedly stand behind your work. Upon graduation, he will be ready to launch his label in full force. “At this point, there is absolutely nothing holding me back. Once I graduate, I’ll be free to finally do this for real. Not to say I’m not doing it for real now, but there will be no limitations to where I want to take it.” — Natalie Theodosi
With 452,000 Instagram followers, Gilda Ambrosio and Giorgia Tordini have been a power couple in the digital fashion world for the past five years. But with the launch of their brand Attico in 2016, the two young women successfully climbed fashion’s hierarchical ladder, moving beyond being simply influencers and making their glamorous, flamboyant label one of the most interesting on the Milan scene. Kicking off with a concise selection of loungewear-inspired robe dresses, Attico now offers extensive collections for women who love to shine bright in the spotlight. Sequins, embroideries, feathers, pearls and crystals are among the recurring details that contribute to Attico’s designs, which are strongly influenced by the bold style of the Eighties.
Spanning from languid velvet wrap dresses to disco mini frocks with exaggerated shoulders, the brand fits the current trend for versatility and uniqueness. Ambrosio and Tordini extended their business to footwear in spring 2017 with pumps, mules and flats enriched with bows, ribbons and sparkling embellishments. Selling to over 120 retailers worldwide, including Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-porter, Attico also is a favorite of celebrities including Katy Perry, Kourtney Kardashian, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Rita Ora, who wore one of the brand’s patchwork slipdresses for her “Anywhere” music video released last fall. — Alessandra Turra
There was something transcendent about Telfar Clemens’ fall show, titled “Music,” which took place in a lofty room at Spring Street Studios that he and his creative partner, Babak Radboy, transformed into a cozy concert venue. Directed by musicians Dev Hynes and Ian Isiah, the 9 p.m. musical performance plucked attendees from the stupor of successive fashion shows with a spirit-raising rendition of gospel singer Hezekiah Walker’s song “Grateful,” performed by models (Alton Mason and Adonis Basso), singers (Kelsey Lu and Kelela) and even Clemens, who closed out the show cheekily praising his loyal customers instead of an almighty power. The show was followed by a showroom experiment at Century 21 where customers could purchase Telfar goods and vote for the fall pieces they wanted to be produced.
Clemens has spent more than 10 years transcending the status quo, but this show, which was a bigger orchestration with a bigger audience thanks to him winning the 2017 CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Award, cemented his position as a designer with new, impactful ideas that aren’t only confined to clothing. — Aria Hughes
What Diet Prada does — highlight design copycats via its Instagram — isn’t a novel concept. But founders Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler have made the endeavor an entertaining, broader pursuit with catty commentary and callouts that extend beyond knockoffs. Sometimes the posts can be as subtle as alerting a publication for misspelling a designer’s name or it can be as big as featuring companies who don’t consider diversity. But its influence was made clear last May when Diet Prada posted a picture of a Gucci jacket by Alessandro Michele next to a similar one designed years ago by Harlem tailor Dapper Dan. The backlash from that post led to a Gucci x Dapper Dan atelier in Harlem and a Gucci show invite for Diet Prada. The outside whistleblowers, who now have an agent and attended multiple European shows this past season, are migrating closer to insider status — making some question whether their original mission will change. But it’s clear they are determined to broach big topics within fashion that aren’t always openly addressed, something Diet Prada’s 384,000 followers seem to be missing from other outlets. — A.H.
Not only was Daniëlle Cathari’s collaboration with Adidas for fall 2018 the most-searched collection of all of WWD’s fashion month coverage, her first drop from the line sold out in under 10 minutes, according to Adidas vice president of global design Nic Galway. At WWD’s Men’s Summit last month, Galway noted that Cathari was handpicked by brand ambassador Kendall Jenner and the Adidas team out of a group of young designers for the collaboration. Prior to the partnership, Cathari emerged with a small collection of reworked vintage Adidas tracksuits on the VFiles runway after being discovered via social media from her designs created during a summer program at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. The 23-year-old Dutch designer’s innovative, reworked athletic duds fast-tracked her from young student to covetable collaborator in a matter of only a few short years. Her highly anticipated second drop of the Adidas partnership is set to drop May 5. — Emily Mercer