Six emerging designers to watch this year
Sexy knitwear, ice-cold menswear, saucy slogans and a designer that hasn’t even graduated yet… phew. This year is looking good.
Ever since Randa Kherba was flown out to Calabasas to meet none other than Kanye West and later worked with the rapper’s design team, she’s been one of the UK’s most hotly anticipated menswear designers. It’s worth noting that this happened just after she graduated from Central Saint Martins’ BA Menswear course in 2018. Born and bred in Camden, North London, Kherba’s on an ice-cold mission to create sustainable clothing cooler than her expeditions to Alaska (more on that here), using modern tech and algae for pieces that not only protect us from the elements, but leave no trace once left behind: think tents that break down in the forest. A recipient of the British Fashion Council’s grant initiative last summer, Kherba’s already screened a brand-new film, Arctic Man, at Art Basel Miami last month, documenting the extreme sports, climates and environments she so often chases.
Having featured in issues six and nine of THE FACE, it’s safe to say we’re pretty excited about designer Aaron Esh. The East London-born designer is still in his final year at Central Saint Martins, where he’ll complete an MA in Menswear pretty soon. Also a London College of Fashion grad, Esh’s menswear designs explore the fleeting, raw moments of life in London through a young man’s perspective: being skint, getting dumped, going out, getting bladdered and coming home to an unpaid tax bill. It’s a story told through slight nuances, like a deliberate rip in a pair of tailored trousers, or the sole of a shoe hanging off by a thread. There’s sex appeal, too, in structured jackets and subtly cut shirts framing the male torso. Eyes peeled for the MA show in February, the first with an audience since the pandemic began in March 2020. It’s going to be a good’un.
Knitwear has found its cool in the past year, turning its back on lumpy scarves knitted by nana. Thanks to a new generation of designers, it’s now hyper-futuristic (Fashion East’s Chet Lo), hyper-coloured (Paolina Russo), fairytale-fantastic (Vereja) and downright erotic. Russian designer Katya Zelentsova, a recent Central Saint Martins MA Knitwear grad, has given knitwear red-hot sex appeal through her no-waste approach to design. Using a patchwork-like approach, her multicoloured cardigans, mini skirts and dresses are a part of the outfit as much as bare skin is. Styled with sexy underwear-as-outerwear via lace slips, opaque dresses and crotchless tights, it’s knitwear as you’ve never seen it before.
Lois Saunders demands we “get sexy”. Since launching her brand 1xblue in January 2020, the young designer has been on an uphill climb to reinvent outerwear. Upcycling materials, Saunders has a good sense of humour, incorporating footie and South Park merch into bikinis, plastering “Lick Me” slogans on T‑shirts and, perhaps for the less daring, camo trousers (safe for a trip to mum and dad’s). With a bonafide online shop at the ready, we reckon you’ll be hearing a lot more from Saunders this year.
At the tail end of 2021, Lola Tate had one of her designs worn by FKA twigs, who “picked up this lil number from fanny twirls @fantastictoiles”, a treasure trove of independent designers, odd bits and mashed up homeware founded by designer Nasir Mazhar in 2019. A fairly elusive character on the otherwise up-front world of social media, Tate has posted only a few pieces from her design repertoire since last year, which she made during lockdown, showcasing dystopian figures cloaked in fabric, strong, armour-like and ready for war. Guess the clues in the title of her most recent collection, Bene Gesserit (watch Dune).
Picking up the coveted L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent Award at last year’s Central Saint Martins BA Fashion presentation, South London designer Seli Korsi is tipped to become British fashion’s Next Big Thing. And with past recipients of the Young Talent Award including Grace Wales Bonner, Richard Quinn and Fashion East’s Goom Heo, Korsi’s in good company. What’s all the fuss about? His painting background lends itself to his dreamy design approach, which experiments with maximal shapes and inventive printed matter, like holographic 3D faces superimposed onto whimsical fabrics.