It can often feel like there’s an endless cycle of new fashion designers to keep up with. And, well, there kind of is. Each year, hundreds of knackered fashion students graduate from the country’s many fashion design courses armed with hopes, dreams and big ideas. Keeping up with all that hot new talent can be exhausting – and we’re not even the ones doing the work.
Last year, emerging designers made noise with sartorial takes on everything from politics and sex to inclusivity and modern masculinity, all through really, really good design. During a particularly testing year, some designers provided an optimistic antidote to the madness through rave-wear, shirts for first dates and short hems. Others responded to the dark climate through transgressive means – menacing masks, painful platforms and torn fabrics.
But obviously, they have new tricks up their sleeves for 2023. Take note: these are the next-gen designers to keep a close eye on this year.
For fans of the otherworldly
Over the past two years, Feben has already made her mark as one of London’s most delectably surreal designers. Born in North Korea, raised in Sweden by her Ethiopian mother and later studying at Central Saint Martins in London, her collections have explored self-referential themes of displacement and nomadism, as well as her experience as a Black woman. After her lookbooks and static presentations made a buzz across the city, last September she made her runway debut at London Fashion Week. There, her intricate, highly-detailed designs were seen in motion: beaded, blood-red slips, lime green leather, twisted silks and micro-mini PVC skirts influenced by the designer’s spiritual proclivity to tarot reading. The devil really is in the detail.
For fans of around-the-clock hedonism
Last February, New York-via-London designer Conner Ives made his debut at London Fashion Week, with a patchwork collection dedicated to all-American icons and archetypes: The Groupie, The Cowgirl, The Heiress and Sharon Tate. The designer weaved in a wicked sense of humour throughout, with high-energy cuts to reveal skin and a punchy, mood-enhancing palette on asymmetric skirts, bandana tops and low-rise jeans. His designs are already gathering a celebrity cult following: Celeste and Hailey Bieber are firmly Team Ives, while Sky Ferreira wore the designer’s ivory evening gown to the Met Gala last May. In December, the British Fashion Council even presented him with the “Leader of Change” award. After skipping fashion week in September, Ives will return this February for his second show – no doubt another hellraiser.
For fans of future functionality
Charlie Constantinou’s designs are concerned with the far-out future. His multipurpose pieces, made from nylon taffeta, shrunken quilting and origami-like silhouettes, are for extreme conditions. Forget blending into your surroundings, though: these pieces look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi film. Constantinou’s designs include elements of cyberpunk, such as crafty, full-length zips on the front of flared water-proof trousers and ribbed, skin-tight knitwear that’s made for layering. But he also flexes his flirty side with playful vests made from ruched nylon and bungee drawstrings, which harness over the shoulders. Recently, on Instagram Stories, he shared a photo of 66°North buttons alongside his own, so look out for a (fingers crossed) collaboration with the Icelandic outerwear giants this year. We expect it to be anything but ordinary.
For fans of ultra-modern menswear
We’ve been following menswear designer Aaron Esh since he graduated from London College of Fashion, first profiling him in our February 2021 issue alongside a group of fledgling designers. Since then, the East Londoner has completed his CSM’s MA course, became father to a Pekingese named Meatball, invented the “Comma shoe” and had his first post-uni collection bought exclusively by SSENSE. He’s yet to present a solo show (for now), but we get the feeling Esh is enjoying taking his time. And if his romantic tailoring is anything to go by, it will be well worth the wait. Look out for his SS23 caps coming soon.
For fans with a fetish for techwear
Olly Shinder only graduated from CSM’s BA Fashion course last summer and his first collection has already been picked up by Dover Street Market’s Paris store. A mash-up of sex, masculinity and techwear, Shinder’s take on utility places emphasis on highlighting the body via cut-out shorts, volume-enhancing jackets and high-waisted, tailored cargo trousers ready-made for the Berlin dancefloor. With a graduate lookbook shot by Wolfgang Tillmans, the 23-year-old’s perspective is rooted in his own queer experience, having spent his (even) younger years trawling the East London club scene. “I don’t see many people approaching masculinity from a queer perspective,” he told us last year. Make some room.
For fans of ’90s girlhood
Founded by Giuditta Tanzi in 2019, Garbage Core is a Milan-based brand with a tunnel-vision focus on one-of-a-kind, upcycled pieces, which made its off-schedule Milan Fashion Week debut last year. It started when Tanzi began deconstructing unloved clothes from markets and second-hand shops, inspired by the clothes her friends and family wear. The result is a youthful ode to femininity, influenced by ’90s indie films and scrappy art school style for a quiet, nonchalant take on romance. Trousers look like pyjama bottoms and cardigans are sheer and barely buttoned up – a mash-up that sums up the age old smart-casual conundrum.
For fans (and worshippers) of the underworld
For any emerging designer, having Julia Fox wear one of your designs is a big deal – not least because the actress-slash-muse was, undoubtedly, one of the most viral, talked-about celebs of 2022. And none of Fox’s radical looks got the internet’s fingers typing harder than when she stepped out in a pair of Liza Keane’s low-low-rise trousers (or “absurdly low”, as the Daily Mail described them). The womenswear designer’s graduate collection, presented at last year’s CSM MA show in February, was a psychiatrist’s nightmare, influenced by philosophers, Slipknot and Francis Bacon. With T‑shirts that looked cum-soaked with “hungry hoe” written across them, upside-down racer jackets and a slip dress that cleverly bore a “Freudian Slip” message, Keane’s subversive eye is planted firmly in the underground. Expect the unexpected.