Marine Serre, Jacquemus, Matty Bovan, Pyer Moss and Wanda LePhoto are 5 designers to watch
Words: Daniël Geldenhuys | Photographs: Getty
From Paris to Johannesburg, young designers aren't necessarily reinventing the wheel, but rather offering a fresh take on current aesthetics. Their focus reaches beyond form, honing the socio-political significance of the pieces they produce. In 2019, activism in fashion is not so much about what the clothes say as what they do: how they're made and where the profits go. With that in mind, these are the young designers paving that new path. Meet them. Watch them.
Simon Porte Jacquemus is the man responsible for all the straw accessories you've been seeing. The dashing Frenchman's perfect distillations of sex appeal, minimalism, and sunny escapism are Instagram like-bait, and sell in stores like Selfridges and Net-a-Porter. Over the past two years his label has seen tremendous growth, adding a menswear collection, and raking in fans across the gender spectrum. At its core, the label is an ode to feminine energy, fuelled by the designer's love for his late mother. If clothes were a summer daydream, they'd look like this.
If London Fashion Week is losing its status as the cradle of exciting young design, Matty Bovan is the resistance. He's not playing a game of commerce: with Vivienne Westwood as his chief mentor (and super milliner Stephen Jones creating his runway headgear), Bovan ensures hands have touched every single piece he produces. It's about mindful consumption – the antithesis of mass production. The aesthetic is colourful, expressive, joyous, even frantic. He cites dystopian sci-fi films (District 9, Mad Max, Blade Runner) as important influences to his work which, read through that lens, becomes a cautionary tale to be heeded as climate change continues to consume headlines.
Not long after showing one of the best collections of the international Spring 2019 season, designer Kerby Jean-Raymond won the 2018 CFDA VOGUE Fashion Fund award. It basically guarantees the longevity of his American label, which is arguably the most fashion brand in the USA. Collections tackle the racism rife in the states (specifically police brutality) head on with slogans imprinted on tees and threaded throughout the label's ready to wear pieces. Stocked globally in top retailers, the brand also sports a Reebok collab. The aesthetic is elegant streetwear: bold colour and feminine maxi silhouettes meet the street sensibility of loose tees, cropped hoodies, and structured jackets.
The latest and most exciting thing to happen in France is Marine Serre. The designer has only had two official runway shows, and is already stocked in major global retailers like Dover Street Market, Matches Fashion and Farfetch. Her aesthetic is sporty couture, with silhouettes that speak to her time working with Baleinciaga's Demna Gvasalia. Beyond the visual pleasure of her clothes, it's important to note Serre's emphasis on sustainability, having created half of her Spring 2019 collection from upcycled materials. There's also her fantastically diverse runway representation spanning race and age, and styling that clearly bears the modest market in mind. Case in point: a new mother (model) walked the runway with toddler strapped to her chest. Perhaps Serre's greatest achievement to date is that none of the above feels in any way forced or gimmicky. To see her work is to believe.
Back home in Mzansi, Wanda LePhoto is telling a streetwear story from a Joburg perspective. Riky Rick opened the brand's second runway outing at SA Fashion Week last season. This year the brand will be three years old, and there's already an impressively defined brand identity as well as commercial appeal. The aesthetic is structured streetwear (always a great jacket and loose-cut trouser) that isn't afraid to show off by dabbling in print and embellishment. Although there is mens and womenswear, the vast majority of pieces have a genderless feel, ready to be loved by all.