Who’s behind it: Londoners Eden Loweth (top) and Tom Barratt, who between them chalked up experience at star emerging labels like Sadie Williams and Grace Wales Bonner before launching theirs (available on cult multi-label retailer H.Lorenzo) in 2017. Its stand: Non-binary fashion, best encapsulated in their dramatic runway shows that feature a radical, all-ages cast of men, women, and everyone in between to “push forward notions of otherness”. What that means for the clothes: Their shows might resemble underground raves, but the duo’s refined hand means that their evening-centric designs are as suited for posh soirees – and all body types. (That Vogue.com categorises the brand under menswear, even though skirts dominate their collections, says a lot.) Dresses, which come as slips, slinky off-shoulder numbers and parachute gowns this F/W ’19, are often cut on the bias for greater fluidity and comfort, no matter one’s curves (or lack thereof). A proclivity for polished all-black looks as much as elevated ’90s party gear (this season’s statement finishes include fuchsia brocade, faux croco and all-over gold sequins) also means that there’s indeed something for everyone.
LUDOVIC DE SAINT SERNIN
Who’s behind it: The Balmain-trained French native who snagged a finalist spot at the 2018 LVMH Prize – a year after establishing his namesake menswear label (available on Matches.com). Its stand: Gender fluidity – the 28-year-old is leading the charge for the “softboy”, almost effeminate look taking over men’s fashion. Cue tiny lace-up undies (which form a healthy bulk of his burgeoning business); and – for F/W ’19 –“going out” tops (halters, togas, tanks) embellished in crystals and a whole lot of sheerness, all reminiscent of what ’90s supermodels used to party in (Kate, Naomi and co. were an inspiration). Possibly not since Tom Ford’s run at Gucci has unabashed male sexiness been so virile and refreshing. What that means for the clothes: While they’ve been adapted for the (toned) male form, they look as sensual and scintillating on (toned) women, whom de Saint Sernin regularly includes in his runway cast. Time to hit the gym, ladies.
Who’s behind it: Paris-based Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, who started the label in 2017, only to pick up the top gong at the prestigious Hyeres Festival, as well as a finalist position at the LVMH Prize last year. They’ve since been named the new creative directors of Nina Ricci. Its stand: Ocean protection, particularly from the effects of plastic use. The couple hail from the Caribbean (Botter’s from Curacao; Herrebrugh, the Dominican Republic) – notorious for its marine pollution – so their quirked-out, streetwear-influenced designs have become the lively canvases through which they spread their pro-Mother Earth message. In addition, they favour recycled materials, and cut their fabrics efficiently to help reduce wastage. What that means for the clothes: Young, masterful tailors with an irreverent eye (Botter trained under Walter van Beirendonck at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts), the duo offers trendy, gender-neutral suits and casual separates alongside arty, in-yourface-loud statement pieces that allude to their eco cause. For F/W ’19, which marks their debut here at Dover Street Market Singapore, these include a plisse top resembling a plastic bag, and trinkets in the form of inflatable dolphins.
Who’s behind it: Central Saint Martins graduates Emma Chopova (her parents are Bulgarian) and Laura Lowena (she’s from the UK), who set up the label two years ago (it debuts here at Dover Street Market Singapore this season). Its stand: The preservation of niche, often forgotten crafts – particularly that of their respective ethnicities. Besides updating the traditional styles of their native communities for 2019 (electrichued pleated skirts inspired by Bulgarian folk dresses are a speciality), they source local, work with local craftswomen, and even shoot their lookbooks locally with locals for models, working between Bulgaria and London. Sure feels like raindrops on a parched throat at a time when nationalism is experiencing a mean resurgence. What that means for the clothes: Far from referential or costumey, the duo’s take on traditional attire feels almost punkish, enlivened by their signature mishmash of fabrics and daring eye for colours and print, as well as offbeat sources of inspiration. Drawing from rock climbing and ’80s sportswear, their F/W ’19 collection, for example, sees corset-like belts adorned with carabiners, windbreakers with XL puffy sleeves, and multi-patterned bodysuits that would fit right into a rave.
Who’s behind it: Tokyo-based designer Kohei Nishimura, a favourite among Japanese streetwear connoisseurs for his pared-back separates with quirky details. The brand’s been around since 2006, but debuts here only this season at Dover Street Market Singapore. Its stand: Coed dressing – even before genderneutral fashion became a thing, Nishimura was putting male and female models on the same catwalk in garments perhaps best described as sexless. What that means for the clothes: Design types looking for effortlessly cool, utilitarian staples, here’s your new go-to label. Digawel’s silhouettes are artfully oversized to come across as unisex without steering into hype category. And Nishimura’s expert ability to blend time-honoured Japanese dress elements with the contemporary, and multiple aesthetics (workwear, prep, normcore) without being overtly referential to one source means tasteful, timeless statement pieces like the electric blue noragi jacket-pullover hybrid from F/W ’19.
Who’s behind it: The industrial and fashion design-trained Zhou, a Beijinger who became the first Chinese designer to show at Men’s London Fashion Week, and has since become a tent-pole name there. Its stand: Think of Zhou as fashion’s Elon Musk, minus the notoriety. Inspired by youth subcultures, and exquisitely cut and tailored, his street-suffused collections – carried by progressive retailers like Ssense and Machine-A – are hyper futuristic and reveal Zhou’s obsession with the evolution of man, identity and the world. Conceptual pieces (think last season’s maternity wear for men) have become a highlight, and increasingly provocative in the face of all the tumult around us. It might explain why despite having been on the scene since 2007, his name is hotter than ever. Consulting for the buzzy two-year-old mid-luxury menswear label Common Gender only adds to his relevance and repute. What that means for the clothes: Everyone keeps talking about the faux fur, Baby Bjorn-strapped Yeti suits from his F/W ’19 show, but Zhou’s concerns with the fate of humanity also means elevated, on-the-pulse essentials with innovative, utilitarian touches, like knee pads on pants and notches on shirts to keep ties straight. Gotta improve how we function, people.