There’s never an easy time to build a new fashion label. But these rising brands made big moves—like making their runway debuts or launching a new womenswear category—in the midst of a global pandemic. From fresh takes on tailoring to intricate, handmade artisanal pieces, to the new little black dress, shop 10 of the labels we can’t get enough of now.
You can own a piece from the Metropolitan Museum of Art thanks to Dauphinette designer Olivia Cheng, who is taking custom orders for her floral chain-mail gown currently on view in the Costume Institute exhibit “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” The dress is constructed from more than 600 resin preserved flowers, and like all her seasonless designs is made with deadstock fabric and other upcycled materials, wearing its eco bona fides proudly.
Priya Ahluwalia is part of a new wave of female designers who are changing menswear as we know it. A 2020 LVMH Prize co-winner and recipient of the 2021 Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, the London-based creative incorporates elements of her Nigerian and Indian heritage into her designs through beading, embroidery, and bright colors. So many women were shopping her menswear offering that last year, Ahluwalia launched a capsule with Ganni, and she finally unveiled 10 ready-to-wear looks for her own label this season. They include embroidered sets and high-rise denim with geometric motifs inspired by braids.
Artist-turned-designer Carly Mark doesn’t come from a conventional fashion school background, and her label, which is named for her Chihuahua-terrier rescue, Puppet, is all the better for it. As she told Harper’s BAZAAR earlier this year, “I can’t do anything wrong because I don’t know if I’m doing anything right.” Mark’s signature hoop skirts are true showstoppers, but if you’re not ready to go full Renaissance queen, Bergdorf Goodman carries plenty of Puppets and Puppets separates that offer just the right amount of quirky detail, like a tapestry and crinkle fabric combo skirt or wide-leg trousers with a scarf train.
Named for an ancient Greek priestess who tutored Socrates, Diotima centers female artisans. “I’ve been building relationships with these incredible people who have important knowledge, and I wanted there to be an opportunity for more of a collaborative element,” Diotima designer Rachel Scott told Harper’s BAZAAR. Scott, who is also VP of design at Rachel Comey, partners with artisans in her native Jamaica on her label’s signature web tops and other hand-crocheted pieces, often styling them with sleek tailored separates.
Menswear-inspired tailoring and corsetry meet in the pastel, bow-festooned dream world of Saint Sintra. Thom Browne alum Sintra Martins knows how to cut a mean double-breasted blazer—but she doesn’t see any reason it shouldn’t be paired with girly pieces like bloomers or a mini crini. She made her New York Fashion Week debut in September and already counts Gen Z tastemakers like Olivia Rodrigo and Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney as fans.
Siying Qu and Haoran Li, the New York– and Shanghai-based duo behind Private Policy put the limitless possibilities of gender front and center on the runway at New York Fashion Week. COVID travel restrictions may have kept the two Parsons grads on separate continents for the last two years, but they’re continuing to champion the beauty of fluidity, offering hybrid garments (half bustier/half halter tops, bikinis with removable sleeves) for models of all gender identities.
Designer Maximilian Davis honed his skills on the design team at Wales Bonner, and it shows. The London-based creative is a dab hand at tailoring, but he also has gift for more fluid pieces that celebrate the female form, like a twisted jersey bodysuit or plunge-neck blouse slit almost to the navel. The Caribbean tradition of Carnival and holidays spent visiting family in Trinidad are frequent sources of inspiration.
Representation is paramount for Edvin Thompson, the Jamaican-American designer of Theophilio. “Being Black and an immigrant and a gay male, I thought fashion was a way to connect with other people and really have a very important dialogue,” the 2021 CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year told Harper’s BAZAAR earlier this year. His New York Fashion Week runway debut in September, titled Air Jamaica, offered a vibrant homage to his personal narrative, featuring silky neon separates, oversize denim, and ruched mesh Rasta-inspired sets.
Rihanna, Zendaya, and Bella Hadid are all fans of Nensi Dojaka’s LBDs and going-out tops with daring cutouts and delicate strap details that look like feats of structural engineering. The London-based Albanian designer and 2021 LVMH Prize winner studied lingerie design before pursuing a MA in womenswear at Central Saint Martins, and she brings that unique perspective to her Y2K fixation. “Despite the skin-baring, there is always something light and feminine about the pieces that softens everything and almost steers away the male gaze,” she told Harper’s BAZAAR.
Bode and Trademark alums Jack Miner and Lily Miesmer are creating a singular brand of nouveau Americana with their label, Interior, which blends artisanal craft with modern sportswear silhouettes. Come for the chic cashmere cardigans and wide-leg trousers that are as cozy as sweatpants, and stay for the unexpected detail like trompe l’oeil pocket embroideries.