United We Stand: The emerging designers playing by their own rules

From Peter Do to Rokh, these are the fashion designers you need to put on your radar.
Reading time 6 minutes

Meet the new guard of emerging designers—a diverse global cohort who are young, free and fearless, and playing by their own rule book to rewrite contemporary style.

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Bolstered by a Céline stint working under Phoebe Philo, the New York-based designer has come a long way since launching his eponymous label in 2018. Born in Vietnam, Asian American Do has found early success from his forte of razor-sharp tailoring—strong shoulders and clean, form-fitting silhouettes subtly contrasted with soft detailing. His inimitable interpretation of strength and sensuality is one that speaks directly to the modern woman.


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A surreal and sculptural silhouette is the German designer’s signature aesthetic. Her New York-based namesake fashion brand, founded in 2013 with visual artist Paul Jung, presents conceptual fashion with the use of innovative construction, and new materiality and fabrications. Baumeister’s progressive sartorial sense marked by bold and dramatic experimentation makes her designs a natural fit at cool stores such as Dover Street Market among her list of stockists.


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After establishing his label in Shanghai in 2018, the Central Saint Martins (CSM) alumnus’ fashion journey has advanced on a steady trajectory with increasingly strong collections, culminating in international acclaim. Ming Ma’s oeuvre is fresh and eclectic where voluminous forms and flourishes are threaded with striking hues and patterns, courtesy of 3D cutting and draping techniques. In short, an ideal of postmodern femininity uniquely translated with rich cultural and artistic nuances.


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It didn’t take long after graduating from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts for the Hangzhou native to set up her Antwerp-based womenswear label in 2017. Desiring to dress the modern woman with a gentle, romantic side, Shuting goes full experimental mode with asymmetry and high contrast. She taps liberally into lush-coloured silk jacquards, intricate embroidery, bold floral prints and ethnic elements to bring her bright and optimistic designs to life.


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Making waves in menswear is Priya Ahluwalia, whose recycling mission has led to a fourth collection after launching her label in 2018. Her designs are a beautiful cornucopia of embroidery, weaving, knits, patchwork and other techniques used on sustainable materials she sources and salvages tirelessly. Of Punjabi-Nigerian parentage, Ahluwalia injects an intoxicating blend of her cultural influences and London roots to regenerate and repurpose vintage and deadstock apparel into one-of-a-kind garments.


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Among the four British females of colour presenting menswear at London Fashion Week, a path paved by Grace Wales Bonner and Martine Rose, is the Londoner designer of Caribbean descent whose label was launched in 2017. Known for her cutting which captures movement in clothes, Saunders’ refreshing new voice pushes at gender and masculinity notions with a cultural twist. Her constant exploration of construction has created new dialogues by blurring the lines between streetwear and tailored couture.


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Last year’s winner of the prestigious LVMH prize, the designer who hails from Kimberley started out by launching a contemporary womenswear label in 2016. Operating from his Johannesburg base, Magugu keeps his entire production cycle, right from fabrication, within South Africa. Weaving the continent’s storied past and social narratives into sleek and fashion-forward designs, his smart, multifaceted clothing is infused with an elevated sense of quality, novelty and culture, coupled with an app-linked microchip to reveal their entire story.


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Behind CSM graduates Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena’s subversive label is paradoxically folkloric craftsmanship. Chopova and her English partner Lowena anchor their brand on the revival of the rich resources of Chopova’s home country by upcycling trash-destined Bulgarian traditional dress and fabrics as well as deadstock materials. Sewn by seamstresses in Bulgaria, their quirky, theatrical designs—a mash-up of poofy skirts and puffed sleeves, laced together with tartan, retro prints and sportswear—have struck fashion gold for the pair.


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Korean-born, US-raised Rok Hwang runs his label Rokh, launched in 2016, from London. Studying under Louis Wilson’s CSM Womenswear MA and working for Phoebe Philo’s Céline, Chloé and Louis Vuitton have prepared him for fashion’s big leagues: Paris Fashion Week since 2019. The designer’s secret weapon is his incredible cutting skills, hailed as “perfection.” Aesthetic-wise, Hwang’s designs may look clean and classic, but reverberate with edginess and youthful energy, and most importantly, offer amazing fit and longevity.


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The Vienna-based womenswear brand he established in 2009 may be a decade old but his London Fashion Week debut only materialised this fall/winter. Ukrainian-born Petrov’s take on directional dressing is a calm and collected repertoire of souped-up suiting and fluid frocks. Relaxed and generous, his foolproof formula entails understated tailoring, juxtaposed with draping and languid lengths of hems and sleeves. It is easy and polished elegance for the 21st century that eclipses seasons and trends.

@ petarpetrovofficial

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Founded by CSM alum Amy Trinh and Evan Phillips in 2019 after stints at Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney, Simone Rocha and others between them, the London-based bridal and eveningwear brand’s subversion of a special occasion dress allows it to transcend one-time wear. Drawing inspiration from surrealism and creative couture, their unconventional bridal-inspired ready-to-wear is reimagined in black to augment versatility and simultaneously tackle sustainability issues with their use of deadstock fabrics.

@ wedstudio_

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Anaïs Mak presented a 12-piece physical collection during Paris Fashion Week with the help of avatars to model additional looks in a simulated show. The Hong Kong-based designer has carved a niche designing unabashedly feminine looks that do not shy away from making a strong statement, assisted by subplots of dark romance and fetish. Her disruption of generic femininity enlists billowing silhouettes and fabric experimentation, created using both artisanal and industrial techniques.

@ anaisjourden



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