November 11, 2008

Txell Miras (Barcelona)

A graduate of Barcelona's Llotja Arts School and Milan's Domus Academy, Txell Miras certainly hasn't taken the obvious path to fashion stardom. Yet she has quietly assembled an admirable résumé, winning the Onward Tokyo Grand Prix fashion award the year she graduated from Domus, and designing Neil Barrett's womenswear line since 2003. Her layered, experimental style is darker than the usual playful Spanish fare, with black-on-black constructed looks showing off her subtle mixes of fabric and texture, and her conceptual art background serves as a jumping-off point for wearable musings on... well... it's hard to tell what, but she claims Kafka, Duchamp, and Bergman as her inspirations. Perhaps "The Fly" inspired the greenish-black metallic fabrics from fall/winter 2008, but frankly, the clothes are strong enough to stand on their own without a concept to lean on.

Via Surface; photos via Txell Miras

November 5, 2008

Ostwald Helgason (London)

Taking their shared love of ballet as a departure point, German-born Susanne Ostwald and Icelander Ingvar Helgason together formed Ostwald Helgason, a finely crafted, highly theatrical line of womenswear. Their spring collection is inspired by Francis Poulenc's film Les Biches, and makes decadent use of the Rococo era's rich golds and cobalt blues.

Via Nylon

Tillmann Lauterbach (Paris)

Born in Germany, raised in Spain, schooled in Switzerland, the former bank trainee-cum-model Tillmann Lauterbach is another of the multifaceted, international generation of young designers coming out of the legendary ESMOD in Paris. Draped loosely around the body, his women's collection brings to mind a sportier Rick Owens, with more color and less leather, while his boxy menswear harks to Raf Simons gone grunge. With their asymmetry, colorblocking, and surprising fabric mixes, Lauterbach's clothes make imperfection an art. 

Rad Hourani (Paris)

Think Iceberg meets Akris with a touch of Gareth Pugh, and you'll have a picture of Jordan-born designer Rad Hourani's Fall 2008 collection. With its head-to-toe monochrome looks in a dramatic black-and-red palette, its severe construction, high hemlines, lavish use of leather, and tough future-Kabuki attitude, his androgynous women's line places the doe-eyed 25-year-old among the vanguard of current designers. Flitting constantly back and forth between Europe and North America, Hourani declares, "Paris inspires me with its art and New York gives me the drive." Make it so.

Current/Elliott (Los Angeles)

Awkward is the new flattering, and the new denim line from stylists Emily Current and Meritt Elliott rocketed to cult status this summer when their destroyed boyfriend jeans rode a wave of celebrity appearances to slavishly devoted press coverage. Lest we forget, they do offer other, slightly offbeat styles, all based on the designers' collection of vintage denim from Levi's, Oshkosh, and Wranglers, among others. Those would include a boot cut version, a skinny slouch, a legging jean, an elephant bell, and - in a timely nod, the "Obama," a flared carpenter jean. (Why they've chosen that particular style is unclear - a straighter leg would make a better upgrade for the president-elect from his infamous mom jeans.)

Via Nylon

Sretsis (Bangkok)

Sisters Pim (designer), Matina (accessories designer), and Kly (business partner) Sukhahuta started their ultrafeminine line in 2002, naming it Sretsis, or "sisters" spelled backward. Their Fall 2008 collection mirrors Martin Margiela's oversized tees and fantasy prints, taking as inspiration mythical beings and animals both real and imaginary, used both as screenprints and jewelry. Non-printed pieces include a caped coatdress with scalloped trim, as well as a plethora of easy-to-wear shorts, shirtdresses, drop-waist dresses, and boxy jackets for the girly-girl about town. Proving you don't have to be based in a traditional fashion capital to, well, earn fashion capital, the Bangkok-based line is sold in three stand-alone stores in Bangkok as well as Intermix and Albertine in New York.

Via Elle

Coming Soon (Tokyo)

Yohji Yamamoto's contributions to fashion have already been substantial: his own, avant-garde main line; Y's, a second line; Y-3, his sporty yet sophisticated Adidas collaboration; and more recently, his daughter, Limi Feu, whose line is a boxier, tomboyish take on Dad's fixations with black, Edwardian, and deconstruction. As if he weren't busy enough, his new under-the-radar label, Coming Soon, debuted this year with a 200-piece collection of utilitarian clothes and accessories, all marked by a discreet circle logo. Instead of a runway show, the line gets a 21st-century treatment: a grainy black-and-white YouTube video directed by Max Vadukul. Pieces include a black-and-white inside-out trenchcoat; boyfriend jeans; dropped-crotch "skirt-pants" (skants?); and button-downs with patchwork detailing.

November 3, 2008

Jean-Pierre Braganza (London)

Formerly a visual artist, Jean-Pierre Braganza knew he was in the wrong field when he worried more about what to wear to his opening than how his paintings were hung. (For the record, it was a silver skirt and blond mukluks.) A Central St Martins grad like nearly every London designer of note, Braganza worked for Roland Mouret before starting his eponymous line in 2004, and quickly garnered notice from the likes of Alison Goldfrapp and Joan Jett. For fall, he offers futuristic structured knits inspired by science fiction, with leather detailing on wool waistcoats, armor-like cinched jackets, cropped tuxedo jackets, all in his usual achromatic palette livened up with shocking pink.

Les Chiffoniers (London)

Designer Leena Similu didn't mean to start her own line - it just happened to her. Having made herself a pair of leggings from some leftover PVC, she found them in demand by hordes of stylists after Kate Moss traipsed all over London in them. Not that Similu was a fashion newbie - far from it, she graduated from Central St. Martins and worked for Jil Sander and Stella McCartney. So for fall 08, she launched a full collection of her very own, featuring easy - and often shiny - separates for the girl about town: Les Chiffoniers, named after rag-and-bone men. The future is looking bright and shiny indeed.

Via Elle

Lou Doillon for Lee Cooper (UK)

Of Jane Birkin's wide-eyed daughters, Charlotte Gainsbourg is perhaps the better known - for her soft, wistful music; her leggy, tomboyish look, often described as jolie laide; and her acting, including a starring role in Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep. But half-sister Lou Doillon is fast becoming a fashion icon as well, especially with the debut of her namesake denim line, Lou Doillon for Lee Cooper. Featuring high-waisted, wide-legged jeans, a pointy-hem tuxedo jacket, and metal buttons aplenty, her SS09 collection was inspired by the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, and gives a dandy spin to denim. 

Christian Cota (New York)

Growing up amid Mexico City's privileged class, Christian Cota would create his own costumes for his mother's lavish costume parties, a predilection that took him first to painting school in Paris, then to Parsons in New York, where his fashion design studies gave him the basis for what would become his solo collection. His painting background shows in the prints that grace his soft, feminine draped dresses and tops, slim swirls of pastel chiffon that, if not the most original thing going, have found their market among socialites dressing for the ball, whether in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, or North Carolina. Thousands of miles from his hometown, it would appear that Cota has indeed found his milieu.

Richard Nicoll (London)

Drawing on a colorblocked palette of pastels and brighter tropical hues for his collection of easy sportswear, this Central St. Martins grad is quickly becoming the first of his generation of young British designers to mature into a maker of wearably chic clothing. While goth-shocker Gareth Pugh restrained his usual excess to put out an imaginatively sculptural collection for SS09, it's Nicoll who channeled the spirit of the moment into something women will want to wear, and not just for a costume party. Eschewing this year's omnipresent ombré for two-tone colorblocking, he created a selection of mix-and-match separates that include the season's popular sheer tops, long vests, boleros, and cigarette pants, not to mention a T-shirt-inspired silk shell.

Dice Kayek (Paris)

With a surfeit of confidence, designer Ece Ege celebrated her 1994 graduation from ESMOD by immediately launching her own line, Dice Kayek. Her boldness shows equally in her clothes, sharply constructed evening pieces in a largely black-and-white palate that evoke past, present and future in their vintage references and streamlined construction. Designed for a strong woman, the pieces fuse feminine silks and embroideries with severe tailoring and structure.

Edun (New York)

Now that eco-consciousness seems to have gone mainstream, with the advent of organic apparel popping up at juggernauts like H&M and Banana Republic, and social responsibility manifestos now de rigeur at former sweatshop pariahs Gap and Nike, it's time to take another look at what sustainable really means. Which is, sustainable for the planet, the people, and as a business - since a shuttered company can no longer do good. Edun, the collective project of Bono's wife Ali Hewson and denim boy-of-the-moment Rogan Gregory, combines organic materials with a mission to boost African economies, building factories and teaching farming skills in poverty-stricken areas. And as Hewson points out, "We have the social aspect of Edun down, but we are also trying to make clothes that you can wear to look good" - with simple pieces including an oversized sweater dress, jeans, and silk shirtdresses.

Photos via Edun, Ali Hewson quote in Nylon

Okley Run (London)

M.I.A. defies classification. International and interdisciplinary, the British-born singer, graphic designer, and visual artist, daughter of a Tamil freedom fighter, is known for her wildly patterned stage clothes almost as much as her pastiched, multiethnic, hip-hop-influenced music. Her colorful handmade clothes were at the vanguard of the current tribal trend espoused by influential designers from Balenciaga to Junya Watanabe to Oscar de la Renta, and a stint modeling for Marc by Marc Jacobs cemented her status as eccentric fashion icon. Just this fall, tiring of being copied by others, M.I.A. launched a small line of tribal-print clothes, called Okley Run, which she sells from her website in her typical do-it-yourself fashion. 

Via Nylon

Francesco Scognamiglio (Milan)

Mixing elegant with a dash of kink, topping slim shapes with puffy ruffles, Francesco Scognamiglio creates dramatic eveningwear a star could love - in fact, quite a few stars, including Angelina Jolie, Christina Ricci, Jennifer Aniston, and Madonna, who selected a sheer ruched blouse for her Sticky and Sweet tour. While he's been around for years, business seems to have taken off lately, with his sales hitting an anticipated $3.8 million this year, perhaps as a result of the resurgence of gothic glamor - Scognamiglio greatly admires Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, and views his customer as a "contemporary warrior" and shirts as "protective armor". Whatever they may arm the customer against, it certainly isn't the gaze of strangers, seeing as most of his blouses (and even some trousers) fall into the range from sheer to invisible.

Via WWD; photos via

Burfitt (Paris)

Swedish-born fashion illustrator Lovisa Burfitt was in a Paris nightclub, wearing a shirt from her defunct Stockholm-based line, when a buyer demanded to know where she, too, could pick up the illustrated tee. From there, Burfitt grew into a cult-fave line of illustrated tees and formalwear, its dark mood and almost-awkward silhouettes screaming Scandinavian, yet with a showy quality that fits perfectly into the current cabaret/circus craze. For the current collection, Burfitt started with a Victorian inspiration, featuring murky colors, corsets, and dark-washed denim.

Jonathan Saunders (London)

New Yorkers got a fresh jolt of color amid all the black when the Scottish-born designer Jonathan Saunders began showing his print-happy collections in the Big Apple not year. With loads of colorblocking, bold tailoring, and of course his signature multicolored prints, Saunders also caught the attention of Target, where he collaborated on their latest Go! International collection, a younger but still edgy take on the designer's cheerful aesthetic.

photos of Target collection via Nylon 

Shipley & Halmos (New York)

After leaving their quirky, young label, Trovata, designers Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos started their eponymous line quietly last year, garnering rapt attention from buyers and fashion media without so much as a runway show. Shying away from the fanciful mismatched buttons and gaily patterned linings that characterized Trovata, Shipley & Halmos has an understated, almost quaint aesthetic, cribbing from traditional tailoring while keeping it young and fresh with charming details such as Peter Pan collars and bow ties on a girl's blouse, or a brash rock 'n' roll stripe on a slim men's suit.

Photos via

July 7, 2008

Bo van Melskens (Berlin/Copenhagen)

Storytelling designer Sarah Elbo has left behind her first womenswear line, Sarah Heartbo, to start a new label named for her imaginary best friend: the elegant, adventurous Bo van Melskens. Now based out of Berlin, the Denmark native has created a whole back story for the character that includes an online diary, video, and lush photo backdrops -- not to mention the clothes themselves, a collection of very grown-up cocktail dresses in silver and black.

Via GenArt

Hubert (Copenhagen)

The fourth collection from designer Rikke Hubert features solid colors, candy stripes, and a bold approach to silhouette that encompasses short, wide dresses and baggy harem pants - typically unflattering shapes for only the most daring of fashionistas. Citing the influences of compatriots Jens Laugesen and Stine Goya, Hubert injects a bit of drama into day clothes that will slip easily into a nightclub.

June 19, 2008

Wunderkind (Potsdam)

wun-der-kind (n)
1. a wonder child or child prodigy.
2. a person who succeeds, esp. in business, at a comparatively early age.

Designer Wolfgang Joop can hardly be considered a wunderkind by any definition -- at 34, he was already too old to be a prodigy when he launched his first ready-to-wear line, JOOP!, in 1978, only for it to fade into obscurity as an aftershave brand. And yet with its SS08 collection, his new label, Wunderkind, has managed to capture the mismatched, animal-patterned zeitgeist that is the late '00s, making it an instant darling of fashion editors around the world. Showing in New York since SS05, the line struggled for a few collections to find its footing, with every misstep blamed on Joop's dated references to his heyday in the previous millennium.

Von Wedel & Tiedeken (Berlin)

This young Berlin designer duo takes their collection themes very seriously, as with their "Aerial Views" collection for SS07, which featured takes on a flight suit and bomber jacket, as well as tops screenprinted with airplanes. But their costume-y bent is no real surprise, given that designers Friederike von Weidel-Parlow and Regina Tiedeken have been creating costumes for TV and film since long before their 2004 debut collection. For F/W 08-09, the designers have stepped away from their usual borderline kitsch with a futuristic, monochrome collection featuring ultra-simple cuts and an emphasis on construction.

C.Neeon (Berlin)

When they started their line in 2004, fabric designer Clara Leskovar and fashion designer Doreen Schulz were told they needed to make their designs more conventional, more feminine and sporty, if they were going to succeed. Luckily, they ignored that advice completely, creating a daring line of garishly colored, geometric-printed hoodies and loose, mostly knit separates that shows at London Fashion Week and is now selling in cities around the world, including New York, London, Copenhagen, and all across Japan. C.neeon's avalanche of honors includes the Hyères Grand Prix, participation in a slew of museum exhibitions, and collaborations with Topshop, Lumas Gallery, and a project with Nylon Japan. When they said the future would be bright, this must have been what they meant.

Bless (Berlin)

Approaching fashion as conceptual product design, German/Austrian design duo Bless create thrice-yearly collections of limited edition objects, many of them wearable, and many not -- such as a wooden sculpture of a sweater. In 1996, their debut "furwigs" were snapped up by Martin Margiela, and designers Desiree Heiss and Ines Skaag were suddenly thrown into the hot-young-designer spotlight. Through the years, they've designed sock boots, disposable T-shirts, coats for tables, and fabric-covered shoes for Adidas... and the surprises just keep on coming.

Majaco (Berlin)

Friends Meike Demski, Anna Franke and Janine Weber met as fashion design students at FHTW in Berlin, and after a year learning their trade in the fashion capitals of the world, they returned to Berlin to start their own line, Majaco, in 2004. The young, fashion-forward collections mix pieces that are knit and woven, tailored and draped, experimental and vintage-inspired, to create urban-chic looks that can adapt to the office, the gallery, or a night out on the town. Their Berlin flagship store opened in 2005.

June 18, 2008

Franzius (Berlin)

Stephanie Franzius apprenticed at Anne Klein and Viktor & Rolf before returning to her native Berlin to start her men's and women's line, Franzius. Modern yet traditional, loud and soft, classic with surprising tweaks, each collection is inspired by a strong female muse, from Françoise Hardy to Juliette Lewis and Tilda Swinton. Having caught fire in Berlin, the line is now sold as far afield as Tokyo and Moscow. 

Read more at Goethe-Institut and JC Report.

Photos via Franzius

June 11, 2008

Primark (Dublin)

With no advertising and no real website, Primark sounds like a relic, yet the Ireland-based retailer rivals Topshop as one of the major fast fashion retailers serving the UK. Selling clothes for absurdly low prices, such as a dress for 4 pounds, the fashion giant has often drawn criticism for its manufacturing practices, namely its well-documented sweatshops in India and Bangladesh. Nonetheless, its new Oxford Street flagship store remains crowded with eager consumers.

June 3, 2008

Lover (Sydney)

With the fashion world chock-full of haters, Aussie label Lover stands out for their earnestness -- with co-designers Susien Chong and Nic Briand declaring that their inspiration comes from things they love and admire, their "favorite heroes, muses, films and songs." Okay, that's not so bad, is it?... 

The couple's sunny optimism is well justified by the brand's back story: Having started out as a weekend stall at Bondi Beach market, the clothes catapulted to fame when Claire Danes bought a couple of tops and Barneys started carrying the line. With the resulting international renown, the designers are facing new challenges -- designing simultaneously for fall-winter in the northern hemisphere and spring-summer back home. For this fall, they've solved that dilemma with filmy floral dresses layered under tuxedo blazers, and a series of short jumpsuits and leather shorts that work perfectly over tights, all in a black-white-grey color palette.

Photos via Lover

Rachel Comey (New York)

Rachel Comey's offbeat womenswear distinguishes itself through quirky prints and textures, unexpected color schemes, and an updated dowdiness that would work equally well on your grandmother or a precocious 12-year-old. Comey's pedigree -- a degree in sculpture, a gig at Theory, and an auspicious start in menswear -- hardly shows these days in her vintage-inspired collections, as she's grown up to become one of New York's hottest indie designers.

Photos via

Lyell (New York)

Four years after her tiny first collection, with celebrity fans including Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, and Zooey Deschanel, designer Emma Fletcher finally brought Lyell into the spotlight last September with the line's first runway show. The vintage-inspired womenswear line bears silhouettes from the 1930s, such as a slinky blue bias-cut gown, through the 1950s, like a floral-print tap suit. The nostalgic, elegant clothes are constructed from heirloom lace and silks with an eye to details like bound or French seams, so not only do the pieces look like heirlooms, they'll be worth saving for future generations.

Catherine Holstein (New York)

One look at her line, and it's clear why Catherine Holstein decided to relocate from her native London to the Big Apple. Her collections most resemble the tomboyish downtown look of fellow Parsons dropout Alexander Wang, NYC's golden boy-of-the-moment. The humongous glasses frames paired with her fall collection led to cries of "librarian chic," but Holstein's girl is no demure wallflower à la Rachel Comey: with an emphasis on solids and colorblocking, and plenty of plays on volume, with a bubble coat, wide trousers, and grubby oversized T-shirts as mainstays of her Fall 2008 collection, Holstein's muse is the kind of girl who rolls out of bed in the morning and pulls on her boyfriend's clothes from last night. Which would lead one to wonder who's actually going to buy these critically acclaimed pieces... but hey, if Barneys and Lane Crawford aren't worrying, why should we?

May 29, 2008

Mary Ping (New York)

Plenty of high school girls want to be fashion designers, but Mary Ping actually did something about it, landing an internship at Balenciaga at the tender age of 15. With a degree from Central St. Martins under her belt, she returned home to New York, where she's been an under-the-radar cult fave since launching her own line for Spring 2002. She hasn't escaped the critics' notice, though -- Ping was among a select few chosen last year for the V&A's exhibition of New York designers, and is a current darling of the influential JC Report.

Stine Goya (Copenhagen)

Though her line bears many of the hallmarks of her Scandinavian provenance (jumpsuits aplenty! sack-like shirtdresses! unflatteringly baggy pants!), former model Stine Goya's line pops out for a major reason: having trained under Eley Kishimoto and Jonathan Saunders, she has a fearless hand with color. With a flashy summer palette of red-orange, lemon yellow, aqua, lilac, and periwinkle, and a trademark print of round drips (or are they hand mirrors?), this Central St. Martins grad's sophomore collection hit the Copenhagen runways like Dorothy landing in Oz. 

By Malene Birger (Copenhagen)

The grande dame of Danish fashion, Malene Birger presides over a growing flock of brands: By Malene Birger, Day Birger et Mikkelsen, and her latest venture, Day et Friends, a collaboration whose first collection was designed by club-kid designer duo Preen - a rare break for the prolific Birger, who sent out some 90 runway looks for her Fall 08 collection. With looks ranging from Dickensian urchin to mod stewardess to hippie grandma, it's hard to pin down Birger's style, but with her imprints carried in stores all over the world, she hardly needs to explain herself.

Baum und Pferdgarten (Copenhagen)

With their Spring 2008 collection, Rikke Baumgarten and Helle Hestehave made a bit of a departure from their usual Victorian references, tossing in a sporty motif with bright stripes, track shorts, pleated tennis skirts, and knee- and shoulder pads -- those last in black leather, of course. Launched in 1999, Baum und Pferdgarten has spent the last 10 years as a major force in Danish fashion, winning numerous awards and appearing in museum exhibitions. The ladylike line has also found a cult following abroad, with its shiny silks and summer furs, its puff sleeves and ruffle collars, sold as far away as Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Cheap Monday (Stockholm)

Once upon a time, in an age before premium denim, $65 jeans seemed unreasonably expensive. Then came Diesel and Seven and True Religion, who taught us that denim could be sexy, and that the more we paid for our jeans, the sexier we'd be. Sure enough, we got sexier and sexier, and our wallets got emptier and emptier, until some crazy Swedish people had the bizarre idea that a simple pair of skinny jeans could be cheap and chic. Those people were Cheap Monday

The brand started as an in-house line for Weekday, a Stockholm shop that had morphed from vintage boutique to high-end fashion emporium. Designer Örjan Andersson had the idea for cheap, fashionable jeans, and starting in 2005, the brand's skull-logo jeans spread like wildfire around the world. Weekday's latest venture is a dressier line called Kostym, a slightly more expensive brand featuring high-end detailing on Chinese-made slim, classic blazers, trousers, bomber jackets, and yes, jumper dresses that work equally well at the office or onstage at a rock show. What's next? A world takeover is most likely in the works: H&M has lately bought a 60% stake in the company.

Whyred (Stockholm)

So you want to start a Swedish fashion label. You'll need a big dose of the color black. High-waisted pencil skirts and trousers. Chunky black leather heels, or let's say wedges. Drapey tank tops. A mannish blazer. A jumpsuit and a girlish X-back jumper dress. Got all those? Congratulations: it's Whyred's spring collection! 

If designers Roland Hjort, Lena Patriksson, and Jonas Clason have Swedish fashion down to a formula, there's a reason for that -- the three met as colleagues at H&M. They launched their men's line in 1999 and the women's line the following year, and have since grown Whyred into a global brand complete with eyewear line, art collaborations, and sales in 230 stores around the world, including three stores of their own in Stockholm. 

Camilla Norrback (Stockholm)

Camilla Norrback calls her design philosophy ecoluxury, creating garments in eco-certified natural materials that she says are "good for both body and conscience." For spring, this means a line inspired by adult responsibilities and carefree childhood, with short, swinging hemlines, ladylike cardigans, and one very grown-up briefcase-inspired bag. The palette is mostly black, white, and gray, with splashes of pastel lime and pinks.

Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair (Stockholm)

With one British (Lee Cotter) and one Swedish designer (Astrid Olson), it seems almost too obvious that their line would be a blend of classic tailoring and androgynous, dark-hued deconstruction. And yet Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair seamlessly blends those styles to create a line of knits and wovens that is at once architectural, experimental, and fully functional, with pieces ranging from shredded cotton jersey tanks with the lowest of armholes to sharply tailored coats with layers of lapels. Ann Demeulemeester, eat your heart out!

Mongrels in Common (Berlin)

Designers Livia Ximénez-Carrillo and Christine Pluess met at Berlin's Esmod School of Design and never looked back. Their shared multicultural backgrounds inspired the name for their line Mongrels in Common, which won the Premium Young Designers Award for its very first menswear collection, for Fall 2006. True to its name, the line combines disparate elements such as masculine and feminine, classical and avant-garde, and bright and neutral colors, creating a fresh, sophisticated chic that encompasses draped and tailored pieces, day and eveningwear, all sewn from high-end European wools and silks.

Boessert/Schorn (Berlin)

Drapey and deconstructed in a style reminiscent of New York's Three As Four, this women's line from designers Sonia Boessert and Brigitte Schorn plays with volume, drape, and fabric to create a look that is modern without being severe, experimental yet perfectly wearable. Loose tops and dresses are adorned with fringe, cutouts, and twine. Launched in 2003, Boessert/Schorn has already found its main audience in Japan, with a brand-new US foray at Creatures of Comfort in L.A.

May 28, 2008

Opening Ceremony (New York)

Having opened their Soho boutiqe with the concept of an ongoing competition between nations of designers, Opening Ceremony owners Humberto Leon and Carol Lim found themselves with a lack of basics to complement the edgy designer wares they sold. No problem there -- Leon, with a background in visual merchandising, began to design the shop's in-house line of colorblock hoodies and wide, cropped jackets himself. With its expansion into footwear and designer collaborations (Chloë Sevigny! Liberty vs. Nike!), the Opening Ceremony line has become a must-have brand of its own, and is now carried at Barneys New York, among other tastemaking shops.
photos via Oak

Acne Jeans (Stockholm)

From its humble beginnings as a promotional piece for a Stockholm creative collective, the Acne Jeans line has grown by leaps and bounds, recently opening its first U.S. store in Soho as a collaboration with cult fave Opening Ceremony. Flattering is not the word to describe the terminally hip line, which now encompasses chicly clunky footwear, handbags, and defiantly dumpy mens- and womenswear in odd-textured fabrics, as well as the brand's signature skinny jeans, now in a plethora of colors and finishes -- Acne being one of the labels often named as spurring the current skinny jeans fad.

Wu Yong (Shanghai)

Designer Ma Ke started her first line, Exception de Mixmind, in 1996, inspired by China's long history of craftsmanship. Her second label, Wu Yong, which means "use less" or "useless" depending on the translation, is based on environmental and recycling concerns, and inspired by spiritual exploration. Wu Yong debuted its fall/winter 2007 collection at Paris Fashion Week. The exquisitely crafted line is organic in both form and process, using fabrics that have been buried underground and submerged in a lake, then puffed and layered into voluminous silhouettes. Wu Yong was featured in the Victoria & Albert Museum's Fashion in Motion series earlier this month.

Uma Wang (Shanghai)

With its vintage Chinese aesthetic, Uma Wang's latest collection is an unusual entry into the current wave of 1920s revivals. Capturing the flowing, unstructured silhouette of that era, combined with very Asian touches like a blood-red sash, Wang's looks are gradually gaining a following in Europe as well as in Asia.

House of Cassette (Los Angeles)

A high-end streetwear label catering to guys and gals, Cassette brings its dark, Europe-meets-Stateside aesthetic to the grown-up skater generation. With a heavy emphasis on black wool, the line's gothic mood would seem to be at odds with designer Peter Lee's sunny, L.A. surfer boy background, but its alterna-classic pieces in skinny silhouettes would look at home anywhere from New York to Tokyo to Copenhagen.

Patouf (Stockholm)

The only thing dull about Patouf's latest collection is its monochrome color palette: a narrow selection of grays, blacks, and whites at odds with its playful, girlish looks. Cut wide through the top and narrower in the leg, adorned with wide bands of sequins and Peter Pan collars, and topped with a capelet that would have suited Little White Riding Hood, designer Anna Angseryd's clothes recall more innocent times filtered through a minimalist Swedish aesthetic.

Jackson, Johnston & Roe (New York)

From the made-to-measure menswear empire Seize sur Vingt comes a line by women, for women: Jackson, Johnston & Roe. With a muted, Brooklyn-pastoral feel, the small label has been growing up since its 2003 collection of patchwork track jackets, and finally seems to have hit its stride with the tightly edited SS08 collection of cotton wovens, including high-necked blouses, the obligatory chambray jumpsuit, and a trademark cowl-necked jacket.

Vicente Villarin (New York)

In five short years, Parsons grad Joanne Cordero Reyes had already designed for luxury labels J. Mendel, Reem Acra, and Monique Lhuiller when she decided to launch her own line, Vicente Villarin. Named after the designer's grandfather, a traveling musician, the line promises to combine excellence in craftsmanship and materials with classic yet modern styles. For Spring/Summer 08, that has manifested itself as a variety of bolero jackets, with and without collars; fluffy dresses and tops built up from layers of sheer white cotton hanging from the tiniest of spaghetti straps; and a series of sharply tailored pencil skirts, narrow dresses, and blazers.

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