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.

Sophie Théallet (New York)

Inspired by Vivienne Westwood to become a designer, an alum of Gaultier and Alaïa, Sophie Théallet has nonetheless created a collection that resembles nothing so much as early Coco Chanel. With its tiered, ruffled cocktail dresses, cascading layers of chiffon, and long, preppy striped cardigans, Théallet's latest collection harks back to the 1920s.

Bodkin (New York)

The brainchild of Brooklyn designer Samantha Pleet and writer Eviana Hartman, Bodkin is a new line of sustainably sourced clothes debuting for Fall 2008. Described as "sexy with a sense of humor," the line's key pieces include collar-waisted skirts, funnel neck minidresses, and zippered T-shirt rompers.

May 22, 2008

Andy & Debb (Seoul)

Pratt graduates Seokwon Andy Kim and Wonjeong Debbie Yoon launched Andy & Debb in 1999. Based on an idea of romantic minimalism, the day-into-evening line interprets the unfussy volumes and smooth silks of traditional Korean dress via current trends, creating a quiet collection with architectural ruffles for Spring 08, and a series of simple trapeze shapes in bold colors and black-and-white for fall.

Lie Sang Bong (Seoul)

One of Korea's most prominent designers, Lie Sang Bong claims to take his inspiration from French and Korean culture, but for Fall 08 his dark, fantastical constructions look like the bastard children of Issey Miyake, Kenzo, and Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, as interpreted by a medieval armorer. Working in heavy wool felt, slick draped silks, and swirling fairy-tale prints, he demonstrates a vision that is dramatically experimental, if not particularly wearable.

Seoul: Well-being

The ongoing well-being trend in Korea has mostly stayed within the realms of aesthetics, food, and skin care, although a recycling program ensures that plastics, metals, glass, paper, and food scraps get a second life -- in the case of the food scraps, as pig feed. Seoul's hectic streets mean it's not especially bike friendly, which is a shame because there are so many charming, vintage-inspired Korean bikes. But just as the American media have caught onto the eco-trend with eco-issues, May brings green issues of Korean Vogue and Korean W. Vogue has even gone so far as to create eco-collaborations with Adidas (center left), Benetton, and other popular brands. With the nation's fixation on perfect skin, foreign natural-skin-care brands like Lush and The Body Shop are flourishing in Seoul, while local brands such as The Face Shop seem to have outposts near every subway station (and sometimes inside the stations!).
The main upshot of the wellness trend seems to have been a resurgence of pride in traditional Korean culture, with organic and home-style restaurants proliferating, and a rustic architectural style popping up in trendy neighborhoods like Apgujeong.

Seoul: Where to shop

Han_Style (at left)has an international selection of avant-garde designer clothes from Sharon Wauchob and Hussein Chalayan, among others.
10 Corso Como, the Milan concept store, recently opened a Korean outpost.
Daily Projects (center) offers up younger designers such as Belgium's Stephan Schneider and Sweden's Ann Sofie Back, and has its own showroom of emerging Korean designers.
SYK Small Friends (right) is a Korean mens- and womenswear label whose loose-fitting designs experiment with construction, layering and volume.

Understar, so named because it is located under the vintage-chic Star Café, features current Korean styles at a reasonable price point, with a variety of soft jersey tanks, tees, and cardigans complemented by day and evening dresses, blazers, and bottoms.
Flow sells experimental streetwear from Italy's Marios, France's April 77, and more. 

Åland is a multi-level concept store that allots one floor each to cheap Korean fashions, international designer clothes, stationery and housewares, and a "flea market" on the top level. They currently have a recycling collaboration with various Korean designers, which includes bags, clothes, and accessories made from discarded goods.

center photo via daily projects

Seoul: Fashion

Women's fashion in Seoul this spring is characterized by a softness of color and drape. The main color palette is a blend of neutral gray and khaki with pastels, mainly blush tones. The styles are anything but body-conscious, with modest necklines and lots of play on volume, through released pleats, gathering, and sometimes layers on layers of fabric. Flower prints are popular, mostly of the quiet, romantic variety, as are flower appliqués and lace and ruffles as trim. Sportier styles, too, are soft and drapey, as at center right. 

An androgynous look also prevails, characterized by a more severe black-and-white palette and by a profusion of vests and blazers, often cutaway. Even these more tailored looks are made very feminine through the use of loose, oversized pockets, soft linen, and by layering them with blouses or enormous white shirtdresses.

Printed T-shirts abound for the younger crowd, often with lovely, hand-drawn illustrations, or with graphic prints simply copied from American posters or tees. These are typically paired with jeans or cutoff shorts, or with a matching tee for one's boyfriend.

As with T-shirts, brand trademarks get little respect; the fake Zara above predates the real Zara, which just opened several locations in Seoul this month. Designer labels are held in high esteem, so Prada, Marni, and Alexander McQueen labels are slapped onto all kinds of creations completely unrelated to the original designers' work.

May 21, 2008

Seoul: Architecture

Like Shanghai and Tokyo, much of Seoul is an ultra-modern city littered with shiny skyscrapers in futuristic shapes. But the country's current well-being trend has extended to architecture and interior design, with lots of green buildings (Ann Demeulemeester shop, center) and rustic-style buildings of textured concrete, weathered materials, and reclaimed wood (generalidea by bumsuk shop, left). Which isn't to say that modern and sleek is over: the glossy new Neil Barrett shop (right) echoes the slick surfaces of the shoppers' ever-popular black cellphones.

Seoul: Eating and drinking

Korean food is popular in the U.S. for its spicy and tangy flavors, along with its super-fresh ingredients. A colorful array of  small plates, called banchan (above center), arrive alongside your main dish. Sadly, the many banchan have made home cooking all but impossible for modern Koreans, but luckily, eating out is cheap: at most restaurants, lunch will run you W5,000 ($5) and dinner around W10,000. 

Seoul is one of the few places on Earth where McDonald's has fared poorly, because Koreans prefer the healthiness of their own cuisine. Along with the current wellness trend has come a rise in organic food, with the requisite organic cafes, often decorated in rustic style (above left). Korean barbecue came about as a way for restaurants to minimize kitchen size and staffing, and with all the heat, eating outside is popular.

Between meals, those who can afford it pay $10 for a French press coffee at chic cafes that range from a rustic French look to ultra-modern and streamlined. (Those who can't afford it skip meals to pay for coffee.) Tea drinkers shouldn't feel left out, as they can pay just as much to sip a variety of whole-leaf and even whole-blossom teas. For a bargain option, vending machines dispense instant tea and coffee for W300 ($0.30) on subway platforms and throughout the city.

May 1, 2008

Es Orchestres (Paris)

With its tuxedo-inspired pieces complemented by draped silk skirts and cocktail dresses, Sadaharu Hoshino's Spring 2008 collection looks like a downtown version of a gala party. Slim cutaway jackets and vests give an Edwardian feel to the menswear-inspired pieces, while silk bubble skirts add flashes of jewel-tone color. A graduate of Japan's prestigious Bunka Fashion College, Hoshino studied under Alexander McQueen and studied at Institut Francais de la Mode before launching a guerrilla collection in 2003.

Jen Kao (New York)

Ryan McGinley's photos got Jen Kao some major attention at NY Fashion Week, but the Japanese designer's Spring 2008 collection stands up for itself with layered ethnic fabrics, asymmetric draping, and sporty zippers and drawstrings that evoke London's young designers as well as Balenciaga's ethnic look of a few seasons back.

Frank Tell (New York)

Just 20 years old himself, Frank Tell took his inspiration from the '20s when he designed his FW 08-09 collection for a modern-day flapper. In stark black and white, the dresses combine that era's drop-waist silhouette with a minimalist '90s sensibility. Tell's fabrics of choice include Scottish wool and Mongolian fur along with the requisite silk satins.

Bensoni (New York)

Designers Sonia Yoon and Benjamin Channing Clyburn met at Parsons, where they collaborated on their senior thesis collection. Since then, they've moved Bensoni in a younger but still dressed-up direction, creating ladylike silk dresses, tuxedos, and coats that often feature intricate paneling and piping.

Lorick (New York)

Former model and FIT graduate Abigail Lorick has garnered massive media play for her new line, Lorick -- by being featured on the popular show Gossip Girl. For Spring 2008, she plays on a vintage French Riviera inspiration with parrot-print chiffon dirndl skirts, quirky-preppy piped blazers, and bodysuit polos in a palette of mostly navy and pale yellow. 

Lyn Devon (New York)

With its colorblock jersey dresses and wide trousers, Lyn Devon's fifth collection bears a strong resemblance to another New York line, VPL. The inspiration for Spring 2008 was the Bauhaus movement, with its clean lines and geometric shapes; for Fall 08-09 Devon uses her modernist approach to create quilted, armor-like tailoring with a narrower silhouette.

Kris van Assche (Paris)

Already renowned for his tailored menswear, Hedi Slimane protegé van Assche was named to replace his mentor at Dior Homme. In his spare time, he's also launched a womenswear line, now in its third season of loose, comfortable separates, which for Spring 2008 come in black and white paired with searingly bright red and yellow. The simplicity of his white peasant skirts, crisp blouses, drop-waist T-shirt dresses belie the exacting attention to detail.

Christian Joy (New York)

After garnering attention with her playful costumes for Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, designer Christiane Joy Hultquist decided to launch a womenswear line for Spring 2008, debuting with a New Wave-y black-and-white jersey collection that garnered rave reviews. For FW08-09,  Christian Joy hits its awkward teen years with a primary color palette, unflattering use of volume, and jumble of references from prairie dresses to burlesque that seem to evoke an '80s prom night.

Nanushka (Budapest)

Designer Sandra Sandor has thrown color by the wayside in her black, white and grey line Nanushka, a collection of jersey separates with exaggerated sporty details like floppy cargo pockets and oversized plackets.

Requiem (Paris)

Designers Raffaele Borriello and Julien Desselle blend space-age materials with couture techniques for their vintage-meets-future womenswear line, Requiem, which presented quietly for three seasons before launching its first Paris runway show for SS08. With their soft draping alternating with precision pleating techniques, the collection's day-into-evening looks have provoked a frenzy of rave reviews.

Modernist (London)

The brainchild of designers Abdul Koroma and Andrew Jones, Modernist was formed in 2005 and has since been turning out starkly modern (natch) womenswear, laden with plays on texture (fur, cable knits), volume (slim tights, baggy trousers), and layering. Inspired by folk, craftwork, and the macabre, the FW08-09 collection was nearly all black, with flashes of grey and orange marking the show's finale.

Julia Jentzsch (New York)

Formerly of the New York design duo Naum, Jentzsch launched her solo career with a spring 08 collection that was both elegant and relaxed, comprised of simply draped silk slipdresses, wrap dresses, tops, and loose trousers in neutral tones. 

(No website yet.)

David David (London)

An art-school grad and onetime painter, designer David Saunders was drawn into fashion when he shared a flat with Fashion East director Lulu Kennedy. Now a darling of the London fashion world, with his David David line of mens- and womenswear selling at Dover Street Market and Seven New York, Saunders channels a less flowery Emilio Pucci with his colorful graphic prints, displayed for SS 2008 on a series of blazers, short jumpsuits, knitwear, and even socks.

From Somewhere (London)

Founded by Orsola di Castro and Filippo Ricci in 1997, From Somewhere's goal was to make eco-fashion that wasn't about "hemp sacks and uncomfortable itchy socks." Instead, the designers used production waste fabric to create quirky, mixed-fabric dresses that for SS 2008 range from stripes to colorblock to plaids, from long, slim jersey pieces to short, smocked shirtdresses.

Monsoon Fairtrade (London)

British fast-fashion chain Monsoon was founded with an international vision by Peter Simon, a regular traveler to India who started out in 1973 selling ethnic handicrafts on Portobello Road.  Building on their main line of bohemian, ethnic-inspired dresses, boleros and beachwear, their new collaboration with the organization Fairtrade is a small line of Fairtrade-certified cotton tees and jeans in muted tropical tones. Monsoon also sponsors Estethica, a loose group of green suppliers, and through its Accessorize brand, is supporting a workshop for Afghan female embroiderers, bringing their traditional embroidery to the British high street.

Mark Liu (London)

A former Alexander McQueen intern and grad of Central St Martins' Textile Futures program, Mark Liu creates fashions that are futuristic in both their appearance and their outlook. Zero Waste Tailoring is his method of designing garments whose pattern pieces interlock like a jigsaw puzzle, saving the 15% of fabric that normally gets wasted in the cutting process.

Jaeha (New Zealand)

The young Korean-born designer Alex Kim has been making waves across the Pacific since graduating from the Auckland University of Technology two years ago. His dark F/W 2008 collection, inspired by Edward Scissorhands, featured draped dresses, tailored waistcoats, and skinny jeans that boasted luggage details such as eyelets, drawstrings, and plentiful zippers on basic fabrics like t-shirt jersey, denim, and silk.

American Vintage (Paris)

Refined, feminine basics are the mainstay of Michael Azoulay's three-year-old womenswear line, inspired by the designer's travels to the US and other exotic realms. American Vintage produces ultra-simple, casual woven and knit pieces in natural fibers -- oversized tees, long boyish shorts, button-down jersey dresses in soft colors seem to be mainstays of their customer's suitcase-ready wardrobe.
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