This might have been one of the most challenging years in the history books, but that hasn’t hampered the imagination of designers both new and established. For emerging design talent it’s been particularly tough, as they steer their independent labels through a sea of uncertainty—some single-handedly making collections on their bedroom floors while wrestling with the production of digital or ‘phygital’ presentations, but as you will see, they have risen to the challenge.
We travelled the world via Zoom—from London and Lagos, to Brooklyn and Guangzhou—to meet 10 young designers-to-know whose perseverance is a true testament to the power of creativity in times of crisis. This is what they had to say…
1 / 10
Who: Susan Fang, 28
What: Futuristic womenswear label based between London and Shanghai.
Why you need to know them: Shortlisted for the 2019 LVMH Prize and named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Chinese designer Susan Fang has made a mark with her surreal designs. “Our vision is not guided by trend or style, it expresses a mirage of artistic illusions.”
Fang on creativity: “It has to be innovative—innovation grows into culture and can be further cultivated.”
2 / 10
Who is it: SS DALEY
What is it: UK-based label dismantling menswear stereotypes.
Why you need to know them: Hailing from Liverpool and a University of Westminster graduate, Steven Stokey-Daley, 24, made a splash when his creations were worn by Harry Styles in his music video for Golden. Of his aesthetic, Daley says: “At its core, it’s rooted in subverting British traditionalism. To explore silent queer narratives among the melting pot of heteronormative ideology.”
What creativity means to them: “For me, it’s an outlet for hyperactivity as it never sleeps and dominates my mind all hours of the day.”
3 / 10
Who: Asata Maisé, 27
What: Delaware-based label with a focus on sustainable, one-of-a-kind pieces.
Why you need to know them: With a penchant for mixing vibrant colour and print, Asata Maisé has made waves on Instagram with her patchwork designs, which she says, are about “preservation of craftsmanship, and an ode to nostalgia.”
Maisé on creativity: “It’s about expressing yourself freely through the medium of your choice. Learning to make my own clothes has been the most liberating skill I’ve acquired in my life and I’ve been able to reinvent myself many times over through fashion.”
4 / 10
Who: AV Vattev
What: London-based menswear label blending uniform with flamboyant details.
Why you need to know them: “My brand’s ethos is rooted in my Bulgarian heritage, London’s creative family and my personal aesthetic,” says CSM graduate Antonio Vattev, 27, who combines modern workwear with the preciseness of haute couture techniques. It is always a combination of storytelling silhouettes.
Vattev on creativity: “Creativity means freedom.”
5 / 10
Who: Yueqi Qi, 25
What: Guangzhou-based brand known for its intricate embellishment.
Why you need to know them: The Central Saint Martins (CSM) alumna and former Chanel couture embroidery designer took part in GucciFest in 2020. Born in China, Qi explores her cultural roots through her work describing it as “nouveau Chinoise”. “My brand ethos is an extension of my experience, suspended somewhere between surrender and intent,” she says.
Qi on creativity: “It’s problem-solving and it’s like language; everyone has access to the same vocabulary, but it’s the order and intonation that makes things unique.”
6 / 10
What: Gender-neutral Nigerian label who showed on the AW21 Milan Fashion Week’s men’s schedule.
Why you need to know them: Non-binary, Lagos-born designer Adeju Thompson, 29, explores their gender through experimental concept and collections. “It’s very important for me to deconstruct obsolete ideas around gender within African society,” says Thompson. “I create from a vulnerable perspective, something that’s not visible where I come from.”
Thompson on creativity: “It’s freedom—a way for me to dissect and critically think about my identity.”
7 / 10
Who: Goom Heo, 29
What: London-based brand challenging the archetypal codes of men’s dressing.
Why you need to know them: “Bold: masculinity mixed with feminine elements,” says Heo of her namesake label. “We want to show the new vision of menswear.” The CSM graduate has made a name for herself with her romantic subversion of menswear as she approaches her third season showing under the umbrella of London talent-incubator Fashion East.
Heo on creativity: “It’s something very personal. Being yourself.”
8 / 10
Who: Marshall Columbia, 25
What: Brooklyn-based label known for embellished plush bags in eye-popping colours.
Why you need to know them: Already the purveyor of an ‘It’ bag — and Miley Cyrus wore one of his joyful designs for her Backyard Sessions performance in 2020—it’s hard to guess Marshall Columbia only launched his eponymous label last year. “I really want people to have fun wearing my clothes,” he says.
Columbia on creativity: “Designers aren’t reinventing anything, they are creating a world in which their designs live.”
9 / 10
Who: Talia Byre, 26
What: London-based brand creating heirlooms with a focus on quality.
Why you need to know them: With an upcoming LFW debut, CSM graduate Talia Byre explores the notion of family and her northern English heritage, creating timeless yet sensuous clothes that are made to last. “We see inheriting as the ultimate luxury,” says Byre. “Our manifesto is to show a modern, intelligent and matriarchal lineage throughout our work.”
Byre on creativity: “It’s the opportunity to express your ultimate authentic self.”
10 / 10
What: Eco-conscious Parisian brand creating clothes out of upcycled material.
Why you need to know them: Seen on the likes of BLACKPINK’s Lisa, Rosalía and Alexa Demie, Chilean-born designer Sebastian A de Ruffray, 30, is generating a buzz with his upcycled, couture-level fashions. “We aim to question the obsolescence of the fashion system by pushing the limits of upcycling,” he says.
De Ruffray on creativity: “The ability to materialise an idea into reality. Commit to one idea and remember what you want to communicate.”