Over the decades, London fashion designers have led the way for the most exciting and revolutionary moments in history. From more inclusive silhouettes and innovative materials to artfully deconstructed tailoring, these are the new-gen fashion designers and emerging London brands to have on your radar for 2023.
London Fashion Designers
The first in our crop of new-gen London designers, meet fashion’s badass ‘fairy godmother’, who draws inspiration from “colours, strangers, friends – anything with a good story”. Born in North Korea, brought up in Sweden, and moving to London aged 18 has meant that Feben’s childhood notions of displacement have heavily influenced her work, and her community-driven mindset. It’s easy to spot a Feben piece, look for bulbous bobbles, bright colours and printed stretch-mesh fabric. Her surreal creations challenge notions of the ideal fashion body – so often white, thin – and so her suits flare at the hips, trouser legs are widened and busts accentuated – mirroring black body types. Mesh tops, too, are printed with new body silhouettes, distorting that of the wearer. In a short space of two years her designs have been worn by the likes of Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe and Michaela Cole, and she’s created costumes for Beyoncé. Despite this success, Feben continues to put community at the fore, running workshops and supporting rural communities and artisans who help create her woven accessories.
Three-dimensional spikes and cosmos technicolour… New York- born, London-based Chet Lo eschews the more traditional take on knitwear, instead interweaving his Asian-American heritage and a nu-rave Y2K nostalgia into his futuristic-feminine designs. Emerging in 2020 (when Lo graduated from Central Saint Martins), his love for Japanese films, anime and visuals such as Godzilla and Ultraman is writ throughout his outlandish collections which distort the body’s outline. A master of fabric manipulation, Lo’s signifying figure-hugging, spiky knitted corsets, tops, dresses and legwarmers are made from monofilament yarn – a form of fishing wire which Lo manipulates to push outward from the body in 3D shapes. While he and his brand may be young, his career accolades are impressive; few designers can claim to make bespoke clothing for Lizzo, Willow Smith and Lava La Rue, create viral music video looks – just watch Doja Cat and SZA’s Kiss me More video – and have CGI influencers like Lil Miquela posting their designs.
There’s something almost medieval about the floor-length dresses of Fashion East’s Michael Stewart, founder of Standing Ground. Stewart’s work prioritises craftsmanship above all else, fusing the worlds of past and future. For his SS23 presentation (titled Úr – an old Irish word for soil), evening gowns looked statuesque and armour-like with attached hoods, and all came in earthy tones – dark and lime green, grey, brown, butter yellow – with organic-shaped cut-outs or vine-like coils. The interesting use of line which snaked around the models’ bodies reflects Stewart’s obsession with ancient Irish migration routes, his dresses becoming moving maps. A designer with a new approach to classic eveningwear (you will find no sequins, ruffles or glitter here), expect to see Stewart’s designs on red carpets shortly.
Growing up in urban Ukraine has heavily influenced the unique way Central Saint Martin graduate Masha Popova handles her now signature – and Instagram viral – denim (you’ve probably seen her butterfly tops worn by Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid). An alumnus of Maison Margiela with John Galliano, and Céline with Phoebe Philo, you can see Popova’s acute attention to detail but all with a f**k you attitude. Her denimwear is scrunched, shaped, slashed, printed and dyed to form fantastical bustiers, low-slung trousers or pannier-like structures attached to the hips of minidresses. Using traditional Ukrainian craftsmanship with new sustainable washing techniques, Popova is able to form her unusual acid-like prints and patterns. This juxtaposition of heritage and contemporary is also shown within her leatherwear, where Popova cleverly combines classic screen-printing techniques with laser technology.
Brazilian-born Karoline Vitto has had enough of punishing bigger body sizes – instead, she crafts beautiful, slinky barely-there dresses, tops and pencil skirts that embrace and celebrate parts of the body women so often wish to hide – back rolls, excesses of flesh, tummies and all. It’s a loud and unapologetic call out to an industry that often includes larger sizes as a tokenistic box-ticking exercise. Her debut show at London Fashion Week under Fashion East last September, was something of a revelation as her casting consisted entirely of curvy models up to a size 22. Her stretch dresses came with hoods or were spliced with metal structures which hugged the body’s natural curves. Vitto is forcing the industry – and us fashion editors – to pause and reflect on how women should continually strive to lift and celebrate one another through the clothing it presents. To echo the words of journalist Elizabeth Davidson, “protect Vitto at all costs”.
Growing up as a queer Black man in Jamaica, and subsequently the Cayman Islands, has led the work of Jawara Alleyne to subvert classic notions of masculinity – or indeed any set notion of what fashion should be. “What even is masculinity really?” said Alleyne when asked at his Paris showroom. Now also offering womenswear, Alleyne has garnered much attention for his cool take on draping, deconstructed tailoring and fringing. For SS23 many garments were simply held together by hundreds of safety pins creating intricate yet punky sailboat patterns across the body (one of his references behind the collection). Alleyne is just as meticulous about his use of materials; nothing is ever wasted. All of his garments are made using deadstock fabrics from his own archives, which he then safety pins or manipulates into new unique pieces.
With layer upon layer of pastel-hued tulle and chiffon, Central Saint Martin graduate and LVMH prize finalist Susan Fang is a new London fashion designer creating garments which celebrate femininity through the female gaze. Her airy creations have recently broadened from fairy-like dresses to include cute quilted, padded jackets and wrap skirts, but all paired with her classic sheer tops or ruffled tube skirts. A lover of nature, and with a disdain for waste, Fang makes sure to use all and any fabric (this comes as no surprise as she is an alumnus of the environmentally charged label Stella McCartney). Never compromising on her dream-like aesthetic, Fang developed her own fabric technique of ‘air-weaving’. Cutting strips of off-cut and unused fabric, Fang is able to fold and layer to create organic blossoms-like structures.
Browns in London, Beams in Tokyo, Dover Street Market in New York… Chinese-born, London-based designer Yuhan Wang has become something of a global cult favourite among stockists – and fashion editors – since her first standalone show in 2020. Blending cultural influences of east and west, Wang’s likeability is due to her wickedly fun approach to design. A LFW show based on Victorian mourning dress? Sure. A collection deconstructing traditional Chinese paintings? Why not? Her hyper-feminine clothing is her unabashed signature, dresses consist of patterned florals ruched around the hips, waist or bust, knitwear is patterned with kitsch animals and you can always expect a ruffle or two (Wang also has a penchant for ruffled bonnets). Her multi-cultural background, having lived in China, England, Europe and the US, has also deeply influenced her brand’s inclusivity; with her diverse casting in shows, clothing which can fit and form around multiple body types and an ability to tell narratives that can be understood globally, she is a tour de force.