Last year, Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill, Christopher John Rogers, and Sergio Hudson made headlines in January, dressing First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former First Lady Michelle Obama for Inauguration Day. Later in the year, brands like Peter Do and Theophilio secured their spots as the most sought-after shows in town when New York Fashion Week made its IRL return in September, while Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton took a crew of emerging designers, including Kenneth Nicholson and Jason Rembert of Aliétte, to the 2021 Met Gala.
This year, there’s a new crop of fashion designers to watch. At least, that’s the memo coming from the fashion insiders we surveyed recently. While the names ranged from new-gen couturiers to avant-garde ready-to-wear designers, there is a common thread among the picks for the year, with all choosing designers who put self-expression and community-building at the forefront of their brands.
Ahead, five designers that fashion insiders are most excited about this year.
Launched by Parsons graduates Lu Chen and Jacky Luo, Lùchen debuted its first collection during the spring 2022 season, showcasing a lineup of deconstructed minimalism and ethereal whimsy. Take, for example, a tulle cape, worn on top of a structured menswear-inspired coat. Or: the gravity-defying tops that spring up like coral reefs in the ocean. It’s precisely this mix of softness and razor-sharp tailoring that made Chloe King, Amazon’s Brand Relations Lead, stop scrolling when she first saw the brand on Instagram. “I was blown away by the imagery of their first collection — sophisticated, artful, and surreal,” she says. “I always love a Schiaparelli reference.”
Offering a new take on couture with dramatic, sparkly garments seen on the likes of Cardi B, Bella Hadid, and Ariana Grande, Miss Sohee is designed by Central Saint Martins graduate Sohee Park. While the new-gen couturier has been making waves in the industry for the last two years, Park is showing her first IRL presentation during the upcoming Milan Fashion Week, a slot that’s on Paper’s fashion editor Mario Abad’s must-go agenda: “Her work is already so impactful online, so to be able to see her go to the next level in that way is really exciting and is representative of her sheer creativity and unique point of view.”
Rooted in her Midwestern upbringing, Elena Velez highlights the artisanal and industrial heritage of this region, focusing on craft and materials, as well as sustainability. In 2019, the designer was chosen as one of Teen Vogue’s Generation Next designers — a mentorship initiative for emerging designers — and has since gone to show her work during New York Fashion Week. According to fashion commentator and writer José Criales Urzueta, the designer’s emphasis on craftsmanship and community that sets her apart and promises a bright future in 2022: “Her work is informed by a myriad of references including a deep fashion knowledge and a love for craft and materiality, and it all comes through very harmoniously.”
Avavav’s creative director Beate Karlsson has a knack for the surreal, having previously worked with conceptual artists Ida Jonsson and Simon Saarinen and on Pyer Moss’ debut couture collection. Karlsson’s spring 2022 collection tapped into everything TikTok’s fashion crowd loves: Y2K references, mesh tops, low-rise pants, and bubble shapes. But for Agustina Panzoni, Depop’s category manager of womenswear, Avavav’s magic is evident in the brand’s footwear. “Avavav's monster shoes have an alternative edge that caters to the alternative fashion movement we are seeing with the re-rise of punk music and celebrities endorsing goth aesthetics,” she says. For proof, see the chicken leg-like shoes seen on Doja Cat at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards.
An alum of Thom Browne, Jackson Wiederhoeft recently debuted his first ready-to-wear collection for fall 2022, filled with corset dresses, floral-printed hoodies, metallic quilted coats, and harlequin prints. But the brand has already established itself as a fantasy couture and bridal line that counts Lady Gaga and Jordan Alexander as some of its celebrity supporters. (The latter wore a white bustier to the Gossip Girl premiere last year that made me reconsider just how versatile lingerie can be.) Since then, the brand has continued making a name for itself with voluminous shapes, corseted numbers, and lots of tulle that isn’t just for brides.