Telfar Clemens doesn’t call himself an activist, but his work as a designer is bringing change to fashion nonetheless. Inclusivity, which only became cool in the last couple of years, is what Telfar’s eponymous brand has been advocating since it was founded in 2005. That, and his winning the 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, have made him only more relevant today. More people are buying into his genderless clothing and his “Shopping Bags” (when they aren’t sold out). Now a highlight of NYFW, the concerts he throws in lieu of runway shows reinforce the idea that Telfar is built on a diverse community – as fashion should be.
For luxury ready-to-wear with a real message, look no further than Kerby Jean-Raymond’s unisex label. Through his powerful runway shows, Jean-Raymond has bravely tackled sociopolitical issues like mental health, racism and police brutality in America. More recently, for Spring 2019, he celebrated the experience of being Black American. Like Telfar, Jean-Raymond was singing this tune long before the fashion world cared (or approved). Now, with a Reebok partnership and a 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund win under his belt, his clothes do all the talking, and often on famous figures like Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Dua Lipa.
Creating sustainable clothing still means you’re creating more clothing – something that Bethany Williams was wary of when joining an industry responsible for massive waste. Her solution: limited quantities of streetwear garments made only from recycled materials, tied with the mission of giving back to the community. For each collection, the British designer works with different nonprofit organizations from around the world – women’s shelters, drug rehabilitation communities, prisons – and later donates a portion of the collection’s proceeds to them. While highlighting underlying issues in society, Williams is creating a blueprint for actually sustainable fashion for others to follow.
Tomo Koizumi’s name wouldn’t have rung a bell to anyone outside of Tokyo before his sensational New York Fashion Week debut in February. At the last-minute presentation put together by Katie Grand, the costume designer sent the likes of Gwendoline Christie and Bella Hadid down Marc Jacobs’s studio in his ballooning ruffled frocks – “ruffle armour for girls” – made of Japanese polyester organza in all kinds of candy colours. The show blew up, and rightfully, so has Koizumi. Besides viral looks, what he really brought to New York was a sense of fantasy, which is more than welcome in a city that has just seen an exodus of designers.
Of all the people you’d think are likely to switch to a career in fashion, a graphic designer is not one of them. But Eftychia Karamolegkou did, after moving out of Athens and training for it in Central Saint Martins. What her eponymous London-based label offers is not too different from what she showed at her Master's collection: elegant suits for women, heavily inspired by those worn by men in the 1920s. Karamolegkou’s tailoring is masculine (and therefore, to her, empowering) and unpretentious. Her career change was certainly proven wise after she was shortlisted for this year’s LVMH Prize. Philophiles, take note.
A frequent Raf Simons collaborator, Sterling Ruby is not new to the fashion industry as an artist. Last June, though, he made a raved-about debut as a fashion designer for his label, S.R. Studio. LA. CA. The Spring 2020 collection was largely centred on denim – paint-splattered or patchworked together like Ruby’s collages – and prints, derived from photographs by his wife. For fans of the American artist, it’s a treat to see his vision translated into a new medium (especially one that they could likelier collect); for fashion fans, Ruby’s label offers a refreshing break from clothing derived from trends or heritage.