THE EMERGING LABELS
JUST LIKE THE MODEL LINE-UP ON THE RUNWAYS, THE MIX OF DESIGN GENIUSES IN FASHION IS GETTING INCREASINGLY INCLUSIVE (AND NO, WE AIN’T TALKING ABOUT VIRGIL). KENG YANG SHUEN SINGLES OUT SIX UP-AND-COMING NAMES WHO ARE DOING ASIA PROUD.
These six brands are adding diversity to the fashion industry while doing Asia proud.
What: The five-year-old gender-neutral streetwear label that won this year’s LVMH Prize, the star-making vehicle launched by the LVMH conglomerate
Where it’s from: Designer Masayuki Ino hails from – where else – Japan, and is a graduate of the Tokyo Mode Gakuen College of Fashion and Design.
Why know it: It beat 1,300 applicants (including more famous industry darlings like Eckhaus Latta and Faustine Steinmetz) to become the first Asian label to snag the prestigious LVMH award. At first glance, its pieces – sold here at Dover Street Market Singapore – look like the typically oversized, slightly ironic streetwear that’s pervaded fashion. LVMH Prize judges – including Nicolas Ghesquiere and Clare Waight Keller this year – were however swayed by Ino’s innovative fabric experimentations. Among them: transparent plastic baseball jackets, PU trousers sporting motifs that riff on junk food packaging, and novelty T-shirts that reportedly expand when soaked in water.
What: Designer Fahrani Empel’s three-year-old, Berlin-based eyewear line that counts Rihanna as one of its biggest fans. Its name is Sanskrit for fire – and the code name for Empel’s grandfather during World War II.
Where it’s from: Also a model and actress, the all-tatted-out, rebelliously chic Empel calls Berlin and Bali home, but was born in Jakarta. Each of her eyewear styles is named in numerical order in Bahasa Indonesia.
Why know it: With its unabashedly bold aesthetic – its frames are usually oversized, and in unexpected geometric shapes and colours – it’s hard not to notice the label, or the women wearing it. Lending further substance: Every pair is handmade in Italy, using the same Mazzucchelli acetate that’s used by top independent eyewear labels such as Cutler And Gross, and Garrett Leight.
What: The arty yet surprisingly wearable label founded by Rok Hwang in 2016, and the winner of the runner-up Special Prize at this year’s LVMH Prize
Where it’s from: Hwang was born in Seoul; grew up in Austin, Texas; and is now based in London after moving over to study womenswear at Central Saint Martins. Why know it: The “intellectual” look, as popularised by Phoebe Philo during her tenure at Celine, has been endlessly mimicked, but not everyone pulls it off. Enter Hwang, who was part of her team at the brand from day one, assisting her for three years before moving on to Chloe, then Louis Vuitton. Rokh came after and, in just three seasons, has gained a reputation for its deconstructed classics with playful, thoughtful twists. Think coats with removable sleeves or trousers that can be unbuttoned at the seams to become flares. Small wonder that he chalked up over 40 stockists within a year of launching, including heavyweights like Net-a-porter, Farfetch and – in Singapore – Surrender, where it debuts this season.
JI WON CHOI
What: The multi-award-winning, sustainability-conscious label started by Parsons graduate Ji Won Choi last year Where it’s from: A New Yorker for years, Choi was born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in the Midwest in the US. Why know it: Choi’s impressive list of accolades in 2017 alone – the year she graduated – include the Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination Award (a tie-up between her alma mater and the luxury conglomerate); and being the first winner of Yoox’s Yooxygen Award. The latter aims to promote sustainability in fashion, and Choi does so in a refreshingly conceptual way. Debuted in S/S ’18, all her pieces can be mixed and matched, and worn in multiple ways – the sculptural, kimono-esque coats, for example, sport numerous straps for maximum versatility. The idea: Providing more options with a single item could encourage one to buy fewer pieces, and in turn reduce waste.
What: A tent-pole name of Seoul Fashion Week founded by namesake designer Minju Kim in 2017
Where it’s from: South Korea
Why know it: Kim’s star has been steadily rising for the past few years – she nabbed the H&M Design Award back in 2013 while still a student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy Of Fine Arts (yep, the same school Dries and Margiela went to). Come F/W ’18, her whimsically romantic clothes that recall a mash-up of Miu Miu meets Molly Goddard meets Christopher Kane will be sold here for the first time over at multi-label boutique Society A. Expect adorable prints inspired by obscure sources (this season, it’s the cult ’70s sci-fi anime Galaxy Express 999), and a textured multitude of fabrics, colours and embellishments on dresses and separates with couture-inflected silhouettes. Her clothes, she says, are meant to “make the person who wears (them) joyful”. In these times, we could all do with some of that.
What: A London-based cashmere-based label that’s into its fifth season Where it’s from: It’s the eponymous label of Mongolian designer Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan, whose parents reportedly started the country’s first cashmere business post-socialist rule. Why know it: While cashmere often connotes knit or loungewear, Mandkhai’s repertoire includes a variety of coloured suits enlivened this season with floral embroidery. (Equally desirable: the “tailored” pants and gently oversized sweaters with just the right amount of slouch.) The Hadid sisters are fans and you should be too, considering that its cashmere is sustainable, sourced from free-roaming Mongolian goats. The nearest stockist: The Refinery’s Hong Kong outpost.