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By Angela Koh
/19 February 2018
Maddie Williams, at just 22, is already making her debut at London Fashion Week this season. Fashion Scout, the international platform that nurtures and showcases young designers, invited Williams to be part of its fall/winter 2018 “Ones to Watch” runway show in London. “Currently, my brand is just me on a sewing machine in my parents’ front room,” says Williams, who recently interned with Vivienne Westwood. For inspiration, she imagined a group of goddess-like figures whose purpose is to fight the capitalist patriarchy. “I hope the feeling will be almost warrior-esque,” she told T. Accordingly, her garments are designed to celebrate women’s bodies. “Why should women broaden their shoulders like men to feel powerful? Why not do the opposite?” she asks. Her fall/winter 2018 collection, an expansion of her graduate collection, is defined by exaggerated silhouettes and intensely textured, handcrafted textiles, which are made of mostly renewable or repurposed materials such as plastic bags. “I want my work to show that eco-fashion can still be visually exciting and push concepts and ideas beyond the fact of its sustainable ethos,” she says.
Born in Beijing and trained at London’s Royal College of Art, Fengchen Wang presented her graduate collection at the spring/summer 2016 VFiles runway show in New York City. Not long after, she began building her own men’s wear brand. “Everything came really fast during the graduate year, and we got buyers from the first season,” Wang told T, “the brand logo wasn’t even ready.” Wang’s stockists now include Lane Crawford and Harvey Nichols, and she was shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2016. Wang showed, for the first time, a handful of women’s looks during her fall/winter 2018 presentation. Although she considers her brand to be mostly unisex, she decided to respond to growing customer demand for looks tailored to women’s bodies. Wang’s signature exaggerated silhouettes were in full evidence this season, especially in a voluminous top created from multiple stitched-together button-down shirts.
Danita Short grew up in Alberta, Canada, where her style was shaped by her passions: music, motorcycles and the open road. Although she does not have a traditional fashion background (she worked as an E.R. nurse for 12 years), she had a clear vision for the brand she wanted to create: “the energy of the late ’70s meets motorcycles and workwear.” She recruited a chairman, Laurie Venning, and, soon after, a design director, Christian Juul Nielsen (who has worked under both John Galliano and Raf Simons at Dior and as design director at Oscar de la Renta). The brand’s debut collection, for fall/winter 2018, was inspired by a trip the team took to Short’s family farm in Coronation, Alberta. “We went through lots of old workwear vintage, and went horse riding,” Short told T. “We found old photographs of my family as well as old magazines, which all created the foundation of this collection.” Wide-wale corduroy and twill canvas — materials at the core of the brand’s identity — appeared throughout the collection, as did matte rubber outerwear and striped men’s wear shirting.
Charlotte Knowles, now 25, began experimenting with fashion design at 13, when her mother bequeathed her an old sewing machine. Over a decade later, Knowles has an M.A. from Central Saint Martins and a resume that includes internships at Gareth Pugh and Acne Studios. Most recently, she worked under Shayne Oliver at Helmut Lang on the brand’s spring/summer 2018 collection. This season, she will show her second collection (during her first runway show) in London, as part of Fashion East. “The most exciting thing right now is being part of a group of new, talented designers who are all supporting each other and creating a new generation,” Knowles told T. “There’s a real zeitgeist in London, and people look to this city for new talent.” For fall/winter 2018, the designer wants her collection to be “unsettling, alluring and empowering.”
Born and raised in Hanover, Germany, Nam Nguyen, the designer of Standard Clothing, was always drawn to fashion. “My parents are Vietnamese immigrants, and we didn’t have the means to afford ‘trendy’ fashion,” he recalls, “So from an early age, I was aware of the transformative potential of clothes, and the sense of belonging you could get from them.” This season in Paris, Nguyen will show his debut collection, which will also be his graduate collection for Weissensee Academy of Art in Berlin. “It is the result of watching what people wear, and how they wear it,” says Nguyen, who is inspired by women’s personal wardrobes. During school, the designer interned for Acne Studios, and he is currently working as the assistant to Berlin-based designer Kostas Murkudis. His upcoming collection includes a wool-blend biker jacket that can be worn three ways, pleated high-waisted trousers and a bra top with detachable jacket sleeves. After presenting in Paris in March, he hopes to establish a design studio in Berlin and develop his brand.
As fashion month kicks off this week, meet the rising talents showing their collections in New York, London and Paris.
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