The New York fashion industry cannot match the number the truly iconic, heavy-hitting houses that Milan and Paris boast (think: Prada, Dior, Louis Vuitton, etc.). However, that does not mean it has any less to add. In fact, much of the beauty in New York - and there is much - comes by way of smaller, more emerging brands and this makes sense; when houses like Chanel or YSL were being built, New York was still the home of licensing and manufacturing, in lieu of being a hot bed of original design. Having said that, New York is - and have for quite some time now - bursting with talent. It's young brands absolutely put it on the map. With this in mind, here are a few brands that you should know about in light of the Spring/Summer 2015 shows in New York.
TOME – This brand, the brainchild of Australian design duo Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin, has been over a decade in the making, and as we continue to see each season, it was absolutely worth the wait. Since launching in 2010, the label has been steadily built momentum based on its well made garments that impart a sense of sculpturally simplicity that just works, especially for their target audience of cool, confident women. Also note: Lobo and Martin's work with color and texture is on-point and certainly not to be overlooked. Oh, and did I mention that they are swiftly attracting everything from Council of Fashion Designers of America nods to career-making stockists like Ikram Goldman? Do not let them off your radar of even a season!
Protagonist - In case you're not up on cult-favorite fashion line, Protagonist, it is time to familiarize yourself (and fast). Distinguished by subtleties of form, fit, and fabrication, this brand focuses on classic styles, refining them (and in some cases, destructing them a la Mr. Martin Margiela, himself) and giving them a modernity that can be worn from season to season. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all really want from a wardrobe? One of the most memorable reviews I read last season was about Protagonist, coming from Vogue, which stated: “The Protagonist woman might actually be your hero.” Between the lust-worthy hemlines and sleek-suiting made of materials you will actually want to write home about, and the magical touch of stylist Vanessa Traina-Snow, I don’t think Vogue’s words are too far fetched.
Ulla Johnson – Not the newest label on the list, Ulla Johnson has made it big by starting small. The Manhattan-born designer began by building up a viable business (think: loyal clientele and an impressive list of stockists) all before her jet-set inspired, luxe bohemian wares made their NYFW debut in September 2014. Known for her use of custom prints, intricate embroideries, and fine tailoring, Johnson has become something of an industry favorite. And it is not difficult to see why. It really is difficult to resist her garments, which are both easy yet full of thoughtful, handcrafted details.
Ryan Roche – Ryan Roche (it’s a girl, in case you weren’t sure) is giving knitwear a new name – one that is simultaneously cozy (as we all may have guessed) but also sophisticated and dare I say, sexy? Before she started catering to women who appreciate thoughtfully designed garments, Roche launched a children's line, working with an all-women's cooperative in Nepal that makes cashmere knits and using organic cotton from the get-go. Essentially, what we can gather from the designer and thus, her creations, is that there is both style AND substance to be had; this is something the Council of Fashion Designers has also picked up on, giving Roche a top prize in last year’s Fashion Fund. Also worth noting: Roche works predominantly in a palette of neutrals and pinks, and trust me when I tell you the result is divine.
Hellessy - Founded in 2012 by budding industry veteran Sylvie Millstein, Hellessy is in the business of providing garments to help complete the “thinking woman’s wardrobe,” according to Style.com. Millstein’s garments eschew trends in favor of long and lean silhouettes, with an emphasis on quality and fit. If this sounds vaguely familiar compared to other brands, you might be right, but in an overcrowded market, the consumer gets to vote (with her credit card, that is), and judging by Hellessy’s success at retail — the buyers at Barneys love it, as does Harrods, and Kirna Zabête — consumers are voting for this brand.
Brock Collection - Friends from Parsons-turned-spouses, Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock launched their collection just two years ago and already the fruits of their labor are blossoming and the cult of loyal followers is forming. Brock's background in tailoring meets Vassar’s penchant for styling and the result is a collection of romanticized, elevated basics that are just as simple as they are thoughtful and aspiring. Judging by the state of the market, well-crafted, luxurious clothing that is effortless and wearable (and capable of being added to a well-cultivated wardrobe) is the future and these two designers seem to have their pulses right on it.
Sandy Liang – Downtown New York based Sandy Liang, 23, made her NYFW debut this past February after graduating from Parsons and interning for the likes of Opening Ceremony, Phillip Lim and Jason Wu. She counts "Chinatown grandma and grandpas with their crazy patterned clothes and huge backpacks" and cool LES-ers she spots on the street among her even bigger inspirations. And then, of course, there are her colorful fur creations that we just cannot stop lusting after.
Ji Oh – Korean-born, New York-based, Central Saint Martins and Parsons graduate, Ji Oh, describes her loyal consumers as quietly impressive, which is actually the perfect description for this brand, as well. Since launching her eponymous line in 2013, Oh has set her sights on elevated basics, which are already stocked in Barneys, Intermix, and Harvey Nichols, among others. Oh’s aesthetic may be pared down but that does not mean it is without a slew of dimensions. Take, for instance, her penchant for exploring both femininity and gender-bending. The moral here is that behind these seemingly simple looks are garments with attitude.