From free agent creative directors and budding fashion models to K-Pop stars and young feminist icons, the fashion industry and its periphery is certainly not inhabited by one-trick ponies. As the industry becomes an increasingly diversified and globalized field, so too do its influencers. With that in mind, we looked to some of the most exciting forces of the moment and compiled a list of who you should keep your eyes on this year.
The Free Agents: Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz
2015 was a year of major fashion industry shakeups – ones that have disrupted the neat ecosystem we know as the upper echelon of fashion – and two of the most significant have included Raf Simons leaving Christian Dior and Alber Elbaz being ousted from Lanvin.
While neither of the two industry veterans have spoken with certainty about their next moves (Simons maybe joking told Cathy Horyn that he’d love to call it a day and try his hand at sculpting), we can say with confidence that whatever these men do next will be noteworthy to say the least. While Simons is very likely banned from working for any of Christian Dior’s competitors (due to a non-compete clause), he will continue to work on his eponymous menswear label, which is based in Antwerp, and which is arguably home to some of his best work. Elbaz, who is not limited by a non-compete agreement with Lanvin, is truly a free agent.
Stay tuned for more on these two (and possibly a third: Hedi Slimane, if the YSL departure rumors materialize) in the year to come. You simply cannot afford to miss it.
The Before-His-Time Mastermind: Errolson Hugh
For many years, the name Errolson Hugh only meant something to die-hard tech enthusiasts. However, thanks to the recent revamp of Nike’s ACG collection, Hugh is garnering quite a bit more attention. For over ten years now, the Berlin-based designer and longtime partner (and co-founder) Michaela Sachenbacher, head up ACRONYM, a brand that manages to near-perfectly fuse fashion and function.
Writer Adam Wray, put it best in 2013: “You'd be forgiven for not knowing much about ACRONYM. The company never advertises and with no public relations strategy to speak of, its founders are tough to reach. They prefer to let their designs speak for themselves and whether you know it or not, they've been pacing the vanguard of technically-focused fashion for nearly two decades.”
As for why 2016 is the year to watch Hugh, it is actually a bit arbitrary (you should have been watching his label since 2002, when it launched its first collection, dubbed Kit-1, in an edition of 120). With a brand that is this trailblazing and for lack of a better term, special, every year is a year to watch. However, not including Errolson and ACRONYM on this list just felt wrong, and maybe the time is most fitting because, given the wide reach of Nike’s promotional efforts (as distinct from ACRNM’s zero-marketing practice), you no longer have an excuse to not know about it.
The Backbone of Fashion Finance: Gary Wassner
Gary Wassner may not be new to fashion headlines, but he is just getting started. Wassner is best known for his work with brands under the umbrella of his company, Hilldun, which provides factoring and finance services for everyone from Alexander Wang to Cushnie et Ochs. However, as of 2015, he is broadening his footprint, having launched InterLuxe Holdings, a platform to invest in growing high potential fashion and luxury brands and support them with infrastructure, capital, and business resources to accelerate growth. Already on InterLuxe’s roster: Jason Wu and ALC. Add to that Wassner’s personal investment in New York-based womenswear brand, Cushnie et Ochs.
Luxury conglomerates like LVMH, Kering and Richemont do not happen overnight. With that in mind, keep your eyes in Wassner and InterLuxe, alike. The fashion industry certainly is.
The New Kid: Demna Gvasalia
On the heels of Alexander Wang’s ouster (read: firing) from Balenciaga after a three-year tenure, the fashion industry embarked on the usual train of speculation that comes hand-in-hand with the game we have come to know as creative director musical chairs. Many names were thrown into the mix, and certainly one of the least well-known was Demna Gvasalia. And we certainly don’t need to tell you this but Alexander Wang’s replacement, the 34-year-old founder of Paris-based label Vêtements, is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Gvasalia, who will present his first collection for the brand at the women’s ready-to-wear autumn/winter 2016 show in March, is an interesting choice, if nothing else. He has romanced the music crowd (think: Kanye West and co.) with his Antwerp-inspired brand, but we have yet to see how that will translate to the code of the truly high fashion house of Balenciaga. So, stay tuned.
The Other Arnault
Meet 22-year-old Alexandre Arnault, son of Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man and the chairman of luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. After spending the majority of his youth under the radar, Arnault is starting to make a name for himself, which is certainly no easy feat given the success of his father and half-siblings, Delphine and Antoine, who both work for the family business.
LVMH made headlines in March 2015 for showcasing four surprise concerts during the Fall/Winter 2015 shows, starring Kanye West. Who made these noteworthy events happen? That would be former-DJ, Alexandre Arnault, of course. The two seemingly unlikely pals met at a Givenchy show, and per Arnault, organized the sold-out shows, which took place at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, in just two days. In addition to pulling off epic concerts for his family’s business, Alexandre, who expressed interest in working for LVMH years ago, spends much of his time working on the conglomerate’s digital strategy. Bernard Arnault told WWD, “My son is very involved in the Internet. He knows a lot of companies in the digital sphere.” And considering what he pulled off for F/W 2015, there is certainly much to watch for from this budding young businessman.
Also, be sure to keep an eye on his half-sister, Delphine Arnault (above, right), who is swiftly scaling the ranks at LVMH and spearheading many of its most recent (and exciting) acquisitions.
The K-Pop Stars
As we have noted in prior articles, Korean pop stars, CL and G-Dragon, among others, are larger than life in Asia and online and their influence is not limited to music. No, fashion houses are increasingly identifying their power to affect sales and have taken to working with these two to reach the immense spending power of the Far East.
Chaelin Lee, who is best known by her stage name CL, is commonly spotted wearing edgy young brands like Vetements and Hood By Air, but is also known to support established houses like Chanel. Far from just a budding fashion icon, the “24-year-old megastar has her sights set on changing perceptions and inspiring girls worldwide,” per Paper magazine. She told the publication this year: “Girls in Asia are very obedient, shy, timid, quiet, but I can tell that it's changing, and I want them to be stronger and tell them that it's OK to be different. Being special is a luxury, and I don't think we have that. Yet.” This, coupled with her impending solo album, which is due out any day now, will surely keep CL in the spotlight for much of the upcoming year.
Also consider her male counterpart, G-Dragon, who is not just one of the biggest names in Korea, thanks to his membership in boy band, BigBang, the 28-year old, is nothing short of a style icon. He rather notoriously got first dibs on Hedi Slimane’s first menswear collection for Saint Laurent and even played a part in Chanel’s casino-themed runway show not too long ago. He has also taken to collaborating with a number of brands as of late – from Guiseppe Zanotti to Los Angeles-based streetwear mainstay DRx Romanelli, among others.
As these two embark on solo projects – both in fashion (by way of ad campaigns and collaborative projects) and in music – their star power is likely ongoing to increase in the West. So, be sure to take note – even though you will probably not be able to avoid it.
The Feminist Role Models: Rowan Blanchard and Amandla Stenberg
Rowan Blanchard thoroughly enchanted the fashion industry (and beyond) in 2015. The 14-year old actress who stars in Disney’s “Girl Meets World,” received an influx of praise for her women’s rights advocacy – managing to speak directly to the issues that impact her and those of varying ages, as well as her take on depression awareness and an array of social causes. Blanchard, a self-proclaimed feminist, has garnered a following for her sophisticated-yet-youthful sense of style, but what is arguably most captivating about Blanchard is her intelligence, awareness, and her willingness to speak out about causes for which she feels passionate and her encouraging of others – particularly her peers – to do the same. This young woman’s efforts – both on screen and in terms of advocacy – are worthy of keen observation.
Chances are, you’ve seen Amandla Stenberg in the immensely popular trilogy, The Hunger Games. But like her fellow Most Influential Teen per TIME and Top Celebrity Feminist of 2015 (a title bestowed by the Ms. Foundation for Women) Rowan Blanchard, Stenberg’s influence is vast. The 17-year old is a staunch advocate for "people who feel like they don't have enough representation,” which includes encouraging more young women and girls to pursue their interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Speaking to Teen Vogue– because she covered the print publication’s most recent issue – Stenberg spoke about her “social media advocacy,” saying: “Now you can go on Instagram and you can see a girl who looks like you who is killing the game and expressing herself. Just being able to see that is so affirming.” So, if you’re not following her, you should probably get on that. Now.
The New “it” Editor: Yasmin Sewell
Style.com as we once knew it is dead, making way for a new venture with the same name. That’s right, as part of Conde Nast’s master plan, it folded Style.com into newly-created Vogue Runway and announced the impending launch of Style.com, an e-commerce and omnichannel shopping platform. Who to head up this new project? Yasmin Sewell. In addition to achieving bona fide street style star status, Sewell has real world experience; she has a thriving retail and fashion consultancy, sits on the British Fashion Council’s New Gen committee that supports fledgling London designers, and puts even more in by offering her own mentorship on the side, in addition to establishing her label, Etre Cecile. What will become of Style.com is definitely an experiment we will document as it unfolds and with Sewell at the forefront, it will certainly be exciting to watch.
The Models: Hari Nef and Fernanda Ly
The fashion industry adopts and discards new models with significant frequency. This occurs every season in the constant search for fresh, new faces. Some girls and boys make the cut, so to speak, and stick around for seasons, even years, but this is relatively rare. There is a relatively new handful of models that will likely prove to be promising forces in fashion. Two of them? Hari Nef and Fernanda Ly.
Hari Nef: You’ve likely become familiar with 23-year old transgender woman, Hari Nef for any number of reasons. Nef, who is signed with top agency, IMG, made her runway debut this in September 2014, walking for Hood By Air and Eckhaus Latta, shooting for Vogue, and fronting & Other Stories’ F/W 2015 ad, which was featured on our list of “The Most Noteworthy Ad Campaigns of 2015.” Far from focusing entirely on the fashion industry, Nef, a Columbia grad, is an actress. She landed a starring role in AmazonPrime's series, Transparent, this year. She is also a leading force in the movement for LGBT rights. In short: this is one impressive young woman.
Fernanda Ly: 2015 was very good to Fernanda Ly. The pink-haired beauty’s career has consisted of a truly atmospheric rise since she landed an exclusive spot walking in Louis Vuitton’s F/W 2015 show. (Note: The 18-year old, who describes modeling as “a bit weird,” went on to walk for the Paris-based brand for its Cruise 2016 show – she closed that one; and for S/S 2016, which she walked in exclusively and opened). Not too shabby, especially considering that the iconic house has been in the spotlight since Nicolas Ghesquière took the reins in 2013.
Described by the fashion press as an “anomaly” in the day of social media “it” models, like Kendall and Gigi. Australian-born Ly, who despite her pink mop, has a bit more of a traditional coming of age tale. She was scouted in the mall when she was 16; she had no excessive social media following or reality television presence. Nope. Ly made her name in fashion after power casting director, Ashley Brokow, casted her for Louis Vuitton. With that in mind, there is something refreshing about a model being embraced solely for her actual presence and her look and not her social media stats, don’t you think?
The Celebrity Spawns
Kaia Gerber: And in what will seem like a hypocritical addition to the list (given the previous praise for a model for making it on her own, without a famous name or massive following), meet Kaia Gerber. She’s Cindy Crawford’s 14-year-old daughter. Before we write her off as merely a celebrity spawn, let’s consider that Gerber has legitimate supermodel, I mean 1990’s SUPER model, genes. As such, Kaia was born to model. Her career became official in July 2015, when Gerber signed with IMG Models, and she has since appeared in editorials for Vogue Italia, Interview, CR Fashion Book, and Teen Vogue, among other publications. We would certainly be the first to tell you if this was a case of nepotism gone awry, but that simply isn’t the case. Need proof? Take one look at her.
Lily-Rose Depp: With three movies due out this year and a Chanel campaign already under her belt (the house’s Pearl eyewear collection ad), Los Angeles-based Lily-Rose Depp is proving to be more than just a famous name. Chanel creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, certainly seems to think so, who said of the 16-year old: "She is stunning, she's a young girl from a new generation with all the qualities of a star.” Last year alone, Depp began filming on Planetarium, a Rebecca Zlotowski-directed film and in Stephanie Di Giusto's directorial debut The Dancer, in which she plays Isadora Duncan.
COURTNEY SOLIDAY is a University of Florida graduate. She received her J.D. from Cardozo Law School in New York.