Against all odds, summer is here — and people are going places again. This mass movement out of the house merits the big, once-and-for-all return of capital-F “fashion,” after a hiatus that all can agree was far too long. If your closet could use some catching up, consider this the ultimate guide to need-to-know emerging brands for Summer 2021, courtesy of the Instagram set’s favorite style destination, @UpNextDesigner. For those who aren’t familiar, UND is the account that designers want to be on, celebrity stylists want to pull pieces from, and fashion fans want to shop directly — before the latest A-list talent wears something from its feed, causing it to sell out on the spot.
Founded by veteran fashion publicist Albert Ayal, UND plucks designers from their humble beginnings and shares their work in front of its 72,000-person following — including influencers, editors, celebrities, and stylists like Law Roach (who dresses Zendaya), Mimi Cuttrell (Ariana Grande), and Dani Michelle (Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian). The account has famously fated the rise of several small brands with huge potential — bridging both Jenners with up-and-coming designers like Fatima Minana, Erika Maish, and SC103. These connections resulted in the models wearing their pieces in commercials, on magazine covers, and beyond. That said, UND has gone from predicting who’s “up next” to actually deciding, making its list of rising brands for summer something of a required read.
Without further adieu, TZR presents UND’s full audit on the brands to watch (and shop) this summer. As far as trends you’ll notice across the board, you can expect "a lot of sheer looks in scenic and marble prints, a lot of crocheting and knitwear — and tons of cutouts,” says Ayal. “Ultimately, people are excited to be getting dressed up and going places again, and the fashion we’re seeing really reflects that.”
As you follow along, be among the first to add the below pieces to cart, before they land on UND’s feed and, inevitably, in a Kardashian’s closet.
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For its Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Nigerian label BLOKE’s creative director, Faith Oluwajimi was fixated on questions of money, freedom, and happiness. “Is financial success liberating? How much money is too much money? When is it ever enough, if [ever]?” he asked when building his collection, determined to find answers through clothing. He called on a color palette of pastels and metallics, inspired by the colors of the Nigerian Naira, as well as the gold used as legal tender by fabled emperor Mansa Musa. The result is a mix of colorful suiting and androgynous knits with surprising cut-outs, all of which will energize your summer wardrobe.
Inspired by a healthy mix of Y2K inspo (Britney Spears music videos crossed with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s The Simple Life), Malena Foyo came about in 2020, designing irreverent pieces with a grunge twist. Checkerboard prints, angular bra tops, and deconstructed suiting take center stage across this Mexico City label’s assortment — which are sure to help you start summer on a high note.
“Peet Dullaert’s accessories look like something you would see in a museum — he’ll make a shell-shaped bag out of pearls,” says Ayal. After studying at ArtEZ in the Netherlands (and interning at Alber Elbaz-era Lanvin), French designer Peet Dullaert set out with a simple goal: create ready-to-wear pieces with sustainable, artisanal design point-of-view. His Spring/Summer 2021 collection, entitled “The Visible Heavens,” does just that — through a flurry of liberating, ethereal garments and accessories that are made-to-order.
Mere months before the pandemic began in 2020, former ballerina-turned-designer Alice Vaillant kickstarted her eponymous label, Vaillant Studio in Paris. Its sustainably made pieces are all imbued with a sense of fluidity — both in gender and in movement. “The brand is for confident women who want a hybrid wardrobe throughout the day,” says Ayal. “There’s a real craftsmanship behind each piece, and its whole assortment is thought out to be as sustainable as possible.” Each piece is an amalgamation of upcycled materials: plastic bottle fibers, old Levi’s jeans, and deadstock leathers, to name a few.
Make room for this emerging fashion label. Started this year by two friends from Greece, the label’s hand-painted prints and fresh cuts are destined for style fans looking for a total closet reset this spring and summer. What’s more: all its pieces are made locally and ethically by small producers in Greece, allowing the designers to have full oversight of the day-to-day operations. At just 1,000 IG followers, this brand is the definition of an up-and-comer.
Thought up during a summer spent on holiday in Italy, Cin Cin’s designers decided to create pieces as an homage to the slow-down life. CIN CIN uses maximalist, Pucci-esque prints in striking colors to outfit the jet set in ‘70s worthy beachwear pieces. Its design point of view relates back to one mantra: More is more. UND’s take: “Love its beautiful prints — and how each Cin Cin look comes in a uniform pattern, so that you can mix and match the pieces with the rest of your wardrobe,” says Ayal.
In 2016, fashion veteran Gloria Lladó decided to pave her own way, creating a brand inspired by Japanese design codes and the natural world. Since the brand’s official start in 2019, eikō ai has quickly drummed up buzz for its kimono-like dresses, relaxed colors, and delicate prints — which, together, offer an effortless elegance to every wearer. “Eikō ai’s new pieces are meant to recreate the vision of a sunset fading at golden hour, thus, its designs make the perfect day-into-night pieces for summer months,” says Ayal.
Madrid-based label JCPAJARES creates the definition of peak summer ready-to-wear. Bearing a structural softness that Jacquemus fans will love, JCPAJARES goes a step further with jade-hued slip dresses, perforated bra tops, and sculptural bijoux that are made to emotionally move its wearer. In Ayal’s words, “JCPAJARES has a unique vision. It’s sexy, classy, artistic — in my opinion, it strikes the perfect balance between the commercial and the artful with its garments.”
At seven years old, Joma Segarra’s grandmother taught her how to knit, while grandfather taught her how to garden. Little did she know that both of these skills would later inform and inspire her San Juan-based label, Yo+. “One of my biggest inspirations came from a Ted Talk about how you can design by searching for the intersection of nature and technology, and how that will define our future relationship with Earth,” Segarra tells TZR on starting her brand. One click onto Yo+’s site and the tech-style crossover is instantly apparent — 3D designs with techy names like “Data Dress” and “Pixel Cover-Up” are used to increase efficiency, decrease waste and expand textile experimentation brand-wide.
Inspired by vintage wares, LA-based brand Lurelly has grown to include bridal, loungewear, and everything in between — but its resort pieces are what’s drumming up a ton of new buzz this summer. Oversized sun hats will shield you from the rays by day, while multi-way bra tops and matching silk skirts are made for gallivanting between shops and restaurants at night. To sweeten the deal, everything is manufactured in Los Angeles using upcycled fabrics. “Lurelly offers luxury that’s sustainable and affordable for the everyday consumer, making it a total win-win in UND’s book,” says Ayal.
London label Kai Collective is tapping into the print trend of the moment: marble, imbuing it into its strappy swim pieces for summer months. Creative director and Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient Fisayo Longe’s inspiration is simple: “The spirit, confidence and multifaceted nature of womanhood,” she tells TZR. With a size run of XXS to XXXL, Kai Collective’s suits have earned its stripes for chicness and inclusivity, making it a key label to look out for (and add to cart) this season.
Drawing inspiration from Hong Kongese cinema, Scarlet Sage creative director Huizhe designs with Wong Kar-wai’s movie characters at top of mind, including the East-meets-West way in which these figures dressed. As such, Huizhe mixes Eastern signatures (qipao cuts) with Western design staples (low-rise miniskirts), creating a sleek, inventive look. Scarlet Sage’s latest line has made a splash with its delicate floral prints, which popped up on Kendall Jenner as recently as this spring.
Posh & Pearls
Speaking of Jenners — it’s not often that a months-old label pops up on one of the two, which is why Posh & Pearls has become such a brand to watch. Brand founder Nina Forcher originally started off the label as an homage to her mom, whose lifelong passion was to have a successful craft business before her passing. To help Forcher cope with her own mental health struggles, she broke out her mother’s old craft supplies and “started to be creative again, because that has always connected the two of us,” she tells TZR. “Every piece I make, I owe it to her; I do it for her. I have never felt more spiritually connected to her.” Now, her size-inclusive body chains are bringing people joy all over the world, celebrities and It-girls included. “I want [my pieces] to encourage everyone to feel good and confident in their bodies,” says Forcher. “Because every human being is beautiful the way they are.”
This Vietnamese fashion label is designed with a vision of surrounding the human form with “love and kindness” through clothing, resulting in intricately tied and fitted garments that dually reveal and conceal the body with strands of cutouts. Through late nights that turn into early mornings, Fanci Club’s eccentric pieces will steal the show — just tie in a plumed handbag and platform heels.