London is a city known for its quirky sense of style. Punk was born there, but the polished aesthetic of British high society remains intact at the same time. While there’s an interest in polish and primness, there also exists something subversive and exciting. That’s why London’s Fashion Week is always one worth watching — it’s the place where quirky-cool designers like Simone Rocha, Molly Goddard, and Rejina Pyo all call home. But, it’s also a place where emerging designers have a chance to break out. Since the city is home to Central Saint Martins, arguably the world’s most prestigious college for fashion design, young talent there are pushing the boundaries of design.
Take, for example, Nensi Dojaka, the Albanian designer who beat out major industry talents like Christopher John Rogers and Connor Ives to claim the LVMH prize this year. Her fresh take on subversive fashion attracted retailers that range from the indie-beloved Ssense to luxury-focused MyTheresa. When you think of London, it might be English Breakfast tea or big red buses that first come to mind, but the city’s creative energy is its best quality. It’s led to a new generation of boundary-pushing designers to get excited about (and start shopping before everyone else). Below, find five designers to know ahead of London Fashion Week.
As the recent recipient of the 2021 LVMH prize, Nensi Dojaka is set to break out in a big way. The Central Saint Martins graduate is known for her minimalist yet intricate pieces, recognizable for their sheer fabrics and thin straps. Dojaka, who has said in the past that Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester are brands that inspire her work, has quickly amassed celebrity fans like Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa. Now, make sure she’s on your radar, too.
You may have already heard the name Charlotte Knowles. Since 2018, the London-based label, named after its founder, has created subversively cool pieces with a focus on corsetry and fitted dresses. In 2021, the brand underwent a rebirth, emerging as KNWLS. “It’s not just an eponymous, one-person effort. We're moving towards being a bigger luxury house,” Knowles told i-D. Take this as a signal: the brand is making big moves.
Irish designer Richard Malone has devoted himself to creating a brand with sustainability at its core. In the beginning, that meant using deadstock fabric — but in 2021, Malone took things a step further, diving into the working of his supply chain and making sure every person is rightfully compensated. “It’s an expensive way of working, and undesirable in terms of the sorts of profit margins brands want to make, but you sort of have to take it on the chin because it’s collaborative and it’s what’s right,” he told Vogue in March. While many brands use the idea of sustainability for caché without defining what that means to the consumer, Malone is leading a conversation on how to do things differently.
Since being founded in 2017, Lele has become a favorite for a new era of trendsetters — ones who prefer Tiktok over Instagram and now, who look to the Y2K era as their primary source of inspiration. After sharing the 2020 LVMH prize with her seven fellow nominees, Lele has entered 2021 with a fashion sense that’s energetic, playful, sexy, and yet — still comfortable. It’s made by a woman and designed with women’s needs in mind.
The Central Saint Martins alum leans towards a romantic, feminine aesthetic. While her pieces have an antique, nostalgic air to them, she pushes against the constricting nature of clothing from past eras — finding inspiration in loungewear. On her website, Wang describes her aesthetic as “beauty with weirdness, softness, delicacy, and sensibility” For Pride and Prejudice fans, this is the collection for you.