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5 under-the-radar designers to discover at nyfw

From queer knitwear to clothing for an all-black alien race, New York's new guard is a radical celebration of diverse identities.

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Sep 5 2018, 5:40pm

Daniel Cloke, Elena Velez, Vasilis Loizides

New York Fashion Week is an electrifying hodgepodge of established and emerging talent with no discernible nucleus. Is it Spring Studios? Chelsea Piers? Mission Chinese Restaurant? The Brooklyn Navy Yard? While we’re hella stoked to have Rodarte and Proenza Schouler back on the calendar, a lot has changed in America’s fashion capital while they were testing the waters in Paris. Brands like Eckhaus Latta and Telfar — even DIY breakout collective Vaquera — have gone from underground cult faves to the New York’s new guard. The homespun whimsy of Lou Dallas — which only exists because designer Raffella Hanley couldn’t afford new clothes — draws famous fashion editors to tiny art galleries on the Bowery. It’s an exciting time for fashion in New York, a city increasingly averse to velvet ropes, where “scene” is a dirty word and outsiders are always welcome. i-D rounded up five of New York Fashion Week’s freshest talents to watch out for this spring/summer 19 season.

Daniel Cloke
Knitwear is certainly having a resurgence. But Daniel Cloke’s opulent thigh-split gowns and pearl-encrusted angora “masks” are less about woven garments being updated for now, and more about them being recontextualized using the technology of tomorrow. Cloke worked as a fabric design assistant at Alexander Wang after graduating RISD, but his next position was somewhat less expected: a summer internship making spacesuits at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. Now back in New York designing for his namesake brand, Cloke blends traditional artistry and new technology with a tongue-in-cheek queer attitude. Think “CUNTY” scarves and cropped sweaters for emo femme queens. We like to imagine there astronauts floating around with X-rated secret messages sewn into the lining of their spacesuits. Cloke's show is presented as part of CFDA and LIFEWTR’s Diversity in Design showcase.

Vasilis Loizides
So your favorite film is a toss-up between Marie Antoinette and Godzilla? Meet Vasilis Loizides, the subversively sensitive designer celebrating the beautiful dichotomies found within us all. Loizides’s fall/winter 18 collection incorporated the faces of retro horror movie monsters into all his inclusive brand’s hallmarks: incandescent pearls, shimmering sheer tulle, and limb-engulfing silk ruffles. Originally from Cyprus, Loizides moved to New York to study at Parsons, and quickly gained a cult following among the city’s young queer community. At its core, Vasilis Loizides explores universal human desires, regardless of gender and sexuality, often finding them in a pair of pearl-trimmed denim chaps.

Ji Won Choi
Ji Won Choi gathered a fair few passport stamps on her way to New York Fashion Week, where she'll present as part of the CFDA x LIFEWTR showcase. The Seoul-born, Midwest-raised designer only presented her thesis collection for Parsons last year, studying in both New York and Paris, before being whisked off to Milan to create exclusive capsule collections for Yoox. Choi’s bold silhouettes and graphic prints would catch your eye from a mile away. But the in-your-face garments come with a more subtle message about consumerism. Choi’s last collection, literally titled “EXCESSIVISM,” used all natural fibres and was intended to be worn in a variety of ways. So what’s with all those punchy, trippy stripes? “I was trying to find new silhouettes and during the process, I experimented with putting all the clothing I have on myself in different ways, Choi told Tatler Hong Kong. “I would layer them on Photoshop and play around with the shapes.” Her spring/summer 19 collection is about owning her Korean-American identity.

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Jamall Osterholm
"I've created this all-black alien race," RISD grad Jamall Osterholm told i-D last year. "I'm kind of using it as a metaphor for slavery — looking at contemporary black culture as a descendant of slave culture, which would be a descendant of African culture. I'm trying to follow that linage to ask, ‘What's next?’" In Jamal’s vision of the future, black men are entirely free from the white gaze and Eurocentric beauty ideals, as well as from any internalized biases about gender and sexuality. Sculptural puffer scarves and proudly conspicuous hoodies coexist with gauzy tulle gowns and a high-cut sheer bodysuit — and lots of black. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Osterholm wanted to be a furniture designer before falling in love with fashion design thanks to a degree requirement. The young multi-hyphenate also does his own photography, steering us toward overlooked parts of the male physique.

Elena Velez
At VFILES’s spring/summer 19 show tonight, Elena Velez will rep the United States alongside top emerging talent from China and Belgium. Velez is Puerto Rican and based in New York, where she recently graduated from Parsons. But her collections have an eye to the Midwest. The designer grew up in Milwaukee, and is continually inspired by the lakeside city’s creative community. Her debut collection is titled “_and carry on,” a play on the popular British propaganda slogan “Keep Calm And Carry On,” and looks to the 1941 wartime utility garment industry. Materials are mainly those workers would have had strictly regulated access to at the time, including salvaged canvas, repurposed parachutes, and scrap metal details (the product of a partnership Velez forged with local artisans). At the heart of the intrinsically sustainable collection is a sense of possibility and a celebration of post-war societal resilience.

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