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Young brands in vogue at New York Fashion Week

By Andréa Bambino/AFP Published Feb 11, 2023 9:57 am

New York Fashion Week got underway Friday with several big names absent from the runway but a calendar packed full of young designers and emerging labels—increasingly the event's trademark.

Rodarte opened the Fall-Winter 2023 parade, one of the few major brands to return this year.

Thom Browne, the new head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) that runs the event, showcases on Tuesday.

Among the other headliners are regulars Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra, Coach, Sergio Hudson, Carolina Herrera, Gabriela Hearst and Michael Kors.

But the program, which ends Wednesday in the middle of the Big Apple's cold month of February, again has a notable absence of high-profilers such as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and previous CFDA lead Tom Ford.

Pop icon Rihanna, who has exhibited her lingerie collection Fenty at New York in the past, will instead be performing at the much-watched Super Bowl half-time show on Sunday.

"Very few names are brands that are prominent in the US market," said Jacqueline Quinn of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), confiding that her students are focusing their eyes on Paris and Milan instead.

Instead, the collection of ready-to-wear designs serves up a large helping of young talents and new brands, such as Elena Velez.

The 28-year-old was named "emerging designer of the year" at the 2022 CFDA awards for her non-traditional creations that merge high fashion with the metalsmith heritage of her hometown Milwaukee.

'Era of renaissance'

Some 20 designers are under 30 years old, including the Nigerian-born, New York-based Taofeek Abijako and his label Head of State, Indian Kanika Goyal (KGL) and Emma Gage (Melke), who uses recycled materials for a more sustainable fashion.

For Velez, the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred an "era of renaissance."

"I think there's a renewed lust for life and a reminder of the precariousness of life that inspires young people like myself to embolden ourselves with our passions," she told AFP.

And Velez is determined to enjoy it while it lasts.

"If we're being honest, the shelf-life of a startup fashion brand isn't exactly lengthy," she added.

Denmark's Christian Juul Nielsen, the creative director at Herve Leger, already has several years of experience behind him having worked at Dior, Nina Ricci and Oscar de la Renta.

In 2019, he launched his own brand, Aknvas, whose designs "focus on drape, flattering silhouettes, innovative knits and an elevated palette," according to its website.

"I try to translate the drama I got from John Galliano and the modernity I got from Raf Simmons," he told AFP.

For Nielsen, and others like him, New York presents an opportunity.

"A lot of small brands in Paris, they just don't get on the calendar. In America, there is this excitement of newness (and) I want to be part of making the New York fashion scene exciting," Nielsen added.