1. Richard Quinn
What: The two-year-old namesake label that caused a furore at London Fashion Week
F/W ’18 in February when Queen Elizabeth II herself turned up at its show.
Fashion factor: You mean, besides getting the approval of the true highness of fashion? The reigning monarch was there to present Quinn with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, which recognises an emerging talent for originality, as well as sustainable and community-minded values. Other style icons who have noticed (and worn) the 28-year-old’s work: Lady Gaga and Amal Clooney, their differing tastes hinting at his appeal. His sophomore collection this season — available at Matches Fashion – pushes his signature chintzy chic, wallpaper floral prints to the extreme: contrasting blooms splashed across dresses, puffer coats, and Leigh Bowery-style bodysuits, stockings and face masks — all worn at once. Yet it also shows off his eye for colour, innovativeness (foil evening gowns) and knack for elegant silhouettes like sculptural baby-dolls and diaphanous, knife-pleated maxis.
Eco factor: Quinn creates all of his trademark florals on a digital printer because it not only allows for customisation and works on a wider range of materials (yes, like foil), but also uses 70 per cent less water and 80 per cent less energy than traditional techniques. He also produces everything in his own studio to avoid overproduction — a common problem faced by small independent labels.
2. NINETY PERCENT
What: Launched this February, the London-based label made headlines with its MO: donating exactly the amount of profits as indicated in its name to charity.
Fashion factor: Its slew of no-brainer separates (www.ninetypercent.com) are as ’90s minimalist sexy as they are athleisure chic. Designed by creative director Ben Matthews (above) — who, according to The Telegraph, worked at Net-a-porter for a decade — they range from basic tees to metallic knit polos and toga column dresses. Spare, sophisticated lines means they’re as suited for a relaxed night out as they are for day wear or layering.
Eco factor: Every customer gets to vote for the charity the brand will donate to at the end of its financial year by keying in a unique code found on the care label of her purchases. Among the options currently in the running: Wild Aid and the Big Life Foundation. In addition, most of its jersey is made from certified organic cotton, and its Tencel, from renewable wood pulp in a closed-loop system (read: all waste is repurposed). Of course, materials come from trusted suppliers only.
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What: Started by Swiss duo Jeanne Guenat and Elliot Upton, the year-old label takes a one-size-fits-all approach towards apparel.
Fashion factor: Sottes appears to be a label tailor-made for these hyper conscious times. Besides being seasonless, every piece is designed to be genderless and sizeless – in short, as non-discriminatory as possible. Expect minimalist, loose-fitting, neutral-hued staples like shirts and tunics that can be worn in multiple ways, thanks to a variety of fastenings and drawstrings that allows one to customise his or her look. More bragging rights: The brand makes its worldwide retail debut this month exclusively at local multi-label store Surrender, with every piece individually numbered and available in a limited run.
Eco factor: Most of its pieces are made from recycled fabrics sourced from vintage stores in Switzerland, then sewn together by hand by the duo and a team of local seamstresses. This also means that production is kept entirely local which, in turn, reduces the eco-conscious designers’ carbon footprint.
4. Maggie Marilyn
What: Started in 2016 by designer Maggie Hewitt, it’s arguably New Zealand’s buzziest label-of-the-moment.
Fashion factor: It enjoys the distinction of being the first-ever brand to have its debut collection snapped up by Net-a-porter in the latter’s history — if that isn’t a positive indicator, we don’t what is. Understanding why the luxury e-retail giant did so is easy: Hewitt’s blend of feminine, wearable separates-with-a-twist (frayed hems, unexpected ruffles) and on-trend athleisure staples (bell-bottom track pants) are prime Instagram fashion fodder. Despite her youth — she’s all of 24 — the brand has since been picked up by more than 70 other stockists worldwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lane Crawford and Moda Operandi; then came a nomination for last year’s LVMH Prize. Last we checked, her celebrity fans are made up of equally trendy-meets-cool It girls like Kendall Jenner and Saoirse Ronan.
Eco factor: With the exception of its made-in-Italy knitwear, everything that Hewitt designs and sells is produced in her home base of Auckland to ease her carbon footprint. Her fabric choices (think organic cottons and ethically produced silks) are likewise chosen with care.
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What: The Budapest-based label started by designer Sandra Sandor in 2005 (yes, 13 years ago).
Fashion factor: For all its age, it’s only in the past year that the brand has ventured beyond its hometown (it held its first show at New York Fashion Week this February). The result has been a new-found fan base that includes stockist Net-a-porter, as well as celebrities ranging from Caroline de Maigret to Charlize Theron. The latter group reflects the brand’s womanly-chic-but-not-overtly-trendy aesthetic – cue this season’s obi-style, bleach denim wrap dress with a criss-cross back, or polka-dot chiffon blouse with a waist tie. The fact that its signature vegan leather bags look an awful lot like they’re made of the real thing only adds to the brand’s increasing popularity and visibility.
Eco factor: Nanushka’s vegan leather goods are made sans tanning, a process often reported as a serious source of pollution (for one, some manufacturers are known to dump their hazardous by-product into waterways). Sandor is also aiming to fully convert to using sustainable materials by 2020.
6. RICHARD MALONE
What: The 2017 LVMH Prize-nominated eponymous label by Irish designer Richard Malone, a fast-rising star on the London Fashion Week (LFW) calendar.
Fashion factor: The 26-year-old Malone has already earned comparisons to Simone Rocha, J.W. Anderson and Christopher Kane — all former “ones to watch” who’ve become tent-pole names of LFW and beyond. In just three years, he’s gained a reputation for sculptural, brightly coloured knits and modern tailoring; sophisticated showpieces that make helluva artistic statement. That ought not to overshadow a practical side: most of his garments are made from machine-washable fabrics, come with pockets, and — most importantly — flatter women’s figures. Small wonder that directional retailers like Leclaireur in Paris and Joyce in Hong Kong stock him.
Eco factor: Known to oppose mass production, Malone collaborates with female Indian artisans who weave recycled yarns by hand, then colour them with plant-based dyes to reduce resources, as well as aid their community. Any excess fabric is archived for use in future collections.
This story first appeared in Female’s September 2018 issue.