Puppets and Puppets

What: An under-the-radar newbie that’s the brainchild of New York-based mixed media artist Carly Mark and fashion designer Ayla Argentina. Spring/Summer 2020 marks just their second season.

Why know it: Of late, a theatrical mood has been settling over New York Fashion Week – often typecast as the most commercial of the big four fashion weeks – and Puppets and Puppets is one of the names breathing new life into the scene. At its latest show held last September, there were richly textured 18th-century-style gowns with vase- like proportions (the inspiration was Russian aristocracy). On the tamer end: lace slips and sharply tailored suits that made for sensuous, ’90s-inflected everyday wear after one took apart the operatic runway styling.

The founders profess to be fans of costumes and narrative- based collections, making the brand one of the finest and most authentic fashion-meets-art propositions of the moment. Factor in how the eco-conscious duo make most pieces by hand at home with upcycled fabrics and the label checks off two more boxes for today’s consumers: sustainability and exclusivity. Most pieces are one-offs, save for the embroidered T-shirts, and the only way to land one for now is via email (hit up its eponymous Instagram account).

Palomo Spain

What: It’s the fantastical five-year-old menswear label that Beyonce wore in the viral Venus-like portrait revealing the first public look at her twins, Rumi and Sir Carter, for Instagram. The hyper-feminine, floral silk organza gown with cascading ruffles – a piece from the brand’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection – was originally featured on a male model in that season’s lookbook.

Why know it: Yes, more and more labels are joining the gender-neutral train, but few do it as beautifully and with as much finesse and chutzpah. Spanish founder and designer Alejandro Gomez Palomo, who was shortlisted for the 2017 LVMH Prize, works not so much with the idea of gender neutrality, but rather that of men being able to wear the same details found in womenswear. Think embroideries, fabrics (lace, organza, silk and taffeta are mainstays) and silhouettes just like the one Bey wore, for example.

When coupled with the fact that Palomo works primarily with local artisans and traditional Spanish techniques to crystallise his sensual, almost Baroque designs, the results – this season includes lace blouses with talisman-like fringes, pleated palazzo pants, corsets and tailoring embroidered with delicate crochetwork – are at once colourful and immaculate. It explains his diverse fan base that includes Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles and the haute gangsta chic Spanish singer Rosalia, with a love for extravagant details being the main uniting factor. And also why his pieces – sold on the brand’s official website (www.palomospain.com) as well as the directional Canadian multi-label e-retailer Ssense – tend to get snapped up fast.

Horror Vacui

What: The Munich-based, antique nightgown-inspired label founded by lawyer-turned-designer Anna Heinrichs after a failed attempt to find quality PJs with traditional details like boutonniere loops. Started in 2014, it’s just been picked up by trendsetting e-tailers like Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion and we all know what that means: Expect to see it on fashion insiders and the street style set soon.

Why know it: Despite having the word “horror” in its name, the label is anything but. Horror Vacui is Latin for fear of empty spaces and the visual arts has adopted it to refer to the technique of filling a surface with intricate details, making it an apt moniker for the brand. Every piece offers plenty for the eye to take in – from whimsical Liberty of London prints to signature scalloped edges that are fastened with stitches done by hand.

This season, Heinrichs drew inspiration from children’s portraits from the Edwardian and Regency eras (basically the early 1800s to 1900s), which translates to airy smocks and separates that – with their prim neck and hemlines and poufy sleeves – hint at childhood innocence; an unexpectedly pretty take on Wednesday Addams chic if she was into colour, if you will. Going by the label’s Instagram account (@horrorvacuimunich), paintings of kids dressed in elaborate costumes from eras past seem to be an obsession (and as creepy as the brand gets), though in real life, it’s the likes of period drama regular Keira Knightley who love it and make its poster girls.

The Vampire’s Wife

What: When your husband’s Nick Cave (aka eternal poster boy of gothic rock), what else could one possibly name one’s fashion label? That said, Susie Cave herself is no slouch. One of the most in-demand models in the ’90s, she started the brand around 2014 only to see it become as much a red-carpet fixture as it is an insider’s favourite (Net-a-Porter stocks it while Dover Street Market Singapore debuted it last year) in recent years.

Why know it: For all its demure and distinctly Edwardian-esque influences (the brand’s hero piece is a high-necked, long-sleeved, tea-length sheath with puffed shoulders), The Vampire’s Wife is also undeniably pretty and can be very trendy too. Its Spring/Summer 2020 collection, for example, includes said signature frock in cocktail/wedding-appropriate metallic gold or candy pink as well as shorter, floral-print cotton dresses that would make refreshing additions to the weekend wardrobe of society types. Mrs Cave’s designs are known to be flattering for all women – years on the runway have reportedly taught her a thing or two about cut, and she believes that one can be all covered up and still look powerful and sexy.

This story first appeared in the April 2020 print edition of FEMALE.