It happened to Mary Katrantzou in 2010 and J.W. Anderson in 2011. Suddenly, after years of building up their label, they crossed the line from emerging designer to household name. Christopher Kane hit the tipping point even earlier in his career, his name ricocheting around the industry as soon as he started showing his neon-belted bandage dresses. Now all three are heavyweights at London Fashion Week.
So who’s next? Our sights are set firmly on 2014, and the designers poised to make it their year. Whether they’ve been flying under the radar up until now or are about to expand their collection, these are the five names that we think are on the verge of something big. Make sure you’re watching when it happens.
You probably recognise Sophie Hulme’s accessories. A favourite with editors on the front row, their signature hardware seems permanently to glint in paparazzi flashes and runway lighting. And they’re a favourite for good reason: Hulme combines those sophisticated gold plates with Play-Doh colour like nobody else could.
She picked up a British Fashion Award for Best Emerging Accessories Designer in 2012, so Hulme’s fans might be surprised to learn that she sees the bags as only part of her brand’s DNA. For Spring/Summer 2014 she’s growing her ready-to-wear offering, with biker jackets, playsuits and shifts that sit somewhere between youthful and elegant.
It usually works the other way around, with apparel labels gradually expanding into accessories and beauty. But we can’t see that holding Hulme back. ‘I see the brand as half accessories and half ready-to-wear, with equal focus,’ she told Vogue. ‘I think the two sides complement and enhance each other.’ Her electric blue leopard print, spilling over from a knee length dress onto an envelope clutch, is a covetable case in point.
It’s tough to stand out at London Fashion Week. The city doesn’t need another cool kid designer, or have space for extra eccentricity to run amok. But Katie Eary’s clothes simply grab attention, and it would be difficult to leave her off this list.
She’s been designing for five years, since finishing an MA at The Royal College of Art, and her first call-in was for a Vogue shoot with Kate Moss. But it’s right now that we think the label is really hitting its stride. An early focus on menswear has evolved into unisex shows, and her street-inspired attitude is catching.
Her current collection mixes hothouse florals with gloomy decay and lobster spaceships – a string of references that don’t work together until you see it. And in a total change of pace, her Spring/Summer 2014 show was almost entirely orange. Citrus leopard prints and disconcerting flamingo heads collided in the trippiest way, and we already want all of it.
If effortless minimalism is more your thing, get to know Studio Nicholson. Their ‘confident and uncomplicated’ line mixes androgyny with the kind of insouciance that’s usually confined to Parisians.
Nick Wakeman, the brand’s Creative Director, was formerly a menswear designer – and it really shows. Instead of borrowing masculine details and implanting them in a womenswear collection, she actually applies the design principles of menswear to her tightly edited line. Right now there are 12 pieces in the online store, and none of them are skirts.
Since 2010 the label has been a quiet favourite with bloggers and models. But very special designs, like an oversized, candy pink wool sweatshirt, mean that its fan base is growing. It’s the star of the current collection, in our eyes at least, and so immaculate that all girlishness is immediately left behind.
What started as a casual line of graphic T-shirts in 2002 is now a full-throttle collection, straddling the space between directional streetwear and cult luxury. And with a regular spot at Copenhagen Fashion Week, Wood Wood is one of Denmark’s most stylish exports.
For Autumn/Winter 2013 the label experimented with bum bags, tossing them over Prohibition-inspired pinstripes and androgynous bomber jackets. Fedora hats, tailored pieces and long coats were all reimagined with newfound edge, drawing on the energy and history of New York. We even have a soft spot for their wallets and laptop cases, which come in a fiery shade of metallic leather.
Collaborations with Nike, Eastpak and Casio have sealed Wood Wood’s status as a brand worth watching. Already established in Denmark, and with standalone stores in Berlin and Vienna, we don’t expect them to stay under the rest of the world’s radar for long.
The energy and wit that Susanne Ostwald and Ingvar Helgason bring to their label, which they started in 2008, has been championed by everyone from Miroslava Duma to American Vogue. But somehow they’ve held onto their status as a cult label for those in the know, never quite moving into the mainstream.
Instead they’ve been quick to establish their design signatures, spotting what works and twisting it around in a new way for next time. Think geometric prints, collared blouses and bold chunks of colour, but always with some element of unpredictability.
Unlike a lot of emerging brands, they don’t court the outsized, slouchy fit that Kenzo’s luxe sweatshirts ushered into fashion last year. Instead there’s something very refreshing about the high, fitted waists and voluminous skater skirts. Their Resort 2014 collection is all moody blues and anxious monkey cartoons. But it’s full of the Ostwald Helgason playfulness that we’ve come to crave, and that we can’t find anywhere else.