As another fashion month comes to a close, a whole new host of rising designers have emerged as the shining stars of the runway. While New York Fashion Week tends to prioritize new labels over traditional household names, with usual suspects like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs taking the season off or showing off schedule, other cities like London and Paris are also adding their fair share of new labels to the official calendar. Here, a few of our favorites from the fall 2023 season.
Jackson Wiederhoeft launched the eponymous Wiederhoeft brand in 2019, after becoming inspired by all things dance and theater. The designer is a Parsons School of Design alum who also worked under Thom Browne for three years. Each collection is a masterpiece in merging form and fantasy, with characters walking the runway in precise corseted gowns, trompe-l’œi lingerie prints, denim hooded dresses, and puffed tulle skirts—this season, influenced by a retelling of Orpheus. “A lot of my work is concerned with recontextualizing archetypal imagery…taking a lot of ancient Greek and Catholic imagery and kind of recontextualizing [and] decontextualizing into a post-future, post-gender kind of space,” he tells ELLE.com.
BruceGlen was without a doubt the most colorful runway of NYFW, and that was every bit intentional—just ask identical twin designers Bruce and Glen Proctor. “We’ve always been drawn to color and shine, but haven’t always felt the license to wear it,” they say. “We decided to embrace what naturally moved us: color. We begin to recognize the power of color, its ability to change an atmosphere and mood. It’s important for us that BruceGlen sparks joy. There are so many sad things happening in the world. We want our contribution to be joy, through all the gifts that we have.” The brand began with handbags and relaunched in 2019 to include a rainbow of jersey, grommeted dresses, and velvet tops. As a finishing touch, for the fall/winter 2023 show, five-time Grammy-winning gospel artist Naomi Raine sang “Order My Steps,” which was one of their late mother’s favorite gospel songs.
Rising designer Helena Eisenhart conceived their line in Brooklyn back in 2015, and has since gained a reputation for mixing unusual materials, like vinyl mesh screens found at construction sites as well as upcycled vintage fabrics, all in unisex silhouettes. For their New York Fashion Week debut for FW23, models sauntered across a glass-mirrored space with a chain-link fence donning structured cut-out pieces in a mostly all-black palette. “As a queer, mixed-race person living in New York City, I often feel both isolated and celebrated at the same time,” they say. “Uniforms and dress codes have been a big inspiration for my work since it is a clear way to share multiple identities through manners of dressing. It’s both a way to blend in and to show power and distinction. To dress according to a code can also mean to dress in disguise.”
Elena Velez is not interested in your perceptions of her as a designer, and that is perhaps what makes her the most interesting. Focused on the female form, rage, the apocalypse, and everything else that comes with being a woman, she founded her label in 2018 on the principals of using non-traditional materials, her Midwest background, and high fashion edge. Her FW2023 wasteland heroines had untouchable BDSM-esque glamour with an AI film experience to boot. “For me, the most exciting thing about this new season is getting to double down on world-building,” she says. “We had an amazing chance to articulate ourselves through so many different mediums and with the help of so many multidisciplinary collaborators this season. Creatively, the accomplishment was getting to build a story around these romantic abstractions from the places back home we’re all familiar with, but have lost touch with.”
As one of the most definitively diverse and inclusive designers of the next generation, Irish Sinéad O’Dwyer launched her London-based label in 2018 with the concept of creating runway clothing tailored for everyone—regardless of size, ability, or aesthetics. Her bodycon pieces celebrate the body on its own terms, along with feminine self-expression. The FW23 collection paid tribute to her late grandmother, Rita O’Dwyer, with punky vests, sculpted bustier tops, and fishnet dresses and leggings.
“I think with anything, always leave it nicer than when you found it,” says London- based designer Feben Vemmenby, the brains behind Feben, of her ultimate goal for her namesake brand. “I guess that’s how I feel about this industry, and [what I] hope to achieve.” Her signatures are her silk twisted dresses, but she also has an eye for abstract prints and puffer silhouettes. Last season, her collection drew inspiration from the tarot deck, and for fall, she decided to focus on a single card: The Chariot, yielding more twisted dresses—this time, with giant shoulders—and a sea of surreal prints.
Part of the next generation of female designers who are doing things radically different by being laser-focused on all that womanhood embodies, Turkish-Brit talent Dilara Findikoglu titled her fall 2023 collection presented at London Fashion Week, “Not a Man’s Territory.” Per her show notes, “I am not the best writer but I have been thinking… (something I overdo anyway…) Why men have way too much control over our bodies? What should a woman wear? How much is too much?” Among the standout looks: a Joan of Arc-inspired dress covered in Victorian knives, a Victorian lace-inspired lingerie, and a minidress made out of armor consisting of hair clips.
“There are many things that inspire,” Róisín Pierce says of her all-white concoctions of saccharine dresses, puffy sweaters, and cream puff sets. Since starting her line, the Irish designer has made it her mission to focus on artisanal techniques and traditional craftsmanship, as well as textile manipulation, and it shows in the incredibly complex designs. “From emotion to sociopolitics, the craft, and the design process, I find my brand and inspiration are many things conjured up into one.” For fall/winter 2023, the designer hosted her Paris debut with a collection full of her signatures.
Pressiat was officially founded in 2021 by Vincent Garnier Pressiat, but it’s already become one of the most interesting rising brands to watch in Paris. Its fashion shows are also typically unexpected. Picture this: a club in Pigalle full of gender-fluid goths, party kids, and all-around characters dressed in period-style pieces that push the boundaries of good taste and bad, as well as costume and character. Pressiat is for the bold, and it will always surprise you.
You can take the designer out of Amsterdam, but you can’t take Amsterdam out of the designer. Among many things, emerging label Duran Lantink has hosted an X-rated fashion show inside a club in the Red Light District, dressed Beyoncé, and cut up designer garments from Balenciaga, Prada, and Diesel to remake one-off pieces—his specialty. For the first time ever, he also presented a runway show at Paris Fashion Week.
Chen Peng founded his label a little over six years ago, and has since become a low-key favorite in fashion’s inner circles. The Chinese designer focuses on puffed-up, inflated silhouettes that cross the line between cartoonish and intriguing. Rihanna, Bella Hadid, and Lady Gaga have all worn his work. His FW23 collection, shown at PFW, was comprised of all the oversized silhouettes, with a dash of humor. (Peng loves to include giant puffy hand motifs throughout.)
Austrian knitwear designer Florentina Leitner graduated in 2020 and launched her label full of quirky silhouettes, fun hats, and unusual sunglasses soon after. For the past couple of seasons, Leitner has chosen Paris as a home base for debuting her new collections. Consider her the new guard of quirky knitwear designers who take color and unabashed self-expression seriously—but not too seriously.
Kristen Bateman is a contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Her first fashion article was published in Vogue Italia during her junior year of high school. Since then, she has interned and contributed to WWD, Glamour, Lucky, i-D, Marie Claire and more. She created and writes the #ChicEats column and covers fashion and culture for Bazaar. When not writing, she follows the latest runway collections, dyes her hair to match her mood, and practices her Italian in hopes of scoring 90% off Prada at the Tuscan outlets. She loves vintage shopping, dessert and cats.