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If 2018 was a man, he’d be the guy everyone tells you to keep away from.

Addictions? Hot temper? A staggering lack of humour? Nah, it’s just that everyone, from your mum to Mustafa, your main man at the off-licence, will tell you: the guy is a bit self-repetitive and unoriginal. There’s nothing wrong with him – but nobody wants you to die of boredom, and so, the old chestnut of advice goes, “How about you try something new? Like focusing on your career?” How sweet, how nice, how unique.

On a more serious note, it’d be hard to pin down what would have made this year quite so horrific. The crisis of European parliamentary politics? The generic sense of apathy? The looming threat of global warming? The upsurge of interest in representational politics without incentives aimed at bringing about actual, structural change? None of this is particularly new – in fact, I’m pretty sure they are very 2017. Or 2016. Or 1989, even.

What we didn’t have back then was young people ready to take action and bring about the change they want to see in the world. Fortunately, this year saw an upsurge of designers interested in backing socio-political causes. Take Matthew Needham, Andrea Crews or Schuller de Waal, who proffer immensely inventive solutions to make fashion more sustainable; Mowalola, who forges a new definition of masculinity, raising questions about what it takes to be macho, or Raul Lopez, whose designs offer a rare glimpse into the amazing world of the New York Ballroom scene.

These creatives are paving the way for a more open-minded, more sustainable, less profit-oriented and more colourful fashion industry to emerge – and we can’t wait to see how far they’ll go.

 

10. A-COLD-WALL

Have you ever looked at a windrunner, stepped back, leaned in again, stepped back, performed some further close assessment, only to reach the conclusion: “What a masterpiece?”Probably not. Streetwear hardly ever triggers awe – it’s not the fashion equivalent of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa if we want to be honest here. Strict regulations, practicality, user behaviours and specific movements tend to be of more concern to those working in the field than, say, the “l’art pour l’art” Alessandro Michele has been pulling so successfully at Gucci. High fashion houses get to create beautiful garments, streetwear designers get to be concerned about which way the sweat will flow on your back. Such is life.

A-COLD-WALL’s Samuel Ross thinks otherwise. Citing his working-class heritage as an undying source of inspiration, Ross kept a low-key, cold-headed, hyper-rational approach towards the designing process and the designs. Aiming to meld together the fashions of the British high street with Savile Row tailoring, the designer creates simple, refined, well-thought-out items and art objects that can incite your curiosity, that can make you look at a pocket not once, not twice, but three times, only to gasp and let out a bit of a shriek: “This is  ******* fantastic!”

 

9. MOWALOLA

As of this year, car headlights have become fashionable. Alongside fake Mercedes Benz and Lexus signs. And those gigantic polyester bags sold at pound shops, favoured mostly by 30+ women who have actual lives, families to care for, and a grocery shopping that weighs more than your annual book intake.

What is going on, you might ask?

Mowalola steps foot on the London fashion scene, and let me tell you, she did so with a blast. The menswear designer graduated from CSM just last year, but her aesthetic has already acquired a cult following, with fans ranging from Kanye West to Solange Knowles. How? The young designer takes the stuff you’d find on Deptford market at peak times on a Saturday (towels depicting Britney Spears at the peak of her career, weird trainer-like trainer things, the deliciously weird odd ends and bric-a-bracs you’ll want to buy precisely to shake things up a little that trigger a great deal of regret) and puts them on a runway.

Alongside items that take after the aesthetic of fakes but from a high fashion point of view, including: hand-painted leather pants that expose male models’ pleasure trail, showing just a few inches or so of the neon-colour panties underneath, boleros showcasing your multipack (or lack thereof) (it’s Christmas, so) and hand-painted coats with almost-famous-looking, totally anonymous people’s faces on them. If Britney can make it onto a towel, there’s no reason why the 7th page of a Google search about your friends’ friends’ friend (read: your ex’s ex) shouldn’t, after all.

Why her, why now?

Because we want her clothes to be sold in stores. Please. It’s Christmas, so.

8. KIMMY J

Head of Kimmy J., Heejin Kim goes through subcultures like lonesome women go through buckets of ice cream. The Korean designer started the label just in 2015, but the past few years have seen her revisit just about every clique from punk to skateboarder to emo to hippie. The 2019 SS season revolves around 90s pop music, and Heejin sent out models wearing JNCO pants with legs as wide as a Christmas turkey, see through turtlenecks, and super-shiny coats made from a thin, creased, black pleather.

Why her, why now?

So far, Kimmy J has been the best kept secret of K-pop stars, with her clothes frequently featuring in TWICE and SHINEE videos. In 2019, we suspect the designer’s fame will grow further. For what it’s worth, the see-through suits and pleather garments are bound to go big amongst K-pop fans and beyond.

7. STEFAN KARTCHEV

Inspiration strikes at the least likely places, and nobody knows this better than Stefan Kartchev. It was during an orthodox mass he attended whilst on holiday at the Bulgarian countryside that the Antwerp Fashion Department MA student had a revelation, a stroke of genius. Having witnessed just how gorgeous the orthodox liturgical wear, the garments worn by priests, are, he decided to incorporate these into his graduate collection. And et voila: the crossover of cycling gear and liturgical fashion was born.

Offering a lively twist on biking sports, super tight, spandex numbers and shirts, Kartchev’s graduate collection will get you high on spirits. As to the future: we’re praying the recently graduated designer will start his own label soon, or else he’ll risk disappointing his ever-growing number of faithful believers.

6. ANDREA CREWS:

Andrea Crews is Maroussia Rebecq’s alter-ego for art performances, exhibitions, lectures and fashion design. The French creative came up with the fictitious entity circa. 2002, during an upcycling workshop held at the Palais de Tokyo, and has been actively using it as a reference point ever since.

Take her sustainable streetwear line of the same name, which champions the idea that sustainability needn’t necessarily have a ‘sustainable’ aesthetic, you know, the stuff of salt-candle-lit organic shops, baggy linen clothes and vegan restaurants. Instead of the rustic, earthy vibes, Rebecq went for the cutting edge, clear-cut looks, garments that might be recycled but feel very of the moment no less. Which is a very Andrea Crews-like idea: after all, Rebecq’s alter-ego is most often found at parties, or doing crazy-weird art performances to raise awareness of the destructive effects the fashion industry has inflicted on the environment. Anything but an eco-bore: this brand is here to show us that you can live all glam and luxurious, without being wasteful.

5. DOUBLET

Not to be confused with the medieval knight gear, the Japanese streetwear brand takes its name after a word puzzle, where you change each letter of a word until it ends up transforming into something altogether different. With fans ranging from all the Jenners (can’t keep up anymore, soz) to Mykki Blanco, designer Masayuki Ino’s childlike visual language and thirst for inventions earned worldwide following for a good reason. Famous for its unbelievably funny promos and catchy designs, Doublet has become synonymous with pure, unmediated joy.

The SS19 collection is the stuff of dark comedies: imagine oversized, broad-shouldered, loose hanging, thick knit cardis (aka. the penultimate librarian / full-time cat lady / elementary maths teacher uniform), alongside Hawaiian shirts so bold not even your dad would have the courage to put them on (and the man descends into holiday-alert mode each time your family goes anywhere near the M25) and 90s sports gear so gawky and weird even Napoleon Dynamite would take a step back, reassess, and settle for something a tad more refined.

Why him, why now?

Ino bagged the LVMH Prize for Young Designers just this year – stealing it from contenders including Charles Jeffrey and Eckhaus Latta. He is clearly headed for success – and hopefully, 2019 will be the year he steps on the path towards world domination.

4. SCHUELLER DE WAAL

Schueller de Waal want you to stop buying so much stuff. The Belgian designer duo have dedicated entire fashion shows to get retail addicts to put down the clothes hangers, walk away from the boots, and stop eyeing those earrings. Take the 2017 ‘Let’s Stay in Bed This Season’, which offered a rare close up of a burnt-out designer, who gave up his last hopes on the pursuit of a lucrative career and opted to take a deep dive underneath his pillows instead. The 2017 resort collection hit a similar tone: titled ‘Some Sort of Resort’. With the show they envisage a utopian world in which designers are liberated from the burden of designing resort shows, and go on a resort instead. You get the idea.

For the SS19 season, Schueller de Waal went even further. Cancelling their show on the last day of the Paris Fashion Week, they used the space to install a wellness spa, with massage chairs, a snack bar, and relaxing tunes. There was also a propaganda-style flick starring Iekeliene Stange as a hypnotherapist, whose gigantic, rainbow-coloured, swirling eyeballs (think Macbook cursor but more wild) were set to hypnotise you, sending the following message to your subconscious: “Stop buying so much stuff.”

Maybe we actually should, but the question remains – can we do this after having gone on a Schueller de Waal rampage? Their latest collection is made using earlier markdowns and unsold items that retailers have returned to the designers’ studio anyway. Surely, this doesn’t classify as buying stuff, right?

 

3. LUAR

Raul Lopez and Shayne Oliver parted ways in 2017. The cultic brand ran by the designer duo Hood by Air, went on hiatus, leading fashion fanatics to storm supermarkets in a hysteric search for tinned goods because, honestly, what other sign do you need to predict that the apocalypse is coming.

But the world didn’t end – in fact, Lopez returned to the scene with a new brand this season. If you liked the strong focus on experimental tailoring, the expertise layering (a shirt within a shirt within a skirt, anyone?) and the bold use of fabrics (leather was a relatively uncharted domain for streetwear before the designers came along) so characteristic of HBA, than you’ll absolutely love the stuff Lopez is doing for Luar.

Taking inspiration from his Dominican heritage, the New York ballroom scene and vogue dancers’ attires, the designer has been sending out monochrome collections celebrating a new beauty ideal. For the SS 2019 season, Lopez came up with garments that looked as though someone let Edward Scissorhands roam about in the stockroom of Macy’s for who knows how long. HBA fans and beyond: we got news. Genderqueer, upper-end streetwear didn’t end with HBA – in fact, Lopez just got started.

 

2. YULIA YEFIMTCHUK

Kiev-based designer Yulia Yefimtchuk studies propaganda posters, Soviet-era sewing manuals, and the archive issues of cultural journals to create a modern-day version of workmen-wear. Her slick, minimalistic collections adhere to a strictly refined colour scheme, and Yefimtchuk often adorns her designs with Cyrillic letters and propaganda slogans. Her eagle eye for proportions and exquisite tailoring skills earned her recognition from i-D, Metal and the like, and with an ever-growing list of stockists we’d bet that she has a bright future ahead.

Who am I kidding? This is lux-commie fashion, the stuff of utopias, the official attire for roaming about in the countryside wearing anything but shamelessly extravagant evening wear, dresses to celebrate in if the emancipation of the worker finally took place, and casual garments to check in on how your newly-assigned robot slaves are doing.

For those who prefer their fashion without the slight ideological edge: we hear you. But would you look at just how damn sexy those Soviet-oriented thigh holsters are?

1.MATTHEW NEEDHAM

Matthew Needham doesn’t address the problem of sustainability: he shows you what will happen in the event nobody does anything about it. Creating eveningwear best described as “the return of the discarded mini”, “the awakening of the forgotten purse”, “dead dress haunting”, Needham sews together garments from bits of leftover tweed and cotton, adorning them with fly-tipped trash, concrete or pieces of wood. Not only is the collection a clever campaign for sustainability, but it’s a sustainable one at that.

Thought your old turtleneck looked deadbeat enough when you threw it away? Wait until Needham gets hold of it.

2019 should see even more surprises from the young designer, who, upon being asked about his future plans by Love Magazine, simply answered: “the revolution”. As long as he intends to show up wearing a jacket covered in rusty nails, we’ll be there.

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