It’s fair to say that it’s not an easy time to be a young designer, entering a market that has been crippled by the effects of a global pandemic. Yet perhaps one of the few silver linings of the last 18 months is that the fashion industry has had a moment to reflect and realise that the way it had been operating was not the most sustainable. While many big brands have taken steps in the right direction, it’s been smaller labels that have had the dexterity and entrepreneurial spirit to build companies with sustainability at their core. The brands in NET-A-PORTER’s Vanguard program class of 2021 are the perfect encapsulation of this. The future of fashion has arrived.
A brilliant scheme that celebrates new designers and highlights their stories and the diverse creative communities around them, the Vanguard edit is not only a way to support these up-and-comers but also (somewhat selfishly) a chance for us editors to see which brands are about to make the big time. It honestly makes our jobs a whole lot easier. From Renaissance Renaissance’s couture-inspired gowns to Lukhanyo Mdingi’s eclectic knitwear, the final selection of brands is a reflection of the creativity, eclecticism and individuality that is held within the next generation of fashion talent, and it’s pretty exciting. So if you want to get a glimpse of the names that are going to make it big, scroll down to see and shop our NET-A-PORTER Vanguard edit.
Inspired by the rich history of couture, Renaissance Renaissance was founded by third-generation tailor Cynthia Merhej. Her stunning designs use traditional dressmaking techniques, such as corsetry and ruching, to create her minimalist pieces.
Cape Town–based Sindiso Khumalo started her namesake label to create modern, sustainable clothing inspired by her Zulu and Ndebele heritage, with an emphasis on African storytelling. Working closely with small African factories to produce the hand-woven textiles, her collections are full of colourful dresses and wearable separates.
Also based in Cape Town, designer Lukhanyo Mdingi is passionate about raising awareness of the work of local artisans and experiments with different fabrics and textures to create intricately woven knits in statement-making silhouettes.
If you’re looking for eclectic pieces with a noughties twist, Connor Ives, a graduate from Central Saint Martins, is the designer for you. Ives’s namesake label draws on American youth culture and has been spotted on the likes of Adwoa Aboah and Rihanna.
Describing his designs as “Afro-futurist,” Jameel Mohammed is the up-and-coming name who creates fine jewellery with a contemporary twist. “Doing this project is indicative that the industry and the world is changing,” he says. “This is a moment of empowerment. It’s a collaboration of Black and non-Black creators that can and will be the site of change. This is where it starts.”