By Danielle Naer
We’re always going to remain loyal to the venerable houses that have remained fashion fixtures over the decades (we’re looking at you Gucci, who this year celebrates 100 years!), but we also love to support the rise of new talent, including these five young designers who are changing the way we dress today.
Cult Gaia tends to thrive in spring and summertime, architecting the It-piece of the season in 2019 (the Ark bag) and 2020 (the Serita dress). This season will be no exception, with all eyes on the sand-hued Kingsley dress. “This collection might call to mind some of Miami’s quintessential architectural features—from the intricate facades, curved lines and stylized sculpture,” says the brand’s LA-based founder and designer Jasmine Larian. “South Florida’s warm weather and relaxed ethos creates the perfect atmosphere to wear Cult Gaia.” As laid out in the celeb-loved label’s manifesto, its raison d’être is simple: help women “create a lifestyle that’s a visual feast, effortlessly.” With a mélange of bamboo box-bags, heels that look like they’re floating on a bubble and sumptuous knit dresses with surprising cutouts, Larian has kept that promise. “I always design everything with versatility in mind,” she says. “I want someone to be able to wear our clothes from home to the beach, then with heels for a night out.”
Acler dresses are anything but basic,” says Divya Mathur, chief merchant at Intermix, of the women-led Australian fashion label. Behind its balloon sleeves and swags of polka dotted fabric, there’s a scrupulous 12-month testing period for each garment that’s integral to the brand. When designers Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritoto established their label in 2014, they wanted to rebel against formulaic, cookie-cutter design processes that mostly unfold on the computer, instead of IRL. They scrapped that in favor of a hands-on approach to everything they create, thoroughly testing and re-testing, draping and re-draping each piece. While they consider their design point of view to be minimalist, Forth and Ritoto have also expanded upon that category. Passing on staid neutrals that many brands with minimalist, quietly luxe appeal default to, the duo opts for unique fabrics in anything but-boring prints. Behind every dress, there’s a worldwide search for the fabric that it’s rendered in—with a luxurious hand-feel at top of mind. The finished product is a trove of playful, exceptionally made garments, all with an uncompromising fit. “We love the label’s sculptural sleeves and interesting hemlines,” adds Mathur.
Dodo Bar Or is the next buzzy fashion brand to arrive at Intermix, with its official debut scheduled for April. Established in 2014 by Israeli actor Dorit Bar Or, the label is a wellspring of fresh, laid-back silhouettes injected with Middle Eastern flair. As for its new spring pieces, think geometric knit dresses and paneled leather skirts, all in bright palettes. Plus, there’s a “Stay At Home’’ capsule that’s anything but the typical run of lounge sets. “For me, South Florida is the American equivalent of Capri, which was one of my inspirations for this collection,” says Bar Or. “I can totally see this incredibly chic woman driving around in her convertible, wearing oversized sunglasses and a leather two-piece suit. She makes a statement and turns heads everywhere she goes—for the right reasons!”
Ask any celebrity who’s behind their shoulder bag du jour, and they’ll say one of three things: Loewe, Gucci or Staud. The six-year-old brand, which earned a CFDA nod for American Emerging Designer in 2020, is already well-recognized by the beau monde. Its current collection provides a stylish interpretation of the coastlines of Portugal—its crystal blue prints, nautical stripes and netted hobo bags are enough to make you reach for your passport and sunblock (once borders are a little more easily traversed). An emblematic feature of all Staud collections, is an assortment of good-humored prints. (Who knew puppy motifs could feel so elevated?) When people most need a bit of levity, Staud seems to say “dress for success—but don’t take yourself too seriously.”
“Christopher Esber may not yet be a household name, but he certainly will be soon,” says Mathur. You might recall seeing Esber’s designs on the red carpet, where It-girls like Zendaya and Emily Ratajkowski have glided around in his midriff-baring maxi dresses. The Australian designer made a name for himself by offering evening wear that’s imbued with a distinctly beachy feel—a feature that complements leisurely lunches and fête champêtres with ease. As for what’s coming in his spring line, you can expect lots of cutouts and ornate crochet work—almost as if a mermaid were entangled in the most becoming of fishing nets. Though known to call on neutrals, Esber also fueled his latest collection with some eye-catching hues. “We are obsessed with the tangerine orange set,” says Mathur. “He always nails the color and trend of the season.”
Photos courtesy of Acler, Cult Gaia, Dodo Bar Or, Staud, and Christopher Esber.