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The Rising Design Stars to Watch From New York Fashion Week Fall 2024

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An exciting part of the New York shows is the discovery factor. The week showcases a mix of industry veterans but just as important are the new talents, some making their debuts for the first time. Here WWD’s puts a spotlight on the design stars to keep an eye on.

Agbobly’s fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection.

Courtesy of Agbobly

Agbobly

“Grateful,” said Jacques Agbobly, a few minutes before his mother walked into his presentation, his first at New York Fashion Week. The up and comer — 2023 winner of the WWD honor for One to Watch — has had a big week, adding a nomination for the LVMH Prize to his growing accolades. Fall served as a “bienvenue” he said, a welcome to his work, his culture and his skills at a time when a lot of industry eyes are directed at the brand.

Growing up in Chicago, Agbobly has Togolese roots — and his collection marries the two seamlessly. Western shirts with precise topstitching came from his learning about America though western movies; the same can be said for other suiting ideas, with flashes of whimsy via the Togo flag colors. Elsewhere, he proposed a colorful plaid trench that synced his two cultures together. Formerly known as Black Boy Knits, his special knitwear was present, too, with a saturated, colored intricate top over a green statin wide-leg pant. 

A brightly colored evening look with a tiered skirt and ruffle details was exuberant and showed that he has pushed to give range to his work, which will now be wholesaled. All signs point to good things to come from the growing New York-based brand.

Courtesy

Colleen Allen

Colleen Allen’s debut of her namesake line was arguably one of the most anticipated new collections to see this season. At a showroom preview, the designer’s fall lineup proved that while she may have cut her teeth in menswear (at The Row and Calvin Klein, under Raf Simmons), she certainly knows a thing or two about for-women-by-women clothes.

Allen said her designer-priced brand, which is produced in New York, was a personal exploration of femininity for the first time in her work, with a focus of breaking down and understanding who she is as a woman.

“It became about a spiritual embodiment in my day-to-day. I loved the archetype of the witch for femininity. It’s not about the cliche version of what she is, but this elevated, spiritual existence as a woman,” she said.

Color — fiery orange, bright red, purple — was a staring point for fall. Ditto to her unexpected fleece fabrication, which was cut into elevated, sartorial dinner jackets (lined with a combination of canvas and silk twill), column skirts, detachable sleeves and caps. Allen paired the tailoring moments and rich opera capes with softer styles à la Victorian cotton voile bloomers, brushed wrapped wool jersey dresses and “raw” sheer silk and lace tops and skirts.

The designer said in the future, she’s planning for the line to expand intuitively while experimenting with polar fleece (and other “unconventional” materials) and color.

A look from the Studio Lii fall 2024 collection.

A look from the Lii Studios fall 2024 collection.

Lii, Zane Li

Chongqing native Zane Li touted a remarkably strong first collection to press only, laying the groundwork for the future of his Lii label. Well-finished in eye-catching shades of white, mint, cardinal red and midnight blue, the line could potentially leap straight from his showroom racks to the shop floor — rare for a 23-year-old designer. 

The FIT graduate has a minimalist aesthetic that doesn’t approach “stealth wealth.” With prices falling in the $300 to $1,000 range, he’s got an eye on the girl yearning for Phoebe Philo’s artier contemporary look, but who can’t afford it. Citing Balenciaga and Madame Grès as references, Li said, “I love their feminine silhouettes, but I want to strip the preciousness out of it. I want to bring the practicality and the versatility of menswear into my womenswear.” 

Li’s technique is based on flat patterns, which are distorted, draped, detached and reattached creating interesting shapes that meld midcentury couture volumes with ’90s sportif. This season’s core item was the ringer-T in poly-taffeta lined in stiff cotton toile. The idea of dressing T-shirt-first extended to an oversize dress in the same material with slit sleeves tacked down to the hem for a fantastic balloon shape. Rounding it out there were collarless swing-style anoraks, nylon miniskirts and tunics with origami side panels that wrapped the body or folded elegantly toward the floor. 

Delving further into technical fabrications, a boatneck T-shirt came in transparent PTU, falling “somewhere between vinyl and plastic,” Li said. It had a clinical feel to contrast a fuzzy bicolor skirt, the one piece with an interesting textural component. He should play more in that realm for round two. 

Meruert Tolegen fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week

Meruert Tolegen fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week.

Courtesy of Meruert Tolegen

Meruert Tolegen

On Tuesday morning, New York-based designer Meruert Tolegen presented her first runway show on the CFDA New York Fashion Week calendar with a calming, romance-tinged fall collection.

Since debuting her namesake label in 2020, the bio-scientist turned designer has homed in on melding elements from her Kazakh culture and childhood, and current New York life, with whimsical, and often historical fashion, touches.

“I’ve been exploring a lot with textures in previous seasons. This time, I haven’t shifted focus — I’m still mixing fabrics, but in a smarter way. In the creative aspect, I wanted to balance that with creating those interesting shapes and prints, which add to the quirkiness,” she explained backstage. Her whimsical “floral” print, noted to be created with AI tools and seen on the season’s myriad sweet dresses or quilted topcoat, is actually a motif of flying ghosts, “which ties into that search of yourself, which is what the season is quite a bit about.”

Tolegen said she looked back to her first collection’s bustiers, fitted shapes and interesting volumes to craft fall’s mix of calico dresses, voluminous mantle and pannier gowns (wonderful in white smocked embroidered lace with a silk frame or black velvet). While a few garments felt a little bare for the runway, her bow-adorned, bead-embroidered and ruffle-trimmed romantic dresses were all winners. Ditto a flocked white ballskirt with matching bralette and bed jacket.

She also introduced five looks of menswear with tailored shirts, jacquard coats, slightly deconstructed tailoring and sweaters that utilized the same elements of her womenswear to “let men be whimsical as well,” she said.

Styles from Nigel Xavier's Tapestry Collection

Styles from Nigel Xavier’s Tapestry Collection.

Courtesy of Shamaal Bloodman for Nigel Xavier

Nigel Xavier

For Nigel Xavier, participating in Netflix’s fashion competition show, “Next in Fashion,” was the right platform to showcase his talent at a fashion designer. Xavier’s upcycled, unique designs ultimately struck a chord with judges and viewers, as the designer won the show’s second season last year. 

“It was the perfect opportunity for me to just show all my talents because I always approached [design] from a more art standpoint than just fashion design,” he said. “There, I could actually show just one piece and not have to worry about the business side of it. It was just like tailor-made for how I approached fashion this whole time. Then I got the win and now I’m just building the brand to be even more on that fashion house level, rather than just staying in the mode of what I’ve done before.” 

Xavier recently debuted his latest collection, titled the Tapestry Collection, which continues the nostalgic vibe he’s always infused in his designs. The limited-drop collection offers puffer jackets and trousers made from upcycled tapestries depicting images of angels, wolves, eagles and other motifs. 

The designer explained that going forward he wants to continue offering his collections in limited drops to keep a level of exclusivity, and has plans to further expand the brand’s home décor side. 

Kate Barton fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week

Kate Barton’s fall 2024 ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week.

Courtesy of Kate Barton

Kate Barton

For her fourth collection, Kate Barton continued to hone her futuristic brand (as recently worn by Heidi Klum), expanding from eveningwear to more ready-to-wear separates, sculptural jewelry and accessories.

“I wanted to grow this Kate Barton world where the lines are blurred between digital and reality. A lot of our social media followers think our pieces are AI [generated] so we really wanted to build on that,” she said of using her sculptural draping technique (which doesn’t use seams or darts) on knits, outerwear and tailoring that had an architectural, 3D-imaged effect and serious sex appeal in the tradition of Thierry Mugler.

Among the new ready-to-wear highlights was a white bustier with removable molded mirror plate worn over a navy liquid satin skirt; a light blue suede draped and tied effect top over black liquid satin pants; a black cropped and puckered sweater over an asymmetric green wool skirt, and an off-shoulder leather top with a boomerang like effect at the neckline paired with a miniskirt.

Barton doesn’t think in terms of themes for inspiration, but rather sculpts clothing by instinct, more like an artist, then engineers it. She was one of the few designers to bring futurism into the fashion conversation this week, also incorporating AI try-ons into her presentation format, and should be on the short list to collaborate with a tech platform.

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