For S/S 2021, the CFDA has launched innovative digital platform RUNWAY360, an online-first space showcasing the upcoming spring collections, that offers a safe and democratic alternative to physical fashion shows during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

For A/W 2020, New York Fashion Week owed its most memorable moments to emerging designers who took almost everything into their own hands, be it eschewing the stereotypical Spring Studios venue or rethinking the conventional runway experience. This show of rebellion is evidenced in a new wave of glamour, extravagance and social consciousness that has come to distinguish the most exciting labels. Experimental, unapologetic, and certainly not for the introverted, Christopher John Rogers, Collina Strada and Vaquera are the rising stars we should all know better, featured as part of our September ‘Style Special’ issue. Just this week Rogers was awarded the American Emerging Designer of the Year award by the CFDA at the first digital fashion awards, while Strada is live streaming her S/S 2021 offering. Read more about each label below.

Christopher John Rogers

Christopher John Rogers illustrated portrait

Christopher John Rogers A/W 2020 illustration

Christopher John Rogers A/W 2020

Much has been made of Christopher John Rogers’ ascent. Upon graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design, he moved to New York and landed a job
 at Diane von Furstenberg. In 2018, while still working full-time, he secured a slot on the official New York Fashion Week calendar under his own name. His S/S20 collection, also his runway debut, garnered him the 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize and a mentorship with Tory Burch CEO Pierre-Yves Roussel. 

Rogers’ aesthetic is rooted in his childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the pride and self-respect that’s synonymous with donning your Sunday best for church. ‘My parents [taught] me that when I leave the house, I must look my best and give no excuse for someone to treat me badly,’ shares Rogers, who is now 26. ‘The idea of making sure that the shirt matched the pant matched the shoe, my love of a monochromatic look stems from  that. I’ve always loved really bright colours, graphic combinations, the contrast of black and white. These are motifs that continually show up in the work. 

‘I’ve never really led with my Blackness and I’ve never really led with my queerness either, because for me, they’ve been inescapable,’ says Rogers. However, he adds, ‘I felt like fucking with expectations was integral to my expression. If something was monochromatic, the shirt would be Kelly green, the tie would be fluorescent lime. They might not have “matched”, but there was a synergy, an understanding [of] putting myself together.’ His A/W 2020 collection reinterprets the work of Madame Grès through tweaked proportions and amorphous shapes that mimic the crumpled texture and volume of a garbage bag. In shades like tangerine and fuchsia, it was a hit of the season. It’s about ‘being unapologetic about who you are’, he affirms. 

Collina Strada

Collina Strada illustrated portrait

Collina Strada A/W 2020 illustration

Collina Strada A/W 2020

Despite its reputation as an emerging brand, Collina Strada was founded by designer Hillary Taymour in 2009. Since then, Taymour has moved from Los Angeles to New York and transitioned from designing handbags and accessories to ready-to-wear, all the while honing the label’s aesthetic to reflect exactly who she is. 

Today’s Collina Strada serves as a platform for social issues, and its radical transparency and individualistic attitude have made it a cult favourite and also earned approval from the establishment; Taymour was a CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund finalist in 2019. ‘I’ve been able to get [things] to the place where now I can make exactly what I want, whenever I want to make it,’ says Taymour. ‘I’m less scared of what people think. I really want to focus on sustainability.’ 

The environment was front of mind in Collina Strada’s A/W20 collection. It features upcycled dresses, trousers and shirts, as Taymour repurposed discarded clothing from the US that wound up at Ghana’s Kantamanto market, and serves as a critique of the waste and pollution of the used goods economy. Elsewhere, diaphanous dresses, button-up shirts and draped trousers are constructed from deadstock fabrics sourced within the US or from rose sylk, a lustrous textile made from spinning rose petal fibres into cellulose. ‘It’s hard,’ Taymour says of balancing both ecological and design commitments. ’I’m not trying to create products for products’ sake. I’m going to make what
I can with the materials that I have.’

Vaquera

Vaquera illustrated portrait

Vaquera A/W 2020 illustration

Vaquera A/W 2020

Vaquera, the label helmed by Bryn Taubensee,
Claire Sullivan and Patric DiCaprio, has continued to prove that there’s power to be found in a design collective, especially when that’s translated into tailored, avant-garde silhouettes, peppered with puns and social commentary. Since its inception in 2013, the Brooklyn- based label has evolved from underground art project to esoteric street couture, while retaining the raw emotion and deliberate point of view that won over its early fans. 

The designers have spoken candidly about how press and industry accolades don’t always equate to a viable future. Despite being finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2017, the trio had planned to release only a lookbook for their A/W 2020 collection, due to a lack of resources. ‘But as fashion week neared, our PR team connected us with Dover Street Market New York and they offered their space to us. The idea was a small presentation, but it spiralled into a full-fledged guerilla show. That energy felt reminiscent of our earliest shows.’ 

The collection, which pitted multilayered dresses in sombre black against sequined trousers and jackets in camouflage print, struck a resounding chord with its balance of fantasy and fatality. ‘It’s hard to imagine now, but we felt we were at a dead end,’ they say. A/W 2020 was about ‘channelling our feelings of uncertainty into passion and motivation, which in turn lent itself to 
a powerful collection’. §

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Wallpaper* (W*257) – on newsstands now and available for free download here