The Best New Designers You’ve Never Heard Of
By Julia DiNardo
Edited by Kelly Lee
We all know Marc, Carolina and Oscar, but do you know who the next top designers will be? We do. We’ve cherry-picked six of our favorites this season that may not be household names quite yet, but just you wait and see.
Although she may not yet be on a first-name basis with us Americans (like Tommy, Ralph and Donna), designer Karen Walker is one of New Zealand’s proudest exports. She has three flagship stores in New Zealand and is stocked in over 140 stores throughout the world. Walker shows her collection during New York Fashion Week and describes her design theme as “combining opposites.”
Walker has received editorial coverage from mags such as Vogue, Teen Vogue, W and Nylon and her clothes have been seen on Bjork, J.Lo and Sienna Miller. She has extended her brand into sunwear, jewelry, a lower-priced casual line and even paints (so very Martha). In the USA, Karen Walker is available at cool NYC boutiques such as Elizabeth Charles, Oak and Zoe, but also can be found in other states and online at karenwalker.com.
But where does she spend time online? Walker is a fan of sites terrapass.com, freshdirect.com (when in New York) and runawaynow.com — a travel site she developed with some friends.
Ritter describes her style as “French Girl in New York” or “French Romantic meets Annie Hall.” Her clothes are a mixture of feminine, tailored pieces with a masculine edge, all the while keeping in mind comfort and wearability. She strives to design “the perfect uniform” — garments that can easily transition from day to evening.
A former music publicist and Parisian, Ritter moved to New York nine years ago and began to dabble in design by first taking apart vintage garments to see how they were constructed. She is deeply inspired by paintings, photography, literature and time periods, naming Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Lee Miller and Proust’s classic A La Recherche du Temps Perdu as influences on her recent collections.
This season, Ritter designed with the “La Belle Epoque” Edwardian theme in mind, creating beautiful pieces detailed with tiered ruffles, accordion butterfly arms, cinched bottoms, and wide-leg pants. The self-taught Ritter started her line in one boutique in Brooklyn and has grown to Barney’s New York and Fred Segal to Colette in Paris, Beams in Japan and Browns in London. Her collection is also available online at lagarconne.com. More info can be found at aliceritter.com.
Melbourne designer Toni Maticevski is the mastermind behind the Aussie label Maticevski that has shown the past two seasons at New York Fashion Week. A graduate of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Toni started out at Donna Karan in New York and Cerutti in Paris before starting his own label in 1999.
The designer creates an “exploration of couture and silhouette, technique, refreshing classical modes into modern statements.”
His signature style involves a complex method of folding, draping, twisting and plating and he has been known to use unconventional ways to achieve a particular aesthetic, such as searing the edge of a garment with a candle to give it an unfinished effect.
Maticevski recently teamed up with Autore, an Australian company known for its South Sea pearl jewelry, to create a custom pearl collection that appeared on the runway with his collection.
His line can be found at Elizabeth Charles in New York, Delia/Vionnet and Never Never in Los Angeles. Find more information at tonimaticevski.com.
Mara Hoffman is a name that is being uttered on the lips of “in-the-know” fashionistas and with good reason — her cuts and prints are incredible. A Parsons grad, inspired by Zandra Rhodes, Hoffman started her collection in 1998 and found recognition with her clothes being used by stylist Patricia Field for Sex and the City.
Frequently compared to Diane von Furstenburg, Hoffman is known for her specially dyed and batiked jersey knit garments in amazing silhouettes. All of Hoffman’s prints are hand-drawn or painted by herself and her creative partner, Klee Van Schoonhoven.
“We start the process by creating our story or myth about the collection and then from there we draw it out,” explains Hoffman. “From there we both choose what print ideas we would each like to attempt. We then take our artwork and have the screens made and from there they print on the silk to produce our fabric. This collection (fw/07) was inspired by the Lost Boys of Peter Pan, their boyish quality, magic and darkness.”
The designer’s favorite online spot to shop is at Ebay and her collection can be purchased at shopbop.com, intermixonline.com or bigdropnyc.com. Find more information at
From Belgrade, Serbia, Dragana Ognjenovic has worked in various disciplines such as painting, graphic, interior and costume design before melding her talents into fashion design. Her signature is making simple yet complex garments in high-quality fabrics and she is inspired by “people and everyday life.”
Dragana is a master at making standout garments in the color black; she loves working with different textures, structures and fabrications to reinvent new looks in the color. Everything Dragana creates is impeccably tailored in a fresh design that feels extremely approachable and wearable to any event, anywhere.
She now has two clothing lines — the DO brand shown on the runway during New York Fashion Week, and the moderately priced “Software” line, along with a home line made from materials such as wood, metal, glass and porcelain.
The designer would love to expand to e-commerce soon, but says it’s not really a trend that’s big in Serbia yet, and in her free time loves buying books at phaidon.com.
So what’s next for the designer? Keeping busy expanding her retail offerings, a fourth store opening in Belgrade, and showing at Fashion Week Miami. Find more information at draganaognjenovic.com.
We’d like to introduce your new favorite handbag designer, Susan Farber. Although her collection is only three years old, it is currently sold in 200 retailers worldwide and already has a devout celeb following that includes Sharon Stone and Debra Messing. The collection also recently garnered attention during New York Fashion Week as part of the esteemed Accessories Exhibit.
Farber creates iconic, classic bags that have a distinct, yet non-flashy look to them; her leather Sophia clutch, which comes in a rich selection of colors, has a leather bow which the designer describes as being “done in a very relaxed way.”
Inspired by the luxurious and sophisticated collections of Giorgio Armani, Farber seeks out materials that are beautiful and can speak for themselves, having a great texture and looking natural.
Farber loves perusing the web for fashion inspiration and research, her most frequented sites being style.com and elle.com.
She feels that e-commerce is incredibly important to her customer base and has recently added an online shop to her site at susanfarbercollections.com.
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