Started in 2017, the MATCHESFASHION Innovators program was created to support and shine a spotlight on emerging designers. Since its inception, the program has showcased young talent who are willing to have open dialogue and conversation, in a way more established brands fail to do; previously giving designers such as Matty Bovan & Claire Barrow the platform for their work to reach masses.
Now, with COVID-19 immobilising most of the fashion industry from creating, MATCHES is putting their money where their mouth is; director of fashion and purchasing, Natalie Kingham, says “I am delighted that we were able to help these emerging talents through the Innovators program to secure the future of their brands during this difficult year for the creative industry”. All twelve Innovators will be given a year’s worth of mentoring and financial support as well as the means to share the stories and passions behind their brands.
So, who are the MATCHESFASHION Innovators of 2020?
Eden Loweth & Tom Baratt- ART SCHOOL
A unisex London-based label, ART SCHOOL has been redefining gender norms since their first presentation at Fashion East in 2017. Often described as ‘decadent minimalism’, the brand gives priority to creating adaptable garments for the trans community- “there’s a built-in flexibility with the way the clothes can be worn which is really important”, says Eden, its creative director.
Emma Chopova & Laura Lowena- CHOPOVA LOWENA
“We’re always inspired by the juxtaposition between traditional wear and sportswear”, explains Emma, ½ of Chopova Lowena- theEnglish-Bulgarian brand that commits itself to using authentic, recycled materials. The two designers met on their first day at Central SaintMartins and have since made waves with their off-beat creations that prove to be a breath of fresh air for the fashion industry.
Charles Jeffrey- LOVERBOY
Senior contributing fashion editor for LOVE, and winner of the British Emerging Talent prize at the 2017 Fashion Awards, Charles Jeffrey has carved a lane for himself in British fashion. Unapologetically theatrical and often paying homage to his Glaswegian roots, Charles has been hailed as the Alexander McQueen of this generation, and for good reason. He is able to “tap into an authentic energy” in his work with an honest and relatable outcome, which, in his own words, is what makes an innovator.
Kevin Germanier- GERMANIER
In celebration of World Oceans Day, Swarovski tapped young designer Kevin Germanier to create pieces made of upcycled crystals to send a clear message about both brands’ commitment to protect the environment. This is an ethos Kevin, the Bjork approved designer, holds dear to his heart. “The best part of putting a collection together is sourcing the material. First taking the time to find a sustainable fabric instead of just buying anything”, he says. As an innovator, he has hopes for the future of fashion: “I hope that everyone is going to slow down and create product with value”.
Ludovic de Saint Sernin- LUDOVIC DE SAINT SENRIN
Another Swarovski collaborator, Ludovic de Saint Sernin has established himself a solid champion of queer fashion. His work “brings an elegant sensuality to his androgynous approach” and his signature pieces, like his lace-up eyelet brief, is reminiscent of the New York queer nightlife of the 70s.
Grace Wales Bonner- WALES BONNER
Dedicated to “bringing an Afro Atlantic spirit to European luxury”, Wales Bonner’s work is a history lesson into the essence of the Black diaspora. Through the tailoring and detailed minimalism of her clothes, she commits herself to telling stories that reinvent what black masculinity looks like. She explains that she is “always thinking about representing a black cultural perspective”, which she has done successfully in a time where the black perspective is too often vacant in fashion.
Harris Reed- HARRIS REED
‘Fighting for the beauty of fluidity’ is Harris Reed’s Instagram bio and the culture they create with their clothes. Harris is the mastermind behind the white hat seen on the likes of Solange and the inspiration for anInstagram filter that went viral this year. This, they say, is what fashion is all about. “It’s about living everyday larger than life. Being a designer today- we are trailblazers. We have the opportunity and obligation to change the status quo of fashion as we know it”.
Bianca Saunders- BIANCA SAUNDERS
Next on the list is Bianca Saunders, who invited us to herAW/20 presentation, a celebration of the Caribbean culture. She cites music as common influence for her work, along with her West-Indian background and the black male identity. Since she launched her eponymous brand, Bianca has been featured on Forbes ’30 Under 30’ and won the 2019/2020 British Fashion Council NewGen Prize, reminding the industry that she is a force to be reckoned with.
Thebe Magugu- THEBE MAGUGU
The first ever African designer to be awarded the LVMH Prize, Thebe Magugu has proven himself to be an innovator in every sense of the word.His label celebrates contemporary South African fashion and has transcended continental barriers, being seen on Zendaya for her InStyle cover story, and Issa Rae’s hit show ‘Insecure’.
Michael Halpern- HALPERN
Halpern Studio is known for its escapist eveningwear with aStudio 54 feel. This season for SS/21, he demonstrated himself as a designer with a message to share, offering joy in what has been an otherwise year. Instead of a typical show with models, Halpern opted to celebrate the heroines working on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic; and he confidently expresses that inspirational female figures will always be recognised in his work. “I was raised by powerful women with powerful personalities and that informs what I do constantly”.
Priya Ahluwalia- ALHUWALIA
One of the winners of the 2020 LVMH Prize, Priya Ahulwalia is a menswear specialist who uses her Indian-Nigerian heritage as the foundation for her work. Priya has also published two books, her latest Jalebi, an exploration into the realities of mixed heritage identities in the UK. “It’s important that diverse stories are told by authentic storytellers. I hope fashion becomes a much more meaningfully diverse place, with more thorough and proper diversity at all levels of the industry”, she says.
Stefan Cooke & Jake Burt- STEFAN COOKE
A menswear fashion label, the designer duo base their work on “making the mundane less mundane, adding surprising elements to their classic masculine pieces”. Season after season, they experiment with traditional garments, creating new meaning for every print, texture and silhouette they use. In their opinion, “an innovator is someone who makes you question your relationship with fashion”.
In an industry where it's easy for emerging talent to get eclipsed by larger brands, MATCHESFASHION is encouraging retailers and consumers alike to invest in the future of fashion; with more than just words- but will the industry take the hint?