As London Fashion Week begins, the founder and buying director of MACHINE-A tells us who to keep an eye on this season
It’s been a year like no other for the fashion industry. Faced with the pandemic, shops have closed, fashion weeks have gone online, and Brexit has brought with it infuriating new challenges for designers and retailers alike. However, as the age old adage goes, crisis creates opportunity – and these past 12 months have also given rise to necessary change, dissolving rigid and unrelenting seasonal calendars, and sparking moments of true creativity. Some of the most heartening and memorable ventures of this era have come from London’s emerging designers – from beautiful publications by the likes of Bianca Saunders and Priya Ahluwalia, to powerful films from designers such as Saul Nash and Dilara Findikoglu, and immersive digital projects from Charles Jeffrey, Stefan Cooke, and more.
On the eve of a most unusual, mostly-digital fashion week in London, AnOther caught up with the founder and buying director of MACHINE-A, Stavros Karelis, to talk about city’s brightest new talents, and what it means to be an emerging designer in these times. “It’s a extremely complicated and tough period. But I’m an optimist by nature,” he says. “It has been challenging, but also beautiful things are coming out of this … I work closely with many young designers and wehen the pandemic started we all had a great shock. But then slowly, as the time passed, it gave place for pure creativity to flourish.”
Karelis has spent much of the past decade nurturing some of London’s most brilliant fledgling designers, giving many once-undiscovered brands their first break in retail, from Liam Hodges to Craig Green. Now more than ever, Karelis has been moved by the optimism and grit of the city’s young creatives. “I’ve seen really wonderful, inspiring things from people that I know have very limited budgets,” he says. “This is human nature. It makes you understand that the whole point is not about how much money you’re going to spend in a great production, how many resources you might have ... Our industry and what we do is always about innovation, about new ideas, about how we move forward to the future. I think all the answers are really in emerging talent.”
With the landscape of fashion changing more rapidly than ever before, here Karelis spotlights six innovative young designers to watch out for at London Fashion Week and beyond.
Maximilian Davis (lead image)
“I feel a bit small to talk about Maximilian because he’s everywhere – and rightfully so. If there’s one designer everyone’s watching closely right now, it’s him. He came out in such a great moment, showing us a completely different take on formal wear, and ways of thinking around Black identities. He has a really, really beautiful visual language. His clothes are magnificent. It’s very rare and pure to see these beautiful cuts – they look like simple silhouettes but they’re not! He’s doing something very fresh and unique. He’s definitely going to be huge.”
“I love Eftychia for many, many reasons. I met [designer Eftychia Karamolegkou] when she did her CSM MA, and then we did her first graduate project together. I knew from the first time that I saw this brand, and met her as a person, that she will be very successful. I really love how she takes the menswear silhouette and interprets it into beautiful womenswear. It’s all about empowerment and playing with and redefining notions of masculinity and femininity. She’s an extremely smart designer – I only see wonderful things [ahead for] her.”
“I love Bianca so, so much. What I particularly like about her is that she experiments with streetwear and transforms it into statement pieces. It’s so stimulating and so informative. She explores a vulnerability for menswear in such a beautiful way, which really resonates with me – her clothes are powerful but also have a very beautiful, vulnerable side to them. She’s a wonderful designer. I see her also as a wonderful creative director because I’ve seen her zines, lookbooks, films, and physical presentations prior to [the pandemic], which were always so on point. She’s very intelligent and focused in what she likes and I like that about the designers – when they know what they want.”
“Per makes me so, so excited when I see his collections and his way of thinking. With him, what I really love is the incredible shapes that he creates for the male body. I remember ever since the first day of the brand, the main focus was always on the trousers, because he came out with these incredible shapes and sizes of them, with so many details. And I’m saying about the trousers, because this is an extremely difficult category for a designer to develop in and become known for. I also think his ongoing collaboration with Husam El Odeh is incredible – the jewellery, the accessories. Per is someone who is extremely popular for us at MACHINE-A. He has a very dedicated following but he’s also growing the brand in all the right ways. He knows exactly what his brand is and what he stands for.”
“Nensi is incredible in the way that she approaches her brand. You see a full empowerment of the female body and its strength, but her designs also have this notion of romance – again, I’m going to speak about vulnerability – but it is there as well. I love how she plays with all these different textures, fabrics, and shapes. Her designs are extremely sophisticated and down to detail. Everything makes sense why it’s there. And you understand her pieces once you touch them and get the feeling of the garments and the clothes. I think Nensi is definitely someone to watch as she grows the brand and herself as a designer.”
“We have only worked with Published By for one season. He’s one of those designers that everyone has become obsessed with … I started researching him after I saw this display of beautiful bags and creations that he’s doing. It’s all based on metallics, 3D technology, and the different ways digital technologies can be implemented within fashion. But all his inspirations actually come from nature. His bags are these beautiful almost art-like objects, with mirrored hard surfaces, which are offset by a softness from the beauty of the design – the corners and circles. He comes from an architecture and design background, and you can feel that in the way he approaches his brand. It’s something very new, and exciting to watch.”