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Moses Gauntlett Cheng SS16‏
Moses Gauntlett Cheng SS16‏Photography Thomas McCarty

Your primer on New York Fashion Week’s breakout designers

From trans designer Gogo Graham to ‘sloppy’ couturier Lou Dallas – these are the freshest talents on New York’s fashion scene

New York is experiencing something of an underground fashion revival. Of all the fashion capitals, the Big Apple has typically (though perhaps unfairly) become synonymous with the commercial. It’s a scene that was once dominated by the likes of Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and Ralph Lauren, all with their various takes on American style.

Of course, over the last few years we’ve seen designers emerge who challenge this notion, showing an alternative side to New York fashion. Among these is Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver, who in something of a hip-hop infused take on ball culture, rebels against everything from fashion’s status quo to society’s gender norms – to critical acclaim and commercial success

Following in the wake of these designers is a new flock of fashion fledglings, who are rapidly commanding the industry’s attention – from champion of the mundane Shan Huq to design trio Moses Gauntlett Cheng. Over in the New York, these five labels are building a brave new fashion world.


Despite the trans models on today’s runways and the “Call Me Caitlyn” magazine covers, fashion is, by and large, still subject to archaic thinking when it comes to gender. The vast majority of clothes are designed by and for people who identify as cis-gender. Trans fashion designer Gogo Graham however, is an exception to this rule. Modelled by an all-trans cast, her SS16 collection comprised of DIY-style dresses made from, by her own admittance, cheap materials. Each design was tailored to the model’s individual size, something that aimed to alleviate the problem facing many trans people of finding clothes that fit their bodies properly. The show was a celebration of trans femininity and a radical new approach to fashion.


Speaking on his SS16 offering Shan Huq said, “The collection is about essentials: the average, average life. These clothes are the essentials of your wardrobe, but also the essentials of your mind, the essentials of life and the essentials of your sexuality.” The LA born designer is another one of NY’s rising stars. His approach to fashion design isn’t a conventional one and neither was his entry into it: Huq is entirely self-taught and with no formal training of any kind. Furthermore unlike his contemporaries who perhaps draw upon an underground club scene or subcultural style icon, this designer looks to the mundanity of suburbia. Think tracksuit bottoms, cargo shorts and plaid shirts. 


While people have been talking about Moses Gaultlett Cheng and its three founders (David Moses, Esther Gauntlett and Jenny Cheng) for sometime, this season saw their first on-schedule show, at VFiles on the first day of NYFW. It’s the trio’s collaborative approach that makes this brand so vibrant. A player on NY’s party scene, Moses is friends with Lily-Rose Depp and brings his innate marketing skills to the table, Gauntlett’s interests lie in the actual production of the clothes, while Cheng is resident textiles expert. The brand’s DIY approach and handmade quality stands in stark contrast to the slick offerings of other designers, and that’s exactly the point.


Another designer to forego the polished finish expected from high-end fashion labels is Lou Dallas who, in an interview with VFiles, described her approach as “sloppy.” For Dallas, the fact that some of her designer counterparts might blanch at her execution only adds to the appeal of this approach. This designer views fashion as an art form and, just as a painting can’t replicated, she creates clothes in a way that they can’t be either, making one-of-a-kind pieces. Like MGC, her designs have a certain handmade quality. Dallas uses fabrics of different colours, patterns and textures – layering them and patching them together. 


Though it’s only been two years since Rosie Assoulin launched her namesake label, this former Oscar de la Renta intern has already got a CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear under her belt. Her SS16 collection, presented in a drained public swimming pool in the West Village, comprised of a series of brightly coloured, sculpturally shaped overalls, gowns and bathing suits. Aside from industry recognition, she’s also succeeded in gaining some loyal clientele among the modern-day Carrie Bradshaws of New York.