Fashion in New York is as diverse as the city itself, boasting an ever-expanding roster of designers who are pushing the envelope. So for this year’s spring-fashion issue, we decided to focus on the creators who make us excited to go shopping in NYC. We would argue that replenishing your warm-weather wardrobe is one of the best things to do in the spring. But before you hit Gotham’s stellar range of clothing stores and department stores for the latest styles, get to know the industry’s rising, self-made local talents, who give fresh takes on everything from progressive menswear to edgy hyperfeminine looks for inspiration. In the infamous words of Tim Gunn, these six designers know how to “make it work.”
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Photographs: Kyle Dorosz
Six designers making waves in the New York fashion scene
The DIY provocateur
Eric Schlösberg can’t stop. “The thing is, I do everything myself, out of pocket,” the 28-year-old says while on a break from his retail day job. “I have no investors at the moment; it’s not something that I’ve ever really wanted.” It’s been a few days since the presentation of his fall/winter 2017 collection, a sort of twisted mix of Alice in Wonderland and a New Jersey girl turned ’80s sex slave. It was the third outing for his eponymous line (ericschlosberg.com), which he started after folding Ammerman Schlösberg, the cult label he ran with a former Pratt Institute student. The two met while he was studying at Parsons, where he initially failed out of the fashion program for creating clothes his teachers deemed too “costumey.”
But things have changed. “The clothes are also a bit more elevated, just slightly more advanced,” says Schlösberg. The pieces are still anything but restrained—yet perhaps a bit easier to mix and match into an existing wardrobe. “I want the person who puts it on to feel outrageous and fabulous and to get that empowerment from the clothing,” he says. “But at the same time, I also don’t want them to be uncomfortable as soon as they leave the house.”
To get it all done, Schlösberg starts his days at 6am, when he answers press requests and sends out samples for the brand from his East Village apartment before walking to a factory in the Garment District. After that, it’s off to his day job at a luxury retailer in the West Village, then home to cook dinner with his husband, Logan Reed, founder of indie e-tailer Circe New York. Then it’s back to work on the line. Schlösberg planned to take a post–Fashion Week break, but his next collection is already underway. “It all came to me [as I was] walking to work yesterday, listening to my music,” he says regarding stepping right back into the hustle. Luckily, he has a plan to make all the sweat worth it: “I want to turn around in, like, five years, and have this amazing thing going, and have it all be mine.”
Buy his threads at: Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard St (212-219-2688, openingceremony.com)
If it weren’t for the sign that reads SANDY LIANG IS DOWNSTAIRS (repeated 13 times), the designer’s basement studio on an unassuming Lower East Side block would be easy to miss. But inside, the bright white space, lined with mirrors and colossal vases among the racks of clothing, could be the atelier of any high-fashion brand. It’s yet another impressive feat for her label (sandyliang.info), which boasts retailers like Moda Operandi, Kirna Zabête and Saks Fifth Avenue just eight seasons in and with only three employees—including Liang herself. “I think we’re just scrappy, that’s why it is,” she says.
When she greets me, wearing one of her signatures, a convertible shearling coat, it all makes sense: She is, after all, the perfect ambassador of her brand. “It’s always about the same girl; she’s just growing,” Liang says of the line. “It’s crazy because it’s really just clothes that I want to wear, that my friends want to wear. Because we change from time to time, the collection changes.”
The Queens native (who returns home to Flushing for dinner on weekends) finds inspiration in the relaxed, unstudied way people dress on the LES—everyone from Chinese grandmothers on their way to pick up kids from school to the café crowds. “I feel like there is a fashion scene; we see it on blogs or magazines or whatever. I don’t feel like I’m a part of that scene at all,” says Liang, who didn’t see any other shows during the most recent Fashion Week. “I don’t really buy into it, because I feel like I don’t want to be so involved. I want to keep my collection very pure and just me.” And, if you cross Liang’s path in her ’hood and catch her eye, maybe a bit of you, too.
The social-media showman
This designer has a lot on his plate. When we meet him in a downtown café during Fashion Week, he’s running between meetings on the Bowery as he works on the fall/winter 2017 collection of his label, Barragán (barragannnn.com). Before that, he was in Tokyo, where he collaborated with jewelry designer Chris Habana. And a few days later, he jets to Paris for a showroom presentation, which includes a shoe project with Belgian designer Mats Rombaut. Whew. It’s not surprising, then, that one of last season’s breakout stars decided to take a break from NYFW when MADE, the fashion incubator with which he showed last year, announced it would sit out the season.
Victor Barragán has been on a steady ascent since arriving in New York two years ago. “When I moved, it was the first time that I was here,” says Barragán, who lives and works in Bed-Stuy. “It was really like a flip of a coin: People are going to like it, or people are not going to like it.” They dug it.
The way the 25-year-old Mexico City native became involved in MADE says a lot about the business today: Ruth Gruca, the platform’s global fashion director, sent him a DM on Instagram. Social media—Instagram in particular—is an important tool for Barragán, who uses it to find collaborators, like the miniature artist who goes by the handle @microcosmbytengteng, and to cast his shows, resulting in a prism of skin tones, gender identities and body types that’s dramatically more diverse than the average runway show.
Next season he plans to throw a currently hush-hush proper runway show in NYC, something he promises to be “performative.” (We’re not surprised; his last show was a high-concept retelling of the Sisyphus myth, with models pushing a big boulder down the runway.) “Come for the show,” he tells me. “You’re going to enjoy more than the clothes.”
Buy his threads at: Opening Ceremony
Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough
The sharp suit-ers
Have you Noticed that more and more New Yorkers are ditching traditional, constricting charcoal suits? You can partially thank Abdul Abasi, 36, and Greg Rosborough, 33, for that. The designer duo and former Fashion Institute of Technology classmates have been revolutionizing menswear since they launched their first collection in 2013 and started spreading this unofficial mantra: Wearing a tailored suit jacket can be just as cool as a leather one.
By fusing military-sport style with business casual—as well as their last names—Abasi Rosborough (abasirosborough.com) was born. An innovative idea about the continuum of tailoring prompted the twosome to join forces in the first place. During a flight to France, Rosborough witnessed a flight attendant (rocking a nicely fitted suit) take off his jacket in order to help an elderly woman put a bag in an overhead compartment. “I thought, ‘How the hell are we living in the 21st century but have not designed clothing that respects our body’s anatomy enough to allow us to raise our arms above our heads?’ ” says Rosborough. Since then, they’ve been on a mission to create garments that are functional without ever sacrificing style. “We think about clothing like skin. The brand is meant to exist on a plane that transcends gender, race and class and makes the wearer more empowered and equipped to deal with daily society,” says Abasi.
Abasi Rosborough’s clothes, which are comfortable but hard-wearing thanks to its construction from natural fibers, definitely have a refined air but aren’t prissy or overly polished. The duo even invented the “grocery-store test” to ensure this. Rosborough says, “If you can wear one of our garments inside a Bed-Stuy grocery store without getting clowned by the other people in there, it has the chance to make the collection.”
As for the pair’s latest spring/summer 2017 line, the styles are rooted in ancient Japanese history and comprise a range of jackets, shorts and trousers made of natural cotton and silk, with an interesting twist. “The guts are exposed this season,” says Rosborough. “We always tried to hide the seams and the stitching on the inside, but the bindings are out in the open [now]. It makes for a more interesting garment.”
Perhaps most fascinating, the brand uses current events to inspire projects. “With our upcoming fall collection, we designed the whole thing based on protest culture,” says Abasi. He adds, “I think the beauty of being a designer and an artist is we have a platform to say something. If you don’t use it, you’re wasting the opportunity.” Much like cable news, we’ll be watching closely.
Ellen Van Dusen
The color guard
In a city synonymous with dressing in all black everything, designer Ellen Van Dusen is here to inject a little fun into wardrobes—and apartments, too. “Color’s my jam,” she says, and it’s easy to see that she means it: The whitewashed Williamsburg studio that’s home to line Dusen Dusen (dusendusen.com) is punctuated with vibrant hues, from a stack of peach and blue patterned floor pillows (the perfect perch for her dog, Snips) to the work-in-progress painted backdrops for an upcoming photo shoot tacked to the walls to, of course, the racks of clothing from recent seasons.
Since her first energetic, refreshingly unpretentious pieces appeared at East Village boutique Duo seven years ago, the 30-year-old has gained a following for the graphic geometric designs she prints on simple, wearable silhouettes. “You can only dress for who you are, but I think you may as well have some fun,” she says. “It’s not too serious. I love making stuff that’s light, and when you’re wearing it, you just feel like you’re having a good time.”
Looking at her work, that’s meant colorfully printed pieces in cotton, silk and rayon, as well as, more recently, knits. Her fall/winter 2017 collection also takes a darker turn, with rich jewel tones in plums and mustards. The prints feature the same edge that Van Dusen picks up walking around the city, a blend of everything from the trash on the street she snaps with her cell phone to the gallery shows she frequents in Chelsea and on the Lower East Side.
And her brand’s only getting bigger: In 2015, Van Dusen introduced (with a look book starring Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant) a home collection filled with pieces that echo her clothing’s playfully modern feel. The line’s bedding, towels and pillows now fill her Fort Greene apartment; the home collection has also found fans with Van Dusen’s clothing customers and her retailers, which are more and more willing to mix and match clothing and decor offerings. “I think people now are generally thinking about more of a lifestyle than just a clothing store,” she notes. “It feels like there’s been a shift in general culture.”
Buy her threads at: Concrete + Water, 485 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn (917-909-1828, concreteandwater.com)