Emerging markets for emerging talents

Fashion / Music / Design / Graphics By Federico Poletti
Written by Federico Poletti
From Berlin to Seoul, from Lagos to Sydney, an increasing number of “fashion destinations” are giving space to younger generations. It’s still hard to find one’s way in this panorama, but a good start would be to look at high-growth areas such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, which represent important export opportunities. “But we also have to look off the beaten track, at countries like Morocco, Lebanon and Estonia,” suggests Stefan Siegel, founder of Not Just a Label, an online platform dedicated to young designers. He asks: “Do emerging countries only exist because we finally started broadening our fashionable horizon to look beyond the four key markets? Is it because we are looking for something new, fresh, something more authentic and linked to a cultural identity?”

For some of these countries there are cultural stereotypes to be overcome. Brazil, for example, suffers from the cliché of having a prevalently beachwear or carioca style fashion. Well-established names such as Ricardo Almeida and Reinaldo Lourenco are today joined by a new generation including Gloria Coelho, Jadson Ranieri and Amapô, whose futuristic and edgy creations are light years from the carnivalesque and sexy image. But Korea is the country doomed to become the next “fashion mecca”, offering ample scope to young talents. Seoul, thanks to the presence of numerous department stores, is an important destination not only for spotting new trends, but also for tracking the Asian market. Emerging talents are given centre stage in the catwalk pro- grammes Fashion Take- Off and Generation Next, as well as the “Fashion Blossom” platform, which awards a notable cash prize to recent graduates to help them start out in the fashion business. The winner of the first edition was Newman Han. Brands to keep an eye on for womenswear include Park Choon Moo, Kaal E.Suktae, and the duo Steve J and Yoni P. For menswear there’s Jehee Sheen, Leigh, Cy Choy and Kathleen Kye, and the geometrically designed jewels of Yoolhee Ko.
China and Australia are undoubtedly the emerging markets. Apart from the well-known designer Uma Wang, the panorama of future Chinese hopefuls boasts several interesting names such as Ma Ke, Mao Ji Hong, Xia Hua, Exception, Eve Cina and the multifunctional jewels of Sarah Xie. Australia is growing under the impulse of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia regularly organised in Sydney, while the formation of young professionals is entrusted to three institutions located in the country’s key cities: Sidney with Raffles College of Design, Brisbane with Queensland University of Tech- nology (QUT), and lastly the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Highlights of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week included the New Generation project. Tiziana Ferrero-Regis, Senior Lecturer at QUT, explains, “This year Carli Waterman, Joahanna Johnson, Kahlo, Michael Lo Sordo and Tovah stood out with their original designs inspired by sustainable fashion.
India also plays a fundamental role in sounding out emerging markets. This is confirmed by Stefan Siegel, who recently organised a workshop there to encourage young entrepreneurs of tomorrow at Lakmé Fashion Week. In Delhi, meanwhile, there’s the National Institute of Fashion Technology with its remarkable list of outstanding graduates including Manish Arora, and the Pearl Academy, the only privately funded fashion school with around 1,400 students; and in Ahmedabad there is the National Institute of Design (NID). Among the names to watch are Suhani Pittie, Payal Khandwala, Little Shilpa, Jenjum Gadi and Ritesh Kumar. Lastly, one shouldn’t underestimate the vast African fashion scene, whose potential is finally erupting, as we saw at the recent Luxury Summit entitled “The Promise of Africa. The Power of Mediterranean” organized by Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune fashion editor.

Omoyemi Akerele, founder of Style House, a Fashion Creative Development Agency in Nigeria, comments: “This momentum is being driven by factors such as Africa’s rising middle class and its attendant effect of increased spending on the continent, increased recognition of local designers, awareness of international fashion brands heightened by the influence of digital media, a progressive retail environment and an overwhelming increase in the large number of fashion events on the continent – like the Lagos Fashion and Design Week.” 
With its 11 million inhabitants, Lagos, Nigeria’s economic and commercial capital, hosts an event that al- ternates emerging and already “established” designers, photography and design exhibitions, creative workshops and seminars. LFDW also includes the LFDW Award, aimed at selecting the most promising talents and increasing their production and distribution potential. It is a sign that more than ever, from Istanbul to Kiev via Lagos, young fashion today represents a catalyst for creative and economic resources and energies.