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5 Cool New Designers to Know

It’s like making new friends!

10.19.16

Worse than the itchy feeling that comes from not having any new music to listen to is a sad lag of inspiration in your otherwise constantly-updating Rolodex of scrollable inspiration. Allow me to scratch your back: meet five new-ish designers to know by the names of Calle del Mar, TIGRA TIGRA, Bode, Lisa Folawiyo and William Okpo.

Calle del Mar, designed by Aza Ziegler

Calle del Mar

Give me the two-sentence story about when, how and why you started your brand.

I started Calle Del Mar with a strong desire to design my own life. In May 2014 my thesis collection was purchased off the runway by domestic and international stores. I felt a rush of interest from that first show and I ran with it. Shortly after, I was offered a yearlong sponsored fellowship with the Brooklyn Fashion & Design Accelerator, where they gave me the space to create and incubate the beginning stages of Calle Del Mar.

Who and what do you think about when designing? Who are you designing for?

When I design I think about color, color, color! I am trying to make color contagious. And I want to make everything feel comfortable. When I get dressed I want everything to feel as effortless as a throwing on a vintage T-shirt and jeans, except I don’t want to wear jeans every day. My desire for my whole wardrobe to feel effortless has influenced the simplicity and boxiness of the Calle silhouettes. I think the most exciting part about starting Calle Del Mar has been seeing who has been attracted to it.

What was missing from the design world that made you think, “I want to start this”?

My road to starting Calle has been gradual. I’ve been making and selling clothes from a young age. My first one-of-a kind skirt line, which I designed at age 12 named “Love, Aza,” was written up in Women’s Wear Daily. At age 16 I produced a line called “Left Over Green Beans” which was featured in Elle and on Nickelodeon. In 2012, when Calle started to develop, there weren’t a lot of high fashion meets skate/surf-inspired brands. I was fulfilling a niche that hadn’t been understood yet. Now fashion is fully saturated in sporty effortlessness and mixture of surf/skate brands has become more of a norm. That saturation has helped create a place in the market for Calle.

If someone could only purchase one thing from your current line, what would it be?

CDM just started making knitwear based on my own collection of vintage athletic knits that I am very excited about it. However, I would probably have to pick our sequin T-shirt. We release new colors every season. It has the silhouette of a vintage cutoff shirt, but it’s sparkly and feminine at the same time. Every spoonful of those sequins is sewn into that fabric by my amazing LA team and the process of making them is so magical.

What would you wear it with?

A pair of vintage Levi’s if you are dressing down or a matching sequin wrap miniskirt if you are dressing up. I love when customers mix and match the colors.

What’s the most important thing for someone to know about your brand?

That we are made in the USA and strive to keep the working conditions of our factories safe and happy. That we are all about color. Life is not so serious in color. And we want you to have as much fun as we do in the clothes.

Where can readers purchase your line?

Directly through our web store, www.calledelmar.us. We ship domestically and internationally and have seven-day-a-week customer service.

TIGRA TIGRA, designed by Bailey Hunter

Tigra Tigra

Give me the two-sentence story about when, how and why you started your brand.

I was looking for a way to integrate socio-economics and design that made sense to me. While in India, I was so inspired by the 500-year-old weaving techniques and hand-embroideries coming out of women’s 100-square-foot homes in Ahmedabad, and that is how it all began.

Who and what do you think about when designing? Who are you designing for?

The design is first informed by traditional processes like silk mashroo weaving, Gujarati hand embroidery and leheriya tie-dyeing. We design with individual style in mind, especially from the communities in which we work, rather than from fashion and trends. A lot of the matching sets are influenced by pantsula style from South Africa, or monochrome uniforms in India.

What was missing from the design world that made you think, “I want to start this”?

There are many brands who work with artisans and in developing communities. I think TIGRA TIGRA speaks to a new market that doesn’t necessarily seek out “ethical fashion” first, but who is interested in the clothes and then learns about the story in the process.

If someone could only purchase one thing from your current line, what would it be?

One of the mashroo oversize shirt and boxing pants sets, or the fully hand-embroidered warli dress.

What would you wear it with?

Rubber slides.

What’s the most important thing for someone to know about your brand?

Every piece has an individual story and is made using a textile tradition that is at least 500 years old!

Where can readers purchase your line?

tigratigra.com

Bode, designed by Emily Adams Bode

Bode

Give me the two-sentence story about when, how and why you started your brand:

I launched Bode this past July during men’s fashion week SS17 after graduating from Parsons with a BFA in menswear and Eugene Lang with a BA in philosophy. I wanted to create a tailor-made collection made from antique fabrics rooted in contemporary design and authenticity.

Who and what do you think about when designing? Who are you designing for?

I am passionate about the sourcing and repurposing of handmade and rare fabrics, so I tend to focus on each individual item that can be made from each fabric piece. We began with a select number of silhouettes, including four pant styles, four shirt styles and two jackets. I was initially designing these pieces for men, but Bode quickly expanded to include smaller sizes and more feminine silhouettes such as dresses. So far, my customers have been everyone from downtown New York artists to chefs, lawyers and gallery owners.

What was missing from the design world that made you think, “I want to start this”?

I grew up antiquing with my family, which translated to a love of old fabrics and clothing. I wanted to create a company that reflected this passion, but was wearable and made in New York. There are other brands founded on repurposing, but Bode is a seasonless, tailor-made collection that reflects my own aesthetic. My aunts, mother and grandparents encouraged my interest in history, collecting and collaging, which inspired me to create this new consumer relationship to clothing and design.

If someone could only purchase one thing from your current line, what would it be?

For Fall, we have been making these incredible, heavier weight quilt coats. When you see all of the handwork and embroidery that went into making these pieces, it is truly inspiring to be able to reuse and wear what is sometime a 200-year-old labor of love.

What would you wear it with?

I wear my quilt coats primarily with my favorite Levi’s, but because these pieces are so unique, I encourage my customers to pair the coats with the items they feel most connected with.

What’s the most important thing for someone to know about your brand?

Most of the collection is one-of-a-kind, made from fabric over 60 years old. The pieces have so much history embedded in the fabrication; my ideal customer appreciates the intricacy of French cutwork linens, curtains from the ’70s, midcentury children’s quilts and African country cloth. Bode allows the consumer to curate a truly unique wardrobe that fits their own lifestyle with the ability to buy both ready-to-wear and custom-made pieces.

Where can readers purchase your line?

Until our e-commerce launches, we take private appointments in our studio in Lower Manhattan, but also sell off of Instagram quite a bit. Bode is already at Shop Boswell in Portland, and will be in a few more stores globally later this fall. Look out for our website re-launch in November!

Lisa Folawiyo, designed by Lisa Folawiyo

Lisa Folawiyo

Give me the two-sentence story about when, how and why you started your brand:

I started the brand in 2005. The idea was to design cool, fashion-forward pieces for modern, global women around the world, but with a particularly distinct African appeal and intention. I took the familiar African fabric, Ankara, and re-texturized it with embellishments. My intention was to change the global perception of African prints and African fashion generally.

What was missing from the design world that made you think, “I want to start this”?

In my opinion, there was the absence of what I felt was a true modern expression, interpretation and view of fashion in Africa. When I design, my thoughts flow exactly this way: What do I want to wear? Not now, but perhaps later? What fashion interpretation have I not seen yet? How do I make the old feel fresh and new again? What am I inspired by? I also think about my current muses, and ask myself, “What would she wear?”

Who and what do you think about when designing? Who are you designing for?

Ogo Offodile and Dalia Nsouli are two women who I keep in mind while designing. Shala Monroque and Giovanna Battaglia have been previous muses and my best friend, Didi Ocheja, remains my constant muse. My desire is to convert to print she who only wears black.

If someone could only purchase one thing from your current line, what would it be?

That might be the toughest question ever, because I love every piece! If I had to choose, I would have to say the Red Heart print Maxi Tux Coat. You could wear it with anything and everything (from the collection and beyond)! And through most seasons.

What would you wear it with?

It can be worn with most things. But today I would wear with a logo T-shirt and the sequin embellished perforated leather skirt from the collection.

What’s the most important thing for someone to know about your brand?

Lisa Folawiyo is the first African fashion brand to modernize the Ankara cloth with its use of embellishments. By doing this, we created a new type of fabric with “re-texturization” at its helm, and executed our designs through modern and fashion-forward pieces with a thoroughly global appeal. We not only created a cult movement in womenswear across the region, but also became immediately popular for championing and creating custom modern African prints.

Where can readers purchase your line?

Lisa Folawiyo can be purchased online at www.oxosi.com. Alternatively, it can be purchased at our studio in Lagos, Nigeria and other luxury boutiques such as Temple Muse and Alara. Sales enquires can be made to sike@jbylisa.com.

William Okpodesigned by Darlene and Lizzy Okpo

William Okpo

Give me the two-sentence story about when, how and why you started your brand:

Lizzy: We started the brand in 2010 after I talked Darlene’s ears off during a flight to Nigeria. I sketched throughout the entire plane ride and told Darlene that when we got back to the USA, we would start our own brand. Darlene searched how to find manufacturers in New York on Google. We found ourselves in the Garment District, carrying our designs and walking door-to-door into factories unannounced, convincing production houses to work with us to make our ideas become a reality. We had no idea what producing a collection entailed; we did know that we had great designs that the world needed to wear.

Who and what do you think about when designing? Who are you designing for?

Darlene: We think about the everyday woman: an individual who is a professional but still creative and classic with the choice of styles she chooses to wear.

What was missing from the design world that made you think, “I want to start this”?

Lizzy: Young women of color, for one. Also, at the time, we noticed that many American designers weren’t tipping the edge. Things were all so safe as far as design aesthetic. We were much more inspired by Swedish brands like Acne because they provided that wow factor in their collections.

Darlene: We saw the need to create a line that brings contemporary wear to the forefront with the use of eccentric designs inspired by experience and culture.

If someone could only purchase one thing from your current line, what would it be?

Darlene: Our Palette dress, which is basically a awesome shirt dress with pleats.

Lizzy: That’s a little difficult, but I would say the Pope Jumper or the Aurora Trench Dress. I also have to sneak in the Overall Pant. Darlene requested that I stop wearing them because they are my absolute favorite but they’re so fun to wear.

What would you wear it with?

Darlene: I would wear our Palette dress with a pair of black high-top Nike Uptowns.

Lizzy: I’d wear the Overall pant with a cropped white shirt and loafers or lace-up mid-heel sandals.

What’s the most important thing for someone to know about your brand?

Lizzy: We work so hard it hurts.

Darlene: We don’t just design clothes just because. Our brand is based off of experience, culture and just being able to express yourself through style.

Where can readers purchase your line?

Our line is available at our retail location, 6 Fulton Street in New York City, and our website, williamokpo.com.

Feature photo courtesy of Calle del Mar; carousel photo courtesy of Tigra Tigra

Get more Fashion ?
  • Damn, I love all of these! Making me want to branch out and acquire lots of fun pants.

  • woohoo! Go aza! Finally you are on MR! Have been waiting/pulling for this day for a while. I can speak for her work ethic and enthusiasm, plus, she’s a brilliant friend. Love you!! A little ‘Surfer Girl’ rendition for you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnDZ7yb5g-c

  • Okay…TAKE MY MONEY !

    Stefanie
    http://www.styletostay.com

  • Lebanese Blonde

    GO AZA! I remember coveting her cool ruffled skirts in middle school. <3 <3

  • Natty

    Yessss Lisa Folawiyo!!! Dying to get my hands on her designs. She is an inspiration.

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