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7 designers who were fashion’s biggest game changers in 2018

When it came to fashion, 2018 had its share of game changers. The biggest luxury labels shifted creative gears – Hedi Slimane’s punk rock signature dominated Celine’s otherwise urbane, sophisticated leanings, Virgil Abloh took street to the rainbow-hued runway of Louis Vuitton, and Riccardo Tisci rolled out his version of a sleek and sexy Burberry. India too shone at the international stage with London-based Priya Ahluwalia bagging the prestigious H&M Design Award, and Ruchika Sachdeva taking Indian crafts to a global platform to win the coveted Woolmark Prize.

Here is everything you need to know about fashion’s top 7 game changers in 2018

Virgil Abloh
 Virgil Abloh attends the British Fashion Awards 2018. Image: Credit Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Virgil Abloh at the British Fashion Awards 2018. Image: Courtesy Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Known for his groundbreaking street style, Abloh is not new to the limelight. Be it collaborating on music videos with the likes of Jay Z and Kanye West, or turning deadstock Ralph Lauren flannel shirts into sartorial finery, or launching his now hugely popular label Off-white, Abloh’s move towards a career in fashion was organic. In March 2018, he was named the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear ready-to-wear, making him the first designer of black heritage to hold the position at the fashion house.

He staged his first show for Vuitton on June 21 at the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris. On a rainbow-hued runway, he rolled out the brand’s signature oversized coats, transparent shirts, ribbed vests and bombers, metallic ponchos, colourful harnesses and Keepall bags, only this time they all sported his signature street style. It was the first time Louis Vuitton had strayed from its very polished aesthetic and embraced something this drastically different. Present were longtime loyalists Kim and Kanye, Rihanna, and his predecessor Kim Jones, now artistic director of Dior Homme

Priya Ahluwalia
Priya Ahluwalia (Left)
Priya Ahluwalia with Ann-Sophie Johansson

A master’s graduate from the University of Westminster, the London-based Ahluwalia bagged the coveted H&M Design Award late last month for her sustainable collection. She returned to her Nigerian and Indian roots to create pieces which explored the future of ecofriendly fashion through her upcycled menswear. For Ahluwalia, it’s not just about upcycling old pieces – she deconstructs them completely, bringing every piece back to its original fabric, and creating a completely new look, and also ensuring that every piece lasts longer. Her aim is to present an upbeat picture of what sustainable fashion looks like. She has also infused her pieces with striking colourways and experimental silhouettes.

Ruchika Sachdeva
Ruchika Sachdeva (Middle)
Ruchika Sachdeva. Image: Courtesy Woolmarkprize.com

Sachdeva joined the league of Suket Dhir and Rahul Mishra when she won the acclaimed Woolmark Prize in January 2018. Her label Bodice, which she launched in 2011, has been credited for shattering stereotypes in Indian fashion. Through her womenswear, she has explored the idea of consumer waste and upcycling, and has collaborated with weavers to experiment with merino woolencouraging them to take an unorthodox approach to traditional techniques. She now stocks out of e-commerce giants Farfetch and MyTheresa, as well as in Boutique1 in the UK and Dubai, Takashimaya in Japan, and Australia’s Parlour X and David Jones. That the label has existed without Bollywood’s endorsement and caters to those on a lookout for something different and with longevity, is proof of its popularity.

Riccardo Tisci
Riccardo Tisci Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2018. Image: Courtesy Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Riccardo Tisci at the Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018. Image: Courtesy Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Celebrated for his gothic sense of aesthetic with an undertone of luxury at Givenchy, Tisci was appointed as the chief creative officer of Burberry in March 2018, succeeding Christopher Bailey. Burberry, which went through a complete transformation under Bailey’s direction, became a luxury power player in less than a decade. Tisci’s entrance gave enough leeway for disruption. First, he changed Burberry’s iconic logo in August 2018 and in then in September, his 134look show pushed the British heritage brand on a new path. He gave the brand’s signature trench coat a spin by cinching it at the waist, created crinkled skirts, shirting with built-in tie fasteners and infused Burberry’s womenswear line with dapper men’s outerwear.

Kanika Jain
Kanika Jain right before her NYFW show
Kanika Jain before her NYFW show

Jain’s label Kanelle marked its New York Fashion Week debut as a part of their spring-summer edition. Jain showcased Blue-Jean Baby, a collection replete with pleated skirts, trousers, knitwear and dresses made in treated and washed denim. Her pieces were a tribute to the 80s, with fringes, exquisite prints and artsy buttons being highlighted. Since its launch in 2011, Kanelle has specialised in tailored separates, balancing form and functionality perfectly. What sets her apart from a number of designers today is her ability to manipulate fabric blends – from jamdani to chanderi to handwoven khadi, Kanika’s canvas runs large. 

Clare Waight Keller
Clare Waight Keller during the Givenchy Spring/Summer 2019
Clare Waight Keller during the Givenchy Spring/Summer 2019

Clare Waight Keller might be responsible for creating the quintessential image of a Chloé girl with the part bohemian and part urbane sense of style, but she has brought her British sense of structure and restraint to Givenchy as well, since her appointment as its creative director in 2017. One milestone for her tenure at Givenchy came when she designed the wedding dress for Meghan Markle.

When the American actress exchanged vows with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, shutterbugs throughout the world captured the iconic dress created by Keller featuring an open bateau line with an A-frame organza skirt, a sculpted waist and a 16-and-a-half-foot silk veil embroidered with the 53 flowers representing each Commonwealth nation.

Hedi Slimane
Hedi Slimane during the Celine Spring/Summer 2019 show
Hedi Slimane during the Celine Spring/Summer 2019 show

Slimane’s past record cements his status as a maverick. From creating sharp suits at Dior Homme to redefining the iconic Le Smoking jacket at YSL, Slimane knows how to bring his element to any label he takes over. The moment he took over Celine in January this year, everyone in fashion was eager to know the direction in which the brand would progress.

In September, Slimane brought back the 60s original logo, and then a few days later, rolled out his first collection, comprising of leather jumpsuits, metallic bombers, disco dresses, and cigarette pants in leather. Criticised by many for destroying an intelligent, chic, and unfussy aesthetic championed by Phoebe Philo, Slimane’s anti-establishment attitude gave birth to the lingo ‘Old Céline’, signaling the pre-Slimane era.

7 designers who were fashion’s biggest game changers in 2018

Anupam Dabral

Sr. Associate Editor

It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

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