If the awards presented yearly by the Council of Fashion Designers of America are the Academy Awards for design, then the Fashion Fund is like the Independent Spirit Awards. The fund is awarded every year on behalf of the CFDA and Vogue to a rising star in need of some money and guidance — essentially rewarding his/her/their talent with a pile of loot and some well-established mentors. Like any good "best new designers" list, it's a hotly contested mix of nepotism, real talent and "who?" selections. Regardless, these are the names you'll be reading about in the glossies from here on out.
The Rising Indies Everyone Can Agree On
Wayne (Wayne Lee): Definitely one of the more well-known names on the list (mostly because you can find Wayne in more than a few local boutiques), the line's strength is crisp, clean-cut separates — seriously wearable, excellent design.
Gary Graham: Feminine, fantastical — Graham is an insider and high-end boutique favorite, in addition to having been in the industry for some time (he launched his line in 1999).
Patrick Ervell: An editor's darling of a menswear designer, Ervell's looks are part cool skinny-pants Brit and part ridiculously dorky librarian from Sweden.
House of Waris (Waris Ahluwalia): Arguably best known as the Indian actor from a couple of Wes Anderson movies, Ahluwalia also fronts a fairly successful line of well-crafted silver and gold jewelry — from charms to finely detailed bird earrings.
The Under-the-Radar Finds
Ohne Titel (Flora Gill and Alexa Adams): Also something of an editor's pet, this line flew largely under the radar until the past two seasons, when the duo's signature brand of slinky, slightly cut-up sexy fell into sync with the current mood.
Monique Pean: Her seriously fine jewelry runs the gamut from scrimshaw-and-gold to a tiny sphere of diamonds. You can't afford it, but it's quite unique.
Sophie Theallet: She's dressed-up bohemian with a French edge, but she's not really Isabel Marant, either. You'll find more prints and, sadly, some Ugg-looking boots on the runway.
Labels I've Genuinely Never Heard a Peep About
Spurr (Simon Spurr): "Savile Row meets Street" menswear, which is probably why I know nothing about it. Some suits, some sleeveless motorcycle vests. I'm perplexed.
Alabama Chanin (Natalie Chanin): Apparently, the emphasis at this, yes, Alabama-based brand is on sustainability and slow design. It really seems like a feel-good story, with tons of artisans and smiles. But (I'll say it) the clothes aren't totally great to look at, and there seems to be a whole lot of denim.
>Esquivel Shoes (George Esquivel): Another highly upscale offering, this time in the form of a master cobbler and shoemaker. Amazing craftsmanship, but... we long for some romance.