30 Under 30: Fashion Designers Changing the Game

Fashion has always been one of the cult of youth’s most valuable subscribers. And if 40′s the new 50 and 30′s the new 40 and so on, it’s not surprising that so many of the industry’s most game-changing designers are not much older than the models walking their runways.

From Olivier Rousteing, who caused media hysteria when he was appointed to the head of Balmain at just 25, to equally buzz-worthy names you might not have put such a wrinkle-free face to, here are the most talented designers yet to reach the ripe old age of 30.

1. Esteban Cortázar (29)
At the age of 17 Cortázar became the youngest ever designer to show at New York Fashion Week, and at 23 was appointed creative director of Parisian fashion house Emmanuel Ungaro. A dispute with management two years later over sharing creative duties with Lindsay Lohan turned out to be a blessing in disguise; Cortázar has now designed two capsule collections backed by Net-a-Porter, full of structured, athletic-inspired separates and fluid satin and stretch-cady dresses.

esteban cortazar

2. Dion Lee (27)
Australian designer Dion Lee makes a case for fashion as both art and science. Spring 2014 marked his New York Fashion Week debut, but prior to that he was stunning critics in London with his architectural silhouettes and technological prowess. His Spring 2013 collection used geothermal heat mapping to abstract the body’s hot zones onto both sides of his fabric, which was then slashed and folded to give his clothes a third dimension.

3. Olivier Rousteing (27)
When Balmain’s Christophe Decarnin abruptly departed the flashy fashion house in 2009, 25-year-old Rousteing was brought on as his replacement. As it turned out, the designer’s vision for the brand was no less impressive than his Pharrell-rivaling cheekbones: After four years at the helm of the brand, he’s ditched the trash factor and introduced more silhouettes for real human bodies, while simultaneously proving overalls and patchwork denim dresses can be sexy.

4. Jérôme Lamaar (27)
Jérôme got his break interning for Baby Phat at age 15, becoming senior designer only three years later. But don’t expect any bedazzled velour from his new line, 5:31 Jérôme. Alongside elegant takes on streetwear, such as Swarovski-studded boyfriend jeans, are sleek downtown separates like leather skater skirts and silk anoraks.

5. Barbara Casasola (29)
Sick of the blingy embellishment trend? No, us neither – although it is nice to have an alternative. Barbara Casasola is the Brazil-born, London-based designer who’s shown her collections in Sāo Paulo, London and Paris since launching in 2011. But if she herself moves around a lot, her aesthetic is confident in its edgy sophistication. This is eveningwear for cool girls who don’t wear ball gowns.

barbara casasola

6. Yang Li (25)
The upside of moving from Bejing to a sleepy city like Perth at age 10? You get your style fix through other avenues, like skating and basketball. Yang Li spent a decade in Perth doing just that (and apparently little else) before studying at Central Saint Martins and interning for Raf Simons. His clothes fuse modern sub cultures with old-school modernist techniques inspired by designers like Helmut Lang.
Photo by Dominique Maître for WWD

7. Katie Ermilio (27)
As the granddaughter of Grace Kelly’s personal clothier, elegance is in her blood. But don’t be jealous — she also put in the hard yards as a Vogue editorial intern, which is where she started designing her own dresses to wear to work. Since launching her own range of cocktail and wedding dresses she’s caught the discerning eye of Barney’s and become a go-to for industry insiders.

katie ermilio

8. Sally LaPointe (28)
Sally LaPointe’s star has risen in an exponential curve since she was thrust into the limelight by Lady Gaga in 2011. But she isn’t just drawn to the fiercely futuristic – her latest collection, inspired by the decay of deli flowers, featured iridescent textiles and romantic shapes that girls will want to wear both now and in 2050.

sally lapointe

9. Pedro Lourenco (22)
Good news for people who enjoy feeling old and unaccomplished: Brazilian designer Pedro Lourenço launched his first collection at Paris Fashion Week, to resounding critical acclaim no less, when he was just 19. Now at the ripe old age of 23 he still loudly and deservedly buzzed about. Technique and technology influence much of his pieces, which include aviator-inspired shirts and bomber/blazer hybrid jackets.

10. Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen (27)
We won’t humor you with an introduction. The Row has likely single-handedly made the ‘actress-turned-designer’ tag one that doesn’t make us want to punch somebody, and while we won’t be forking out $34,000 for a bag any time soon, the long-line separates are things you can look cool in now and when you’re 70. That’s no mean feat.

mk ashley olsen

11. Kaelen Haworth (25)
Toronto native and superlative New York success story Kaelen Haworth moved to the U.S. to study at Parsons, and showed her first collection at New York Fashion Week only seven months after graduation. Three years later she’s a household name amongst local cool kids who dig her ‘interesting sexy’ aesthetic — including DJ Hannah Bronfman, with who Haworth designed a Coachella-inspired capsule collection totally devoid of denim cut-offs or feather headdresses.

kaelen haworth

12. Rosie Assoulin (28)
We trust The Man Repeller’s taste in humans as much as we do her taste in clothes, and her friend and emerging designer Rosie Assoulin is evidence we’re correct in doing so. Assoulin’s Spring 2014 collection is incredibly confident for a girl who put off launching her own line for years. Her voluminous separates and side cascade detailing are subtly man repelling, while more sharply tailored pieces are sure to get the tick of approval from both sexes.
Image: rosieassoulin.com

rosie assoulin

13. Alexander Wang (29)
Just making the cut at age 29, Alexander Wang presented his RTW women’s line at New York Fashion Week in 2007 and arrived at the head of storied French house Balenciaga only five years later. With some pretty massive cut-out ankle boots to fill courtesy of Nicolas Ghesquière, he’s chosen to explore Balenciaga’s roots rather than embark on any sort of urban makeover, and has more than proved himself worthy of his liberally-tossed-around wunderkind status in the process.

alexander wang

14. Thomas Tait (26)
Thomas Tait was just 21 when he graduated with an MA from Central Saint Martins — the youngest person ever to do so, and the same age as Yves Saint Laurent when he was appointed head of Dior in 1957. With that in mind, it’s surprising his collections don’t generate more buzz than they do. But with Tait quietly building on his hyper-modern, athletic-inspired collections with a couture refinement, it won’t be long before the world is noticing.

thomas tait

15. Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs (28)
Cushnie et Ochs is the collaboration of Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs. The 2007 Parsons Designer of the Year and runner up, respectively, they launched their brand in 2008 upon graduation. That same year they sold their Spring 2009 collection exclusively to Bergdorf Goodman and took out the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund award. They are the undisputed queens of racy cut-outs.

cushnie et ochs

16. Christopher Esber (26)
Christopher Esber is part of a new wave of Australian designers proving the country’s fashion isn’t limited to floaty dresses and swimwear. Esber was this year’s Australian Woolmark Prize winner, following in the footsteps of 2012 recipient Dion Lee. His winning entry was a looped wool vest with textural camouflage pattern evidencing his meticulous approach to tailoring and textiles. He also accepted an invitation by IMG to show at New York Fashion Week last year.

christopher esber

17. Mary Katrantzou (29)
One of London’s brightest rising stars, known for her hyper-bold designs that flatter the silhouette while assaulting (in a good way) the eyes. Her OTT digital prints have been inspired by perfume bottles, portraiture paintings, interiors and, most recently, shoes.

mary katrantzou

18. Christian Siriano (27)
Since becoming the youngest Project Runway winner in 2008, Siriano’s namesake brand has become one of the mainstays of the New York Fashion Week calendar. Though known for his red carpet-ready eveningwear, he’s proving he’s capable of girly laid-back luxe too.

christian siriano

19. Darlene Okpo and Lizzy Okpo (26, 23)
Sisters Darlene and Lizzy named their brand, William Okpo, after their Nigerian immigrant father. Born in the Bronx and raised in Staten Island, their slightly androgynous shapes and playful details are steeped in New York cool.

william okpo

20. Mathieu Mirano (22)
Mirano eschews trends in favor of what he calls “extreme luxury.” His customer is expensive, sophisticated and has a magpie’s eye for couture detailing. The crown jewel of his most recent collection was a party dress that featured gilded peacock pheasant feathers embellished with real rose petals — a feat that required more than 300 hours of assembly time. It’s not hard to see why he counts Lady Gaga and Katy Perry as fans.

matieu mirano

21. Jonathan Simkhai (28)
Native New Yorker Jonathan Simkhai was one of the stand-out designers at MADE Fashion Week last month. He’s known for androgynous shapes, graphic prints and tough knitwear, which translated into patchwork leather dresses and structured crop tops that were equal parts modish ’60s London and modern-day downtown New York. Simkhai is a member of the CFDA {FASHION INCUBATOR} business development program designed to support the next generation of fashion designers in New York City.

jonathan simkhai

22. Misha Nonoo (26)
If Misha Nonoo’s clothes were people, we would want to be their best friends. They’re bright, sweet, nonchalantly cool and always well accessorized. This season marked Nonoo’s first New York Fashion Week runway show, though she’s been amassing a small army of fans for the last three years.

misha nonoo

23. J.W. Anderson (28)
Anderson created his paisley pajama showpiece in 2011 when he was just 26, spawning a paisley mania that was caught by Preen, Etro and Balenciaga. His Spring 2014 collection was one of London Fashion Week’s standouts and the perfect prequel to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton not just confirming they’d be investing in J.W. Anderson, but naming the label’s eponymous designer creative director of Loewe.

jw anderson

24. Michael Lo Sordo
Chef-turned-designer isn’t something you hear often, but Australia’s Michael Lo Sordo approaches fashion with the same precision he did food. In 2012, he won Australia’s Quantas Spirit of Youth award and received a year-long mentorship with Zimmermann for his directional approach to sexy sophistication.

michael lo sordo

25. Michael van der Ham (28)
Another Central Saint Martins grad with an aggressive approach to print and deconstruction. Van der Ham designs with an experimental attitude and a penchant for clashing prints, textiles and colors, yet his girl somehow always remains exceptionally polished. His Spring 2014 collection was the first he’s shown since moving out from under the tutelage of Fashion East’s Lulu Kennedy, the one to first spot his talents.

michael van der ham

26. Azede Jean-Pierre (23)
Former Ralph Rucci and Ohne Titel intern Azede Jean-Pierre only has two collections under her belt, but she’s already proven herself quite the chameleon. For Fall 2013 the 23-year-old was inspired by the anatomy of a beetle, which translated into city-slick leather and knitwear with spinal detailing, while Spring 2014 was a colorful urban tea party marked by some pretty great rounded hems. We can’t wait to see what she pulls out of the bag next season.

azede jean pierre

27. Minju Kim (27)
South Korean designer Minju Kim has just been named the winner of H&M’s 2013 Design Award. Kim studied under Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Van Saene (original members of the avant garde Antwerp Six) at Belgium’s prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Her winning collection shows a playful fusion of giant cartoon-meets-couture shapes and whimsical textiles.

minju kim

28. Simone Rocha (27)
Dublin-born Rocha studied at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin before stepping up to the MA plate at London’s Central Saint Martins. She made her debut with Fashion East in 2010, and only a year later Paris’ Colette chose her Fall 2011 collection to display in their window during Couture week. NBD.

simone rocha

29. Ava Hama and Nolan Bellavance (23, 27)
Cool kids Ava and Nolan of Bellavance came together over a pair of pink Acne wedges. Nolan spotted Hama’s shoes at a transfer student orientation at Parsons, where the two bonded over their shared aesthetic. Their fuss-free collection of wearable downtown-luxe is now being sold exclusively through Opening Ceremony.

bellavance

30. Katharine Polk (29)
Stylist-turned-designer Katharine Polk cites Katharine Hepburn and Bianca Jagger as inspirations for her NYC-produced label Houghton. We can certainly see more than a thread of timeless laid-back luxury in her separates, but the feminine show-stoppers are why she counts Lily Collins and Selena Gomez as fans.

katharine polk

Related Links:
The Designer Shuffle Guide: Who’s Going Where and Should You Care?
Unknown Designer Olivier Rousteing To Replace Decarnin At Balmain?
5 Reasons That Mulberry’s Emma Hill Should Succeed Reed Krakoff At Coach
Of Course The Olsens’ $34,000 Alligator Backpack Sold Out

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