In May 2017, after one of the Met Gala soirées, Kylie Jenner posted a photo of her and her sister, Kendall, posing with a cast of famous rappers like Diddy, Wiz Khalifa, Migos, Travis Scott, and Jaden Smith. Within a couple of hours, Diddy reposted the photo—only he decided to crop out Kylie and her sister from the shot. With that, #DiddyCrop became the new trendy way to decolonize our minds from mainstream distractions. In the case of fashion, New York, Paris, London, and Milan, have been drilled into our subconscious as the OG fashion capitals. But according to who? In our version of events, it’s time to #DiddyCrop these cities and focus on new locations that not only breed young talent, but also house the infrastructure for them to succeed in the business of fashion.
The City of Angels is known for its obsession with avocado toast, bleached hair, and palm trees. Unbeknownst to most, Los Angeles is a powerhouse for design, production, and distribution. So much so that for the past ten years, Sunset Boulevard has hosted Los Angeles Fashion Week as a way to raise “the profile of fashion in the United States with focus on the emergence of Los Angeles as one of the most important cultural cities in the world.” While the other fashion capitals are just tuning into the significance of street style, LA’s fashion has been heavily influenced by street style of many decades. In fact, Los Angeles’s free spirit served as the perfect incubator for world renown 7 For All Mankind jeans.
We caught up with a local designer, Ellington Bramwell, who founded his streetwear brand, Subtl in the summer of 2016 while interning at a corporate media company. After “feeling constrained by the work, supervisors, department’s environment and being static,” Bramwell created Subtl as a form of self-expression.
Bramwell agrees that Los Angeles is an emerging fashion capital because “artists in LA refresh and give new perspective to the constructions of producing, distributing and consuming fashion.”
Subtl draws influence from other LA streetwear brands such as Golf Gang by Tyler the Creator and Jerry Lorenzo for Fear of God. However, what makes LA special is its ability to marry both the business of fashion with the creativity of design, all while retaining its edgy connection to the communities that call the City of Angels home. Bramwell admits that “though LA is not recognized for producing the finest leather, LA-based shops, artists, and design/fashion studios redefine how fluid fashion is. The way we think of fashion in relation to our communities is unmatched.”
This unmatched relationship between the consumer and producer is what has made LA an incubator for new talent. And as LA Fashion week heads into its tenth year, brands like Subtl will reap the benefits of producing and designing in a city that appreciates its creativity.
If you like the sound of street style and bespoke couture, then Seoul is your spirit city. Min Joo Kim, fashion enthusiast from Gangnam (the Beverly Hills of Seoul), agrees that Korean boys will have you doubting whether you even know what style means as they strut down the street in their perfectly-tailored-yet-edgy ensemble. After the split between the north and south, Seoul entered a manufacturing revolution in the 1960s and 1970s that has propelled the city into the renowned capital that is responsible for technology magnate, Samsung (and their hefty $223 billion in revenue).
As the country enjoyed the economic benefits of the manufacturing boom, another industry was slowly climbing up the ladder of prominence: the fashion industry.
Seoul’s advantage comes from the government’s emphasis on economic development. This allows brands to have access to an easy chain of networking and connections. Rira Yang, a Korean designer, affirms that “it’s all about production and communication, it’s easy, cheap, and quick to produce in Korea and build up a communication strategy with all the events, celebrities, influencers, and magazines.”
Similarly, not only have designers taken advantage of the local resources that Seoul has to offer. In fact some have even outgrown the city to become internationally renowned. In the case of Korean designer Adererror, Yang credits their international success to their authenticity of staying true to their Seoul roots. “They started from Korea, didn’t care at all about the international market or about catwalk shows. The owners aren’t even designers, but they started to get international attention, were invited to a Berlin gallery, collaborated with Maison Kitune and entered big retailers like SSENSE.”
The local and subsequent international success of Adererror goes to show that emerging fashion capitals not only serve as incubator cities for new designers, but local success is sometimes enough to get a brand noticed internationally. Instead of Seoul designers searching for opportunities to showcase their collections in Europe, Europe came looking for them because of their tremendous local success. Ultimately, it is not necessary for local brands in emerging fashion capitals to seek international validation in veteran fashion weeks. To succeed locally is sometimes enough to feed the Seoul!
On the African continent, Lagos has carved out a reputation for itself as the city where anything can happen. So much so that Amaka Osakwe was able to revive an ancient way of indigo-resit dyeing known as Adiré into a contemporary fashion line that has been debuted by Michelle Obama, Solange, and Lupita Nyong’o. Maki Oh, Osakwe’s a Lagos-based brand, had its first show at New York Fashion Week in 2018. But before getting to showcase on one of the top runways, Maki Oh was born out of city that is a mix of chaos, opportunity, and determination.
This is Lagos. In 2017, Nigeria led the continent as the country with the largest GDP in Africa and Lagos was no doubt the single handedly responsible for that figure. As a former capital city of Nigeria, Lagos is the home to many technological, financial, and manufacturing industries. As stakeholders and investors form unions with start-ups, the city continues on a path of economic independence. Such independence led to fashion designer Omoyemi Akerele, to launch Lagos Fashion Week in 2011. Since then, LFW has proven to be a force to reckon with on the continent and internationally. In fact, this year, Naomi Campbell walked the Lagosian runway for Lanre Da Silva Ajayi and Tiffany Amber from Nigeria and KLûK CGDT from South Africa.
Xennait Obomeghie, model and fashion blogger from Nigeria, agrees. “Yes, Lagos is definitely an emerging fashion capital. In fact, at the moment it is Africa’s fashion capital.” With tastes similar to Naomi Campbell, Xennait says “some of [her] favorite contemporary designers in Nigeria include Maki Oh, Lanre da Silva, and Deola Sagoe.”
Naomi Campbell’s presence in LFW was not simply a supermodel appearance. Instead, it was an international recognition of the significance of Lagos by a legacy supermodel and contributing editor to Vogue. In fact, Campbell has repeatedly called for a Vogue Africa and her participation on the Lagosian runway formally acknowledged the innovation, style, and emergence of Lagos as a fashion capital.
Ultimately, it’s imperative that we #DiddyCrop out Paris, New York, Milan, and London from our brains as the official fashion capitals because around the world, cities such as Los Angeles, Seoul, and Lagos strike a flame that legacy cities simply cannot sustain. The ease of networking and access to an ecosystem of creativity is limitless in these cities. Moreover, as consumers dig deeper for brands that represent them and are aligned with their communities, now more than ever, we need to exercise a redirect in the way we perceive fashion capitals.
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