If you watch it play out on social media, New York Fashion Week can seem to be dominated by a few big names, but every season, there are smaller brands — companies with limited budgets and a no-nonsense approach — that capture what women actually want to wear. In the fog of what’s trending and what’s being shared, it’s refreshing to see independent brands creating clothing that’s both beautiful and approachable. Below are seven such shows that we can’t stop thinking about.
For Nanushka’s NYFW debut, designer Sandra Sándor continued on her quest to create functional, beautiful clothing. Based in Budapest, Sándor works with lustrous textures like satin, Turkish tapestry, and jacquard, all symbolizing her connection with the Middle East. Standouts from the collection were the vegan leather pieces, spurts of polka dots, and hefty shearling aviator jackets.
R13 is slowly but surely making a name for itself as the go-to brand for cool, modern grunge. This season, industry favorite Adwoa Aboah opened the show in a bodysuit and leggings screen-printed with a landscape scene. Designer Chris Leba’s inspiration: the ongoing fight to protect America’s public lands. Witnessing floral dresses, chunky boots, and oversize bombers presented with Leba’s element of defiance was purely a joy.
This was Sandy Liang’s 11th season, and it’s clear that she’s found her stride dressing Lower East Side tomboys. The Parsons graduate developed her cult following by making leather, shearling, and faux-fur jackets, but her range has grown each season. This collection offered eccentric new ideas, with riffs on florals, pastel outerwear, and layering. The show, held at Mission Chinese with Liang’s own family and friends modeling, felt as playful as it did timely.
Moon Choi’s clean, gender-neutral suiting is what continues to bring me back. The Seoul-born, New York–based designer specializes in sophisticated, elegantly tailored clothing. Every piece has an air of confidence to it. And with the heavy emphasis on broad shoulders and the sensual muted palette, Choi continues to blur the boundaries between masculine and feminine.
Designer Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada staged her show as a wedding ceremony in which actress and photographer Sasha Frolova married … herself. In the show notes, the designer explained, “You cannot start to love another until you love yourself, so why not marry your higher self?” The collection, a tribute to self-love, was full of genderless clothing made from vintage materials like crushed velvet and sheer organza, shown on models ages 5 months to 68 years.
It’s only been three years since Claudia Li left positions at JW Anderson and Brandon Maxwell to start her own collection. Normally a lover of minimal, architectural silhouettes, this season she created pieces for a lot of different kinds of women. Gems included the luminous fabric dresses and the neon suiting. Li is still finding her way, but she’s the kind of emerging talent who will flourish over New York Fashion Weeks to come.
Ukrainian designer Svetlana Bevza presented an entire collection made from cruelty-free fabrics. Titled “Faux Reality,” the show captured a sense of lavish elegance inspired by The Royal Tenenbaums in a contemporary manner, with carefully thought-out outerwear made with down alternatives and printed nylon. The wool and eco-leather coats, satin belt bags, and silk dresses gave hope for a new definition of elegance.