Paris Fashion Week Fall 2024: New Designers to Watch

Paris — These designers may be a new creative class during Paris Fashion Week, but they bring the experience and wisdom passed down to them by their predecessors, whether it's their parents, three generations of their family, or centuries' worth. Love of craft.

Xhosa Africa

By the time South African designer Laduma Nxokolo launched her label Maxhosa Africa in 2011 at the age of 24, she already had a lot of experience.

„I'm counting over 100 years, because the Xhosa people have been practicing amazing wristbands for centuries,” he joked during a preview with WWD.

Ngxokolo's first fabric creation came at the age of 15, when his mother introduced him to machine knitting shortly before she died.

She studied textile and pattern design at school before graduating with a degree in textile design and technology from Nelson Mandela University in her hometown of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He pursued a two-year post-graduate course at London's Central Saint Martins, where he was awarded a scholarship and chose a material futures track.

Maxhosa Africa began as a thesis project based on the idea of ​​a fashion range for Xhosa initiates. Young people give away their childhood possessions, including their clothes, as part of the coming-of-age traditions of South Africa's second-largest cultural group, which counts Nelson Mandela and human rights activist and theologian Desmond Tutu.

“My concept is to provide an alternative choice [them] It's not Western-influenced or inspired,” said Ngxokolo, who personally finds popular preferences rooted in colonial dress codes distasteful.

A Missoni fan, she saw knitwear as the perfect medium to translate traditional beadwork. Not only do both techniques rely on networks of pixel-like units – a stitch or a bead – but the Italian brand's artistic approach echoes the way he likes it. [Xhosa] Art in an African-centric way.”

While Ngxokolo is keen to preserve his cultural heritage for the next generation, he is adamant that people should approach the brand as a high-end fashion line, which is „sacred in celebration of culture”.

Maxhosa African look by Laduma Ngxokolo.

Courtesy of Maxhosa Africa

„Culture is wonderful, so people can celebrate it globally like they celebrate heritage,” he said. „My culture is bold and flamboyant, but what I wanted to prove is that culture can be fashionable, tasteful and wearable on a daily basis – if done right.”

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Contemporary shapes brought to life the shapes he had painstakingly researched by exploring museums across South Africa, and the project became a brand within months. Five years later, the first Maxhosa Africa flagship opened in Johannesburg.

Nowadays the brand has five stores in its home country and is soon opening a six-month pop-up on Canal Street in New York City. Women account for 65 per cent of the business, which offers men's and women's designs showcased during the annual one-day Mxs cultural festival event featuring music, food and textiles.

The moment was ripe to take the brand, which retails from $400 to $1,500 for intricate long dresses, to a broader level. It offered wholesale sales initially, but backed off after several projects spanning the space of a season, never to return, he said.

The brand's first presentation in Paris on March 3 was not only an important step in its development, but also a turning point in Ngxokolo's career.

Not only is he a new father, he's handed the reins of his 300-employee company to his younger sister, focusing on design and adding home goods.

„This is my rebirth, starting the brand from scratch and taking a very fresh new approach,” he said with obvious joy.

Revival Revival

For Cynthia Merhage, her signature Renaissance Revival is the culmination of three generations' worth of experiences: her great-grandmother had an atelier in Jaffa, then Palestine; His mother was Laura and an aunt, their aunt and her own in Beirut.

But, as the name suggests, this is a story about renewal and keeping hope alive in dire circumstances.

Growing up after Lebanon's 30-year civil war, „everything was destroyed and started to rebuild,” the designer recalls. „A lot of what I've learned about design, culture, art and more has come from a great curiosity and willingness to see what's out there.”

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Initially drawn to fashion – how could she not be, after spending childhood at her mother's knee – she became disenchanted with it as a teenager, taking a liking to photography and drawing.

A move from Lebanon to London led the young creative back to fashion, where she pursued visual communication and illustration courses at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art.

„But everything I did inevitably led to fashion, my first love, [particularly] „The way I saw storytelling was always through clothes,” she said. Back to Beirut and her mother's atelier, she was convinced she wanted to go into fashion.

A preview of Renaissance Renaissance's Fall 2024 collection.

A preview of Renaissance Renaissance's Fall 2024 collection.

Two years of full-time work brought her the capital she needed to launch her own brand in 2016. Merhage spent the next few years learning to sew and craft while „working five other jobs so it was even more intense.” she said.

The first collection emerged in 2019 when the financial crisis hit her homeland and stranded Merhej and her husband in Paris. Chosen as part of Net-a-porter's Vanguard program in 2020, the brand continued to rise when Covid-19 hit.

He was back in Beirut when 2020 erupted in the city's port, killing hundreds, injuring thousands and leaving scores without homes or livelihoods. „It was really like being stuck on a roller coaster and not knowing when it was going to end,” she said.

Still, she persevered. The brand's atelier opened in the Lebanese capital in 2022, led by Merhage's mother and the designer's belief that manufacturing in her homeland is essential to rekindling creativity in the traumatized country.

With prices starting at around 120 euros for tops and 200 euros for denim, dresses from 500 to 1,100 euros and coats from 1,200 euros, Renaissance Revival has teamed up with second-generation 20-owned brand 20 Brandation to launch a knitwear collaboration. .

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Informally marketing his collections in Paris has already put Merhage's work on other radars.

The designer was tapped to create the costumes for the upcoming adaptation of French writer Francois Sagan's 1954 novel „Bonjour Trieste,” starring Chloé Sevigny.

Julie Kegels

„For me, it's about finding a balance between beauty and ugliness, seriousness and absurdity, because I like to have fun when designing,” Belgian designer Julie Gegels told WWD ahead of her debut collection. „I like to feel a lot of emotion when I step out of my comfort zone.”

For this Antwerp native, fashion designing was a dream he nurtured from childhood, as he grew up in his father's background among leather and fabric swatches.

The natural next step was a place at the prestigious fashion department of Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where she honed her skills under the tutelage of Walter van Beirendonck and Dirk van Syen.

A preview of Julie Kegel's first collection for Fall 2024.

A preview of Julie Kegel's first collection for Fall 2024.

Courtesy of Julie Kegels

After the 2021 graduation, Kegels finds himself in that „weird time, because you have it good. [graduate] You don’t know what to do with the collection and then,” she recalls.

The first ideas for the eponymous brand came as many other projects, including a collaboration with contemporary label Essential Antwerp. But she first decided to cut her teeth at Alaya under Meryl Rose and Peter Mulier.

Eventually, the dream of launching his brand prevailed. „I've always wanted to start something at the right time, but I thought if I waited too long, I'd get a little scared,” he said.

Her debut offering is „about this girl, she can choose whatever she wants to be, but there's a duality within her,” she said.

Made in Belgium, Italy and Portugal, his first collection will sell for 100 euros for small accessories and up to 2,500 euros for a leather coat. Dresses range from 700 to 1,000 euros.

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