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Top 10: Alternative Fashion Cities

With February being the month of Fashion Week around the world, DANIELLE WEAKLEY, editor of Women’s Health, looks beyond the fashion capitals of New York, London, Milan and Paris to some trend-setting alternatives…

 

1.Beirut

Elie Saab might be Lebanon’s most legendary fashion export after dressing Halle Berry for her ceiling-shattering 2002 Oscar win, but despite having ateliers in Beirut, Milan and Paris, he is not the only fashion genius originating from the Lebanese capital. Look out for the incredible architectural silhouettes and artisanal detailing of couture label Azzi & Osta. They are the duo behind Beyonce’s internet-breaking Grammy afterparty frock this time last year. And for a hip talent to watch?

Check out The Nou Project – two girls who are bridging the gap between art and footwear by collaborating with artists to illustrate and decorate their simple white (eco-friendly, rubber-soled) kicks.

2. Copenhagen

The Scandi design aesthetic is notoriously minimalist – probably part of the reason the entire world is obsessed with it. But it also manages to just skate the line, by pairing that same quiet sensibility with a whacky accent, a gold boot here, an oversized sleeve there. Copenhagen Fashion Week is much beloved, not just because you reach every show by bicycle, but because its laid-back street style is as lust-worthy as its catwalks.

Check out OG local fashion brands such as By Malene Birger (relaxed, masculine tailoring for women) and up-and-coming talents like Cecilie Bahnsen – her whimsical, girly creations have her pegged as one of the ones to watch.

 

3. Lagos

Lagos has hosted its own fashion week since 2011 and some of its favourite showing designers have already made waves on the international fashion scene. Michelle Obama invited Amaka Osakwe to the White House back in 2014 after wearing her Maki Oh design on the couple’s official South African tour. Lisa Folawiyo has dressed everyone from Lupita Nyong’o to Solange Knowles and her line – a reinvention of traditional Ankara fabric through cut and embroidery – is available in Selfridges in London.

Check out Kenyan designer Anyango Mpinga – her most recent Lagos Fashion Week show campaigned against human trafficking through her sloganned “Free As a Human” tees, printed over newspaper print fabric accented with playful hummingbirds… completely gorgeous

 

4. Accra

Ghana is best known for its technicoloured Kente cloth – the woven fabric native to the country – but its contemporary fashion business, with its pulse point in the capital Accra, weaves this colourful African sensibility with modern construction to amazing effect. The menswear is cool, with clashing prints offsetting a smart jacket as often as an easy-cut kaftan.

Check out Salim Signature is taking on masculine tailoring with African traditional prints, while womenswear designer Aphia Sakyi (Janet Jackson is a fan) has the most staggeringly beautiful accessories constructed with beads and ropes… they’re more Black Panther-inspired cape than they are neckpiece and they are magnificent.

5. Johannesburg

Joburg plays host to a number of fashion weeks in the year, but the designers you want to be on the hunt for are these: Marianne Fassler – her label Leopard Frock has celebrated 40 years in the biz and continues to innovate and be wildly covetable with its elegant but eclectic, embellished, printed garments. If you happen past the studio, check out Marianne’s incredible archives, spanning her many decades on the SA fashion scene.

Check out Also tapping into an African print aesthetic is MaXhosa by Laduma. Laduma Ngxokolo’s Xhosa-inspired knitwear takes the traditional designs-with-a-twist to seriously stylish effect for both mens’ and womens’ collections.

6. Mumbai

If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood film, you’ll need little encouragement as to why you’d want to hit the Mumbai designer scene – there are embellishments aplenty, rich fabrics, loads of sinuous draping, detailing and colour.

Check out Anamika Khanna rules the scene. She is a global force whose intricately-adorned designs often grace the international glossies, having taken the much-beloved craft of Indian design and translated it into contemporary silhouettes. Anamika is credited as the designer who brought harem pants into the fashion mainstream. Find her in eponymous boutiques around the world or closing the show at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai in August.

7. Seoul

While it still rings true that South Korea remains heavily influenced by K-pop, Seoul and its annual March fashion week dish up way more on the design front than wild K-pop, although its street style is all that and more. Fashion doyenne designer Kim HyeSoon opens the fashion soiree with her signature hanboks – traditional Korean dresses in patterned silk, brocade and faux fur set against a backdrop of local folk music – but this is the only nod the fashion week really takes towards the traditional.

Check out Menswear designer Munsoo Kwon who reimagines the style of the lay-about aristocracy of days gone by as contemporary social media dandies clad in statement overcoats and billowing trousers.

 

8. Melbourne

Forget Sydney, Melbourne is the fashion darling of Australia and with its strong stance on sustainability, eco-friendly fashion and support of local, it’s a trailblazer. The labels to invest in are these: Aje and Nevenka for their artisanal, feminine styles; Akira for meshing traditional Japanese textile design like Shibori with origami (folding) to create bespoke modern pieces.

Check out Martin Grant’s spectacularly beautiful, tailored womenswear and menswear. It’s no longer under the radar though… Sandra Bullock wore scarlet Martin Grant to the Bird Box premiere in New York in December, and Meghan Markle was snapped in its striped belted shirtdress on her Tonga visit too.

 

9. SÃo Paulo

Once the sartorial home of tiny bikinis and languid, long-limbed Victoria’s Secret models, Brazil’s fashion scene has morphed in line with the country’s growth as a global power. Yes, there’s still a nod to sexiness – as the organiser of São Paulo Fashion Week claims, sexiness is part of the Brazilian DNA – and it’s apparent in the shows. São Paulo takes on a more directional approach compared to its older sister in Rio, although there remains a nod to established designers too. Find the old guard in Lenny Niemeyer, the architect-turned-swimsuit-designer who shows her chic creations in São Paulo and also in the supremely elegant designs of Reinaldo Lourenco
and Gloria Coelho.

Check out Newer labels like Piet, who is credited with putting Brazilian streetwear firmly on the fashion map, neon rip cords and all.

10. Tbilisi

Tbilisi may be the home of Balenciaga and Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia, who is given the kudos of bringing Georgian fashion talent to the foreground, but Tbilisi Fashion Week has picked up the reins since then and scouted a host of interesting local designers who are making inroads into the international scene. Ever since Gigi Hadid stepped out in one of its black leather jackets last year, label Situationist has been much-buzzed. With a highly technical approach and an obsessive interest in pattern making, designer Irakli Rusadze’s recent showing focused on edgy leatherwear and suiting.

Check out Designer Lasha Devdariani who, inspired by the Silk Road, restyles sumptuous vintage fabrics into modern embroidered coats and trailing dresses.

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