5 Smaller Brands I Can’t Stop Thinking About

Discovering a designer I love feels like developing a new crush but better. I get all tingly, my stomach feels weird in a good way and, after the fireworks subside, the newfound affection feels like an accomplishment. The best part is? It’s a process with infinite possibilities. I am always surprised to learn that there are (somehow) more hidden gems out there just waiting to be found. Below are five designers I’ve recently fallen for. Some are brand spankin’ new while others have flown below my radar for way too long. Read on in case they’ve done the same for you and then add yours below.


My love for New York-based brand Markarian began like most modern love stories: via Instagram.

When I happened upon the most whimsical collection of dresses I’d seen in a while, designed by Alexandra O’Neill, I Googled the word “markarian” to find a Wikipedia page for the Markarian galaxies. They’re galaxies defined by their unique ultraviolet blue center. After spending some time reading about high energy emissions and star clusters and a bunch of other things I don’t truly understand, it became clear this name is no coincidence. Born and raised in Colorado, O’Neill credits her vast hometown skies as a constant source of inspiration. One look at her collection and it all makes sense. Everything is out-of-this-world special.

My favorite dress is the pale yellow sequin one with discrete cut-outs and quirky little starfish. I love how this rather mature silhouette is offset by playful details, a pattern the rest of the collection follows. I don’t know about you, but there are few things more magical than an occasion dress I want to wear with a pointy pump, but also white Converse.

Cecilie Bahnsen

Think of Sacai’s penchant for intricate details and embroidery and Comme des Garçon’s voluminous style mixed in with the romanticism of a couture house, like perhaps Dior’s, and you end up with Cecilie Bahnsen. If I’ve lost you, stay with me for a second.

You know all that hype surrounding Danish designers and Copenhagen Fashion Week this past season? Well, Bahnsen is one of the incredible designers contributing to Copenhagen’s fashion boom right now. Only three seasons in, the brand’s stockist list already includes heavy hitters like Dover Street Market, Ssense, and United Arrows — retailers many newcomers only ever dream of. She was also one of this year’s LVMH Prize finalists, and so far the only Danish designer to ever be considered.

Scrolling through her latest SS18 collection feels like going through museum archives. The same goes for her previous two collections. There’s a very sculptural, structured feel to her clothing, but just as you’re starting to think her clothes are more art than they are wearable, you get hit with the lightness and fluidity of her delicate fabrics. I don’t even know if that sentence even made sense, but just look at the clothes! And the styling! Are you drooling right now, too?

CF Goldman

After putting her Central Saint Martins education to the test at Céline and Proenza Schouler, New York native Chelsea Goldman launched her own namesake brand in 2014. I don’t exactly remember how I came across her clothing, but it was her Fall 2017 collection that really won me over — those corsets especially.

It’s not every day you see such a niche item become a part of a designer’s core collection. Recreated in various prints and slightly different shapes, her corsets have become a key layering piece and part of CF Goldman’s enchanting DNA.

The contrast of highly functional, high-volume pieces (her cargo pants are a personal favorite) against a historically rich article of clothing speaks to my heart in so many ways. For an undergarment that is so rooted in traditional customs, there is nothing about Goldman’s clothing that feels archaic. However, if Marie Antoinette were around in 2017, I’m 100% certain the closet of her West Village town house would be filled with CF Goldman.

Although Goldman is still a relatively new designer, she’s already garnered the attention of Rihanna and Solange (or at least those who style Rihanna and Solange, which also bodes well). She’s one to keep your eyes on.

Tara Zadeh

When it comes to handbags, these days I tend to gravitate toward smaller brands that aren’t so easy to identify. Also, like the Aries that I am, I keep finding myself on both extremes of the spectrum. I either want to carry as close to nothing as possible, or I want a purse that fits my laptop and essentially my entire life. Oh, and of course, quality; something that lasts.

I’ve been looking for bag that fits the aforementioned profile for some time now, so when I unsuspectingly walked into a dinner celebrating the launch of Tara Zadeh’s debut SS18 collection last week, I was dumbfounded.

I had no previous information on, nor connection to, the brand when I walked into her uncle’s gallery. The space was adorned with marigold and poppy red suede bags and I found it very hard to leave the Roshan tote behind.

Zadeh’s bags live in that sacred space between timeless and trendy. It’s a tricky territory to conquer, but her experience as an art director must account for the strong point of view. The combination of sharp geometric shapes and vibrant colors make for bags that are sophisticated with just the right amount of edge, not to mention the attention to detail that goes into every step of the development and production process. In search of the best artistry, Zadeh took her designs to Ubrique, a small town in Spain renowned for its leather industry. A quick scroll through her Instagram account and you’ll notice street-style stars like Camille Charriere and Eleonora Carisi are already fans.


A striped knit bodysuit was my gateway drug to Belize. Composed of stand-out knitwear, easy dresses and separates, it’s hard to believe Belize was started just one year ago as a passion project between two friends. It’s all so good! And wearable! I soon found out this was no ordinary friendship. Valeska Duetsch and Fiona Bansal met while working for Stella McCartney in London. Having also spent time at Chloé and Net-A-Porter, respectively, the duo knows a thing or two about luxury womenswear.

Duetsch and Bansal have combined their industry savoir-faire with their love for excellent craftsmanship to create a uniform for the fashion-forward woman. Inspired by their own international backgrounds (German, Parisian, English and Indian), their designs are made with a globe-trotting woman in mind. From the seaside views of the French Riviera to the gritty streets of Berlin, Valeska describes the Belize woman is always almost missing her flight. This resonates with me way more than it should.

From Italian printmakers to Indian artisans, Belize is committed to bringing couture-like quality to everyday clothing by collaborating with the best of the best.

Which is your favorite? And what new/new-ish designers are you into these days?

Juliana Salazar

Juliana Salazar is a freelance stylist and brand strategist and contributing fashion editor for Man Repeller.

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