PARIS — As eyes turn to Paris for its busy six-day schedule of 84 events, WWD spotlights three designers turning a female gaze on menswear and speaking to a spectrum of consumers whose only label is the style they want to project.
Feng Chen Wang
For Chinese designer Feng Chen Wang, showing successively in New York, London, Shanghai and now Paris is par for the course for her as a global citizen.
“I’ve been traveling everywhere but I’ve been living in a different city as well. [There are] lots of people like me, [within] our customer base and community. We are from different backgrounds, we connect with different cultures. Things we do and things we put together are a deeper way of [expressing] who we are as a young generation,” she said on a call from Shanghai.
Also congruent with her generation is the gender-irrelevant approach of her work, which takes its cues from traditional menswear layered with elements drawn from her Chinese heritage and a knack for deconstruction.
“At the beginning, I focused on menswear, but [being a] female designer [in that segment] brought me a lot of female customers. So now, I feel that when I reference women’s clothing in fit or even with a skirt or dress, I’m sure our consumers won’t just be female as [this sense of] freedom is part of the brand.
The current understanding of men’s and womenswear has “already become old school and their definition for now as well as the future is going to be changed,” she continued.
Hot off the boost in exposure from the Beijing Winter Olympics, where she designed outfits worn by her flag-bearing compatriots, making her mark in Paris with a presentation on June 26 felt like a milestone and a springboard to the next level.
While her main market remains broadly Asia, in particular China and Japan, this first participation marks the acceleration of her business in Europe and North America.
Feng Chen Wang will also be premiering made-to-measure designs. But don’t consider this purely an exercise in luxury — it’s also about being smart and more sustainable as a business.
Hence her first steps in the metaverse on June 19, as part of Shanghai Fashion Week’s digital showcase, with fully virtual looks.
“Haute couture houses make everything physically before people order, but [for a business our size] this is a sustainable path to move toward this business model in a modern, cool and young way,” she continued.
Given her knack for collaborations, which has seen her form ongoing partnerships with mainstream brands Levi’s, Converse, Nike, Ugg but also motor vehicle-maker Piaggio, she is also eyeing new fields.
“I don’t see myself as a fashion designer but as a creative director,” she said, hinting at more lifestyle. “I feel like today’s generation doesn’t just focus on clothes but also on a lifestyle, including what we eat, drink and how we travel.” — Lily Templeton
When Paris-based designer Jeanne Friot says she wants to dress everyone, she means it.
“If I dressed my grandmother, I’d be thrilled,” says this 28-year old graduate of École Duperré and IFM who spent two years at Balenciaga before striking out on her own in 2020.
Based in sustainable accelerator hub La Caserne, Friot designs “clothes to make you feel powerful,” using deadstock or recycled materials, with few other considerations than making the wearer feel — and look — good.
“My work is not about me creating a collection that I apply to people. It speaks of the individual before fashion,” she said, noting that even the genderless label feels ill-fitting given her view of gender as a spectrum.
Hence her description of the Jeanne Friot customer as “anyone, someone who is urban and falls in love with the way we cut and construct clothes,” in keeping with her view that clothing should be about “an energy and a personality.”
Expect lashings of Swarovski crystals, embroideries and eye-catching feathered denim carried over from earlier seasons in her spring 2023 collection, revealed at 3:30 p.m. on June 22 on the FHCM’s digital platform, ahead of a 5 to 8 p.m. physical presentation at the Palais de Tokyo.
Though doing away with gender fits with the times and her generation, there is one place she believes it is still necessary — pointing out she is a female designer.
“When you start to count, you realize [how few prominent ones] there are,” both in menswear and womenswear, she said, noting that even houses famously founded by women were often led by men in recent times.
“The gender of the designer still matters and it’s part of my [mission and values] to put an end to that,” she said. — L.T.
Mowalola Ogunlesi, the Nigerian-born London-based designer, who until recently was the design director of the Yeezy Gap line, will present her spring 2023 collection in Paris off-schedule for the first time on June 25.
Known for voicing her support for Black culture and championing the “progressive, androgynous” Y2K aesthetic, Ogunlesi attended London’s Central Saint Martins and made her London Fashion Week debut with Lulu Kennedy’s emerging support platform Fashion East in 2019.
She gained the public’s attention after Naomi Campbell was spotted wearing a Mowalola gown with a bullet wound design, which according to the designer was meant to convey a sense of being a walking target.
While working with Ye on the Yeezy Gap line, she has dressed some of the biggest celebrities including Drake, Kim Kardashian, Dua Lipa, Lil Nas X and Solange Knowles, and has built a sizable online following, selling logo T-shirts for 80 pounds, tote bags for 200 pounds and miniskirts for 300 pounds via her own direct-to-consumer channel.
For her first collection after going solo, titled “Burglar Wear,” Ogunlesi will debut a collaboration with a major sportswear brand.
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