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If the Met Gala is the fashion industry’s prom and Fashion Week its final exams, then trade shows are the science fair.
Twice a year, brands from all over the world set up booths inside huge convention centers in Las Vegas, New York, Paris, and beyond so that store buyers can come through, check out their collections, and place orders for upcoming seasons. It’s a huge to-do, yet something the average shopper probably has no idea even exists.
For us here at Racked, trade shows are cool because it’s a way to see hundreds of brands in one place — like Instagram IRL, or if all of our favorite boutiques opened pop-up shops in the same building. It’s fun to see familiar faces, but even more exciting to discover labels we had never heard of. The below list includes over a dozen new (or new-to-us) brands that we’re super excited about right now.
Stella Pardo: Stella Pardo (pictured above) is a French knitwear label that I saw at Coterie. What actually caught my eye were the stack of postcards at the brand’s booth — the model looked like a 2017 version of Brigitte Bardot with a gap tooth and was wearing these super cool chunky sweaters. All of the pieces are designed in Paris but handmade in Peru, knitted with baby alpaca.
Parme Marin: I had seen photos of Parme Marin’s fall collection right before I met the designer at the Woman trade show, but didn’t put two and two together until I saw the amazing pair of leather shorts hanging on a rack that I had put on my Pinterest summer mood board earlier that week. I’ve never felt like I needed so much leather in my wardrobe until I saw this line up close — the shorts are great, but it’s the leather pants that were really incredible; the fit is relaxed and casual, and nothing like the leggings (and episode of Friends) I picture in my head when I hear the words “leather pants.”
Lady Grey: I’ve been a fan of Lady Grey for a while (and we’ve covered them a bit on Racked!), but seeing the brand’s booth at Woman reminded me of why I like it so much, so I’m including it in this list for that reason. The style really is unlike anything else out there right now. I love funky surrealist jewelry (like these Silhouette Studs) and stuff that’s just fun and playful (like these Hand Silk Tassel Earrings). And even though there are so many brands doing gold hoops right now, Lady Grey finds a way to make them really unique — these are so cool.
Katharine Kidd: What first caught my eye when I walked by Katharine Kidd’s booth at Coterie was a colorful full skirt made of neoprene mesh. I’d never seen anything like it! That’s so much in one garment — you have a funky fabric with an even funkier treatment, a bright print, and a really dramatic silhouette, but somehow it all worked together. The brand is based in LA, and its e-shop is coming soon.
Cuero&Mor: Okay, this might be kind of an exaggeration, but Cuero&Mor might make the best bags I’ve ever seen. The brand’s booth at Woman was organized by color — tan, oxblood, blush, green, and black — and all of the tones looked so rich. I love the bucket bags and totes, but what I’m really excited about are the new fall bags — there’s one crossbody with a gold chain that I’m buying as soon as it’s available in August.
Another Feather: There’s so much jewelry out there, but what I like about Another Feather is that it sort of straddles the worlds of the fine, delicate jewelry that was super popular a few years ago and the bigger, more modern pieces that have been seeing an uptick in trendiness over the past few seasons. (The Silver Cymbal Earrings are sort of a perfect example of that.) I also really like that there are brooches and pins, too.
—Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director
Hope: Swedish label Hope is everywhere in Scandinavia, but probably less known here. (I first came across it in Stockholm, but you might recognize the name if you shop at places like Steven Alan or Totokaelo.) The upcoming season is a bit of a reinvention for the brand, or maybe more accurately a return to slightly punk roots, thanks to new creative director Frida Bard (formerly of Acne Studios). I saw several very chic buyers snatching up lots of pieces from the extensive collection at Woman, so expect to see the brand’s impeccably tailored, tomboy-ish work clothes — classic but really far from boring — at more than a few stores next fall.
Gray Matters: Gray Matters, a.k.a. that elegant shoe brand that just suddenly showed up in all your favorite online boutiques this past season, has a ton of great new stuff on the horizon, too. If you're into the whole suede block heel and glove shoe moment that's been happening but don't want the pastel Maryam Nassir Zadeh rip-offs or crazy expensive Martiniano ones like everyone else, this is the brand to turn to. The color palette is more muted and the shapes are similar, but somehow all their own.
Older Brother: Portland, Oregon-based Older Brother has been around for a few years, but in the words of its designers, it's only recently that they've come into their own for all facets of the brand — design, color, and how to scale while truly maintaining quality. The pieces are simple but have a Platonic Ideal quality to them: The jeans fit just how you want them to; the T-shirt is the perfect weight and cut. Everything is sustainably made and naturally dyed using things like indigo and even coffee to beautiful effect. I'm especially into the black indigo pieces, which read as a lovely faded black.
Hackwith Design House: Minneapolis-based Hackwith Design House started out making limited-run pieces released every Monday on its website. The brand now has a full collection that includes awesome, flattering swimwear (though it still makes those limited-edition pieces, too, and everything is still handmade). The clothes are exactly the kind of thing you want to live in, all in easy, versatile shapes that can often be worn multiple ways — and, Hackwith offers plus-sizes.
Mondo Mondo: Founded in 2012, this LA jewelry brand makes quirky, cool costume rings that vaguely feel like mood rings crossed with a medieval king’s pinky ring. I've been a fan of the jewelry for a minute but had never seen their perfumes before in person, so I was excited to test them out. In scents like "cowboy," "doll," and "I like you in velvet," they're earthy and luscious, masculine and feminine at the same time.
—Cory Baldwin, shopping editor
Charlotte Stone: This was maybe the only collection I saw over the whole weekend that had me stop in my tracks at Capsule. On display were these really great strappy block-heeled sandals for spring in really bold, neon-leaning blues, purples, and yellows. (A really refreshing break from the typical pastel moment we have this time of year.) I'd never heard of the brand either, so because I consider myself pretty "in the know" as far as accessories go, stumbling upon Charlotte Stone felt like getting let in on a really good secret.
Young Frankk: I fell for Young Frankk after seeing the jewelry brand’s really fun, unique hand-shaped earrings that started to make the rounds all over Instagram. I was really excited to be able to meet with the designer at Capsule and see what was next for the brand, and I walked away more impressed than I could have expected. The new collection has tons of really beautiful, structural pieces in silver and gold that are bound to be the next round of popular statement earrings in 2017.
Audrey Louise Reynolds: At first glance, this collection just looks like softly-colored sweatsuits and T-shirts, but the really cool thing here is how everything is made. And more specifically, how it's dyed. The designer behind the line has worked within fabric dye for over 15 years and was even dubbed the "fashion world's artisanal fabric dyer" by the New York Times. Reynolds created her own sustainable, eco-friendly fabric dye that she uses within her own line, and she sells it wholesale to young brands who want to practice sustainability but can't afford the process. You can even buy a pack of dye on the brand’s site for $20 and dye your own pieces at home.
—Tanisha Pina, associate market editor