19 Designers—From Household Names to Emerging New Talent—On The Power of Partnership

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More than ever, designers are embracing mentorship, collaboration, community, and family ties—relationships that aren’t just emotional salve but creative inspiration as well.
Model Bella Hadid wears a Gucci top ($790) and skirt ($1,400); gucci.com. Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh earrings. Bangles by Anndra Neen and Rogue Rose. Photographed by Christian MacDonald

Alessandro Michele, surrounded by looks from Gucci’s 2021 Epilogue collection.

Photographed by Tierney Gearon, Vogue, 2019. All others: Courtesy of Gucci.

Alessandro Michele,
Designer, Gucci

Marvin, Beatrice, Geraldo, Yuri, Junayd, Min: The “models” in Gucci’s latest look book are the very designers who made the collection alongside Alessandro Michele. When lockdown forced the brand to scrap its yearly destination show, the creative director remembered a time as a young assistant when a piece he had been working on for months was pulled for a show and he never saw it again: “It was like someone tried to take from you your son.” Putting the spotlight on his colleagues, though, was “something beautiful,” he said. (It’s a policy that the company is getting behind in other areas, as it expands its Gucci Changemakers grants and scholarships initiative to address not just culture, education, and social justice but also health equity and wellness.) Michele has been rejiggering the fashion show since his start at Gucci five years ago. Last season, he turned the runway inside out, making the audience part of the spectacle. “At the end,” he said, “it’s not just a show and a campaign.” The human element is key for Michele, and the pandemic has only heightened that instinct. Moving forward, he’ll show two times a year rather than five. The schedule will be gentler on the planet, and creativity-wise, it’ll be much more humane. That’s something that makes Michele happy. “I feel myself a little bit new,” he said, “a little bit reborn.”—Nicole Phelps

Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka of House of Aama. Makeup, Dusty Starks. Fashion Editor: Alex Harrington.

Photographed by Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Rebecca Henry and  Akua Shabaka, 
Designers, House of Aama

Though they live on opposite coasts, Rebecca Henry (in Los Angeles) and her daughter, Akua Shabaka (in New York), of House of Aama share a closeness that sets them apart from other design duos. Like her mother before her, Henry imparted the family tradition of crafting by a tender osmosis. “Every night, my mom would come home from work and escape the wounds of the world with quilting and beading—it was like a meditation for her,” says Shabaka, 22, of her mother, who is an attorney by trade. “Seeing her taught me the importance of having your own craft, of having something that brings you peace.” The pair launched their House of Aama label in 2015 to explore the maternal ties that have bound African American and diasporic families, starting with the folklore of the postbellum South. Inspired by Henry’s connections to Louisiana, their pivotal 2017 Bloodroot collection stands as a powerful example, with their more recent upcycled high-neck lace dresses, pussy-bow blouses, and colorful striped workwear suits—produced on a made-to-order basis in Los Angeles—speaking to the legacy of their creole ancestors and an aspect of Americana rarely seen in the world of fashion. “When I was a child, my grandmother would give me and my cousins an herb called bloodroot, a cod-liver-oil-type concoction, which I later discovered is used medicinally but also as a spiritual protector or guardian of family,” explains Henry, who spent childhood summers on her grandparents’ farm in Louisiana. “It’s stories like these that are hiding in plain sight in the narrative of America.” —Chioma Nnadi

Courtesy of John Galliano

John Galliano, at work on looks for Maison Margiela Artisanal from his home in northern France.

Courtesy of John Galliano

John Galliano, 
Designer, Maison Margiela

Nick Knight’s YouTube video capturing John Galliano’s work on the Maison Margiela Artisanal Co-Ed fall 2020 collection may prove one of the great fashion documentaries of all time, revealing as it does the designer’s protean imagination and intensely collaborative process even in times of enforced social distancing. In it, Galliano is seen interacting in the studio or via Zoom with his partner and artistic image director, Alexis Roche, workroom director Raffaele Ilardo, the model Leon Dame (who “is just electricity,” as Galliano says), hairdresser Eugene Souleiman, makeup maven Pat McGrath, and Jeremy Healy, who has produced the evocative music mixes for Galliano’s shows since the designer’s 1984 Central Saint Martins student graduation collection. Galliano’s tribe of Gen Z interns, meanwhile, fuels him: ‘It is so inspiring for me, creatively, to have this dialogue with a new generation of talents,” he says. “They are hungry for raw creativity, for authenticity and transparency. I hope that, in a small way, this exchange continues to empower self-expression and creativity for others to share out into the world.” —Hamish Bowles

Bella Hadid in a Prada coat, shirt ($920), pants ($835), and shoes; prada.com.

Photographed by Christian MacDonald

Miuccia Prada, 
Designer

The bigger the stars, the more comfortable they are sharing the spotlight. Take Miuccia Prada, who, in that always-ready-to-upend-the-world way of hers, invited Raf Simons earlier this year to codesign Prada with her, from the spring 2021 collection onward. By the time you read this, the first results of their working together will already have been unveiled.

Prada’s New York City store emerged from a fruitful collaboration between Prada, architect Rem Koolhaas, and the design firm 2×4.wallpapers Courtesy of 2×4, New York in collaboration with Prada. Installation and Production By Stingray.

Prada’s invitation to Simons is but the most showstopping act in a career that has been built on her constant yearning to disrupt and invigorate one’s own processes. To Miuccia Prada’s mind, you never move forward creatively if you see only your own path before you. There has been architect Rem Koolhaas, who helped her define the downtown NYC Prada store as a space to provocatively pitch her designs against a roster of dramatic backdrops. Or director Baz Luhrmann, her accomplice on the “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in 2012. Or any of the artists she has showcased at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, her gift to the city, opening up the local community (and far beyond) to the pleasures and challenges of contemporary art.

Just before Mr. Simons’s arrival at the house, Mrs. Prada unveiled her pre-spring 2021 collection, for which she invited five visual artists—Terence Nance, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms, Juergen Teller, and Willy Vanderperre—to present her designs as they saw fit, underscoring her belief that you are never solely responsible for the meaning of your work. “Once I create clothes, they belong to the life of people,” she said. “This format is a gesture—these clothes are not mine anymore.” Except that, with that kind of openness and curiosity, they really couldn’t be anyone’s but hers. — Mark Holgate

Finalists for the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize 2020, plus two leather baskets (at top right and center left) commissioned by the brand from master weavers in 2019. above center: Bella Hadid in a JW Anderson sleeveless sweater ($590) and ribbed sweater ($540); jwanderson.com.

Photographed by Christian MacDonald. Baskets: Adrian Samson/trunk archive (2). All Others: Courtesy of the LOEWE FOUNDATION.

Jonathan Anderson, 
Designer, JW Anderson & Loewe

During lockdown, Jonathan Anderson discovered an unlikely collaborator when he found at auction a written quote from Oscar Wilde bearing the message “The secret of life is in art.” “It’s such a simplistic statement,” says Anderson, “but it’s what we’ve all had to do, whether it’s tidying your house, knitting, or doing your garden”—or, in his case, working with his team on a pandemic-proof “show in a box” to present his men’s spring 2021 and women’s resort 2021 collections and collaborating with the British artist Anthea Hamilton on a conceptual Loewe presentation for spring 2021. Anderson has always modeled his design practice on the collaborative Gesamtkunstwerk of the Bloomsbury set or the world of William Morris and his acolytes, and he has reshaped Loewe in this spirit. The Loewe Foundation Craft Prize introduced Anderson to the master basket weaver Joe Hogan, which led to a project working with weavers from around the world. At JW Anderson, in turn, the designer has collaborated with textile mills on projects that pair his team with emerging technology to apply a creative—and sustainable—viewpoint. “Basket-making, glove makers, and materials—it’s about trying to refine those crafts with the knowledge that I have,” he says, “much of it gleaned from my work with Loewe. As a house, we are about craft in the purest sense of the word: That is where our modernity lies.”—H.B.

From left: Artist and chef DeVonn Francis, model and designer Sasha Melnychuk, Hillary Taymour, and photographer Charlie Engman in upstate New York.

Photographed by Charlie Engman

Hillary Taymour, 
Designer, Collina Strada

Manifesting togetherness is one of Hillary Taymour’s most admirable qualities. She is a New York City–based designer whose work at Collina Strada is as much about community building as it is about hand-drawn, print-heavy clothing: In the recent past, her runway shows were cast only with her diverse group of friends, and her collections are presented via gatherings—a sound bath, a farmers market, a concert—not backdrops. Taymour is in the business of fashion to foster creativity and sustainability and to continue expanding her eclectic universe of 2020-era flower children. She is surrounded by coconspirators like photographer Charlie Engman, artist and chef DeVonn Francis, and model and designer Sasha Melnychuk, who works alongside Taymour in the Collina Strada studio. “Charlie Engman and I have been working together on and off for the past 11 years,” she says of her best friend. “He’s truly like my creative brother.” Even during isolation, Taymour continued to connect, like the rest of us, through technology. “It’s more important than ever to use your voice for good,” she says. “That has always been rooted in the brand—even before people started paying attention.”—Brooke Bobb

Dynasty and Soull Ogun in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Hair, Nikki Nelms; makeup, Grace Ahn. Fashion Editors: Tonne Goodman and Alex Harrington.

Photographed by Gioncarlo Valentine

Dynasty and Soull Ogun, 
Designers, L’Enchanteur

Pieces by L’Enchanteur have an otherworldly, almost mystical feel. (The Brooklyn-based label’s site-entrance button, after all, reads abrakadabra.) In the mix is a lustrous silk do-rag printed with an illustration of delicate plants, an airy gray cotton vest cloak, and a range of dreamy jewelry—you may have spotted some of it in Beyoncé’s Black Is King visual album. The label is by Soull and Dynasty Ogun, whose deep connection is genetic: The two designers are identical twins. L’Enchanteur is the quintessential mix of their personalities and creative backgrounds. Soull is a self-taught metalsmith, while Dynasty works with textile design and tailoring. “You’re able to reflect on ways that you want to see yourself or things you are missing in your blind spots,” says Soull. The 36-year-old pair were raised in a creative and vibrant home, with their father—a chemist-engineer-cabdriver, well-heeled and dapper—a key inspiration, along with their mother, a seamstress from the West Indian island of Dominica. “[Our upbringing] really inspired the way that we look at the world,” says Soull. “We design telling our story of growing up.”—Liana Satenstein

Bella Hadid in an Alexander McQueen dress and earrings; alexandermcqueen.com.

Photographed by Christian MacDonald

Sarah Burton has drawn extensively on historic British textiles, such as this work by master 19th-century Welsh tailor James Williams.

The Wrexham Tailor’s Quilt from the textile collection at St. Fagans National Museum of History.

Sarah Burton,
Designer, Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton’s poetic debut collection for Alexander McQueen for spring 2011 took inspiration from the corn-husk dollies that in ancient Britain were traditionally used to propitiate the agricultural field gods. That collection immediately layered the house’s legacy of weaving dark romance and the horrors of the past—the Salem witch hunts, the barbarity of the English wars against the Scots—into the clothing’s warp and weft with the lyricism of folk history. Since then, Burton has drawn extensively on British craft traditions and collaborated with the country’s contemporary textile craftspeople, breathing new life into dying arts. “It’s our responsibility,” as she told Vogue, “to protect the things we love from the past—but it is also our job to innovate.”

Burton and her team embarked on field trips around Britain in search of inspiration and craft partners—from Scotland’s Shetland Islands, where they discovered hand-loomed tweed and crocheted wool lace as fine as cobwebs, to Wales, which yielded blankets Burton turned into garments, to Northern Ireland’s County Derry, where Burton sleuthed beetled linen, bleached in fields by the sun and the moon, and the mills of Macclesfield (where Burton was raised), which yielded classic woolen cloth. Back in the McQueen flagship store on London’s Bond Street, meanwhile, Burton, who studied at the city’s Central Saint Martins under the legendary Louise Wilson (who also taught McQueen himself), has proved herself a mentor in her own right, turning a floor over to a hub that generously shares her own inspirations and process with emerging generations of fashion students from around the world.—H.B.

Kerby Jean-Raymond, discussing Your Friends in New York on Good Morning Vogue in September.

Kerby Jean-Raymond, 
Designer, Pyer Moss

When the pandemic hit New York in March, it didn’t take Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond long to respond. Within a matter of weeks, the Brooklyn designer was helping to gather PPE for hospital workers and providing grants to local Black-owned businesses under the name Your Friends in New York (YFINY). What started as a feel-good tagline is now a community-led initiative in its second phase—one that is poised to offer a lifeline to young fashion creatives. “Your Friends in New York is an ecosystem. It aims to solve a lot of the problems for designers, creatives, people who work in and around our industry,” says Jean-Raymond. “It’s about making sure they have what they need to stay in business by sharing resources. There’s no shortage of talent.” Kering was the first to sign on to the project earlier this fall, a partnership that’s been in the works since CEO François-Henri Pinault met with the designer last year. Jean-Raymond describes it as akin to a record label, like “Def Jam in the mid-’90s or Roc-A-Fella in the early 2000s: You can expect an impressive roster. I’m by no means a savior of anything—I’m very much still figuring it out.” The designer plans to roll out full details for the launch of YFINY next year. “What’s the point of me achieving a certain level of success by myself?” he asks. “What I really want is to create a sustainable system where new brands helmed by people that look like us can actually get a shot.”—C.N.

Bella Hadid in an Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh top ($1,545), shirtdress ($1,507), asymmetric skirt ($1,584), and boots; off—white.com.

Photographed by Christian MacDonald

In recent years, Virgil Abloh’s collaborations and initiatives have bridged the worlds of fashion, art, sports, and sustainable energy.Courtesy of Virgil Abloh

Virgil  Abloh, 
Designer, Off-White and Louis Vuitton (men)

Abloh knows the difference between an opportunity and a solution. With his “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, which he created in partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund, he wants to provide both to young Black creatives. Though he raised $1 million from some long-standing corporate partners (and donated $150,000 of his own money) before announcing the fund, his main goal is to provide students—more than 100 of them—with a network that they can leverage. “Hopefully, someone from my program will take my job at Louis Vuitton—or my role at Off-White—one day,” Abloh says. Since announcing the fund in July, Abloh has been meeting with groups of students from all over via Zoom—regardless of whether or not they’re receiving scholarship money. What really seems to invigorate Abloh is connecting young Black designers with established names like Grace Wales Bonner of Wales Bonner and Jerry Lorenzo of Fear of God. “I’m making an open door,” Abloh says. “There’s a mentorship component that is critical, whether that’s from me or a myriad of young designers from diverse backgrounds—a lot of them are Black, and a lot of them are self-made people running grassroots brands. Obviously there’s an enormous importance on dollar amounts and providing opportunity, but a lot of it has to do with access to information and direct mentorship”—a kind of broad network he describes as a “new nepotism,” where reliable, mutually beneficial relationships are paramount. (Abloh’s own mentors include George Condo, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke, and cofounder of No Vacancy Inn Tremaine Emory.) Guidance and relationship-building take a lot of investment, but Abloh sees them as ways to make a difference in someone’s life. “My work is making sure that that door is open for the next-generation version of me—that there’s a young Black person that says, ‘I want to outdo what Virgil has done.’ I’m at a point in my career where that’s more fulfilling than necessarily my own practice.”—Sarah Spelling

Kenneth Nicholson (center) with his wife, Brooke Ochoa-Nicholson, and their four young children. Hair, Miles Jeffries; makeup, Dillon Peña. Fashion Editor: Alex Harrington.

Photographed by Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Kenneth Nicholson, 
Designer

If you watched designer Kenneth Nicholson’s Grasp, the recent short film that he created to showcase his work, you might have spotted two more Nicholsons, Rosaline and Echo, on the closing credits. They are his and his wife, Brooke Ochoa-Nicholson’s, daughters, who with the couple’s sons, Kenneth III and Kingsley, make the family six. “I don’t see myself as detached from my family, and I don’t see our experiences isolated from each other,” Nicholson says. “What I do is fueled by the relationship with my wife, my kids. I feel the most creative power—I am at my most effective—when I am operating out of a place of authenticity.” Nicholson’s also operating out of Los Angeles, a city he and Brooke, an actor, real estate agent, and their label’s CEO, began calling home in 2007 after their teenage lives intertwined in their native Texas—and before sojourns in Thailand (him) and the U.K. (her). “It still has values I want my kids to be exposed to: inclusion, self-care,” Nicholson says, and it suits him professionally as well: In L.A., he’s been able to find his professional footing and his design point of view, creating poetic and resonant fashion that celebrates a noble and sensitive view of maleness—and rejects the merest hint of toxic masculinity, something that the emotionally compelling narrative of Grasp underscores. “There are similarities between making fashion and making a film,” he says. “You have to respect the craft and operate in a world of storytelling.”—M.H.

From left: Christopher John Rogers, production director Alexandra Tyson, studio director David Rivera, and brand director Christina Ripley. Hair, Tamas Tuzes; makeup, Courtney Perkins. Fashion Editor: Alex Harrington.

Produced by William Galusha

Christopher John Rogers, 
Designer

It isn’t unusual for a designer to refer to his or her team as a family, but in Christopher John Rogers’s case, it’s more than just an expression. Until a few months ago, he didn’t just work day in and day out with his team: He lived with them, too. They’re the sewers, makers, and creatives who have been with Rogers since his first collection in 2018, and every garment that’s graced his runway began in their shared living room in Bushwick. (They’ve now migrated to a studio in SoHo.) Their process is one of true collaboration, with clothes that tell a story of “soul, intention, and craft,” Rogers says. “We don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but we love each other regardless, and that manifests itself in the clothes,” he adds. Even as the pandemic forced their close-knit group apart, Rogers credits his colleagues for keeping him focused and optimistic. “My team inspires me to dream bigger than I think is possible,” he says. “They also remind me of who I am, how I’ve gotten to this point in my career, and how to stay grounded through everything. We’re all just regular folks making clothes to help you feel extraordinary.”—Emily Farra

From near right: Emily Adams Bode at home in Manhattan with her fiancé, Aaron Aujla, and Benjamin Bloomstein, both of the furniture company Green River Project LLC. Hair, Tamas Tuzes; makeup, Courtney Perkins. Fashion Editor: Alex Harrington.

Emily Adams Bode, 
Designer

Most designers create a collection around a central theme or story, but for Emily Adams Bode, each garment weaves its own unique narrative. It often begins with the fabric itself, sourced from vintage dealers and suppliers all over the world—“lifelong friends,” Bode says—coupled with her studio team’s imaginative handwork: embroideries, illustrations, patchwork, quilting, beading, and more American traditions. “It takes a lot to make a Bode piece,” she says. “There are many hands that work on each one, which makes the work so distinct and personal.”

Every button-down, crocheted knit, or jacket becomes an instant heirloom, one that elicits an emotional response from Bode’s customers and collectors. Her shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has become a gathering place for those fans as well as curious passersby: “Our store allows them to be part of this diverse community of young people who care so much about history and craft,” she says. “People often say it evokes the energy of our early Fashion Week presentations.” That’s partly thanks to her frequent collaborator and fiancé, Aaron Aujla of Green River Project LLC. “I met Aaron over 10 years ago, and our creative conversations have never changed,” Bode adds. Green River Project designed her first shows, her store, and the gorgeous mahogany–paneled apartment the couple shares in Chinatown. Bode says it’s her favorite collaboration yet.—E.F.

Bella Hadid in a Dolce & Gabbana bolero ($995), dress, gloves, and slippers; dolcegabbana.com.

Photographed by Christian MacDonald. Hair, Shay Ashual; makeup, Dick Page. Produced by Alexis Piqueras at AP Studio Inc. Set Design by Marcs Goldberg.

Raising the flag for Italian design, Dolce & Gabbana toasted Florence—and the many talents of its artisans—in fall 2020.

Tuscany: LAURA MURRAY. Bon Appétit, 2018. Lily of Florence: DeAgostini/Getty Images. feathers: courtesy of Mazzanti Piume. Officina Profumo: Martino Lombezzi/contrasto/Redux. Flower: courtesy of TAF Ricami Firenze. woodworking: courtesy of Marco castorina. fabric: Maria Laura Antonelli/AGF/Shutterstock (2). garden: OBERTO GILI. Architectural Digest, 2014.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana,
Designers

When most people think map, they think Google. Then there are still some others who think needle and thread, including Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. Who of us isn’t aware that their clothes bear the legend made in italy—but their cartographical sweep goes far beyond Milan (their HQ) or Sicily (their spiritual home). Dolce and Gabbana chart the land by highlighting the artisans: the weavers and embroiderers, the tailors and the jewelers. In early September, the red location pin landed on Florence, where the duo worked with 38 of the city’s botteghe to inspire and create their couture collections. It was in part a tribute to Florence’s Alta Moda beginnings, in 1951, when entrepreneur Giovanni Giorgini showcased Florentine couturiers, but also a jump back in time to the splendors of the Renaissance. “After the Second World War, that Alta Moda moment helped create a new kind of rebirth for Italy through fashion,” Gabbana said recently. To a country that saw the worst of COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, their Florence collections are their own act of defiance against the rage of recent history—the belief in tomorrow bolstered by the techniques of yesteryear. It’s part of this duo’s belief that fashion is but one expression of the relationship between craft, creativity, and community. Those 38 botteghe Dolce and Gabbana celebrated included glassmakers, woodworkers, goldsmiths. “Italy is based on artisanship, not only in fashion but in food, wine—all aspects of culture,” Dolce said just after their Florence shows. “Every season we take Alta Moda to a new part of the country, and we go deeper and learn more about our culture.”—M.H.

Designer Autumn Adeigbo. Makeup, Allan Avendaño. 

Photographed by Micaiah Carter

“In this industry I always had people willing to help, and I want to help other women get that as well,” says Tory Burch. Hair, Michael Johnson; makeup, Berta Camal.

Photographed by Christian MacDonald

Autumn Adeigbo and Tory Burch, 
Designers

“She’s a Gemini and I’m a Libra, and we’re just compatible.” Autumn Adeigbo (the Libra) met Tory Burch (the Gemini) at a Tory Burch Foundation mentorship event in 2011. “Autumn’s charisma was something that really stood out,” Burch remembers. “In this industry I always had people willing to help, and I want to help other women get that as well.” The mentor and mentee share a similar aesthetic; they both love color and prints, the livelier the better, and purpose is at the heart of their eponymous brands. Adeigbo uses only women-owned production facilities and pays artisans in India fair-trade wages; all her clothes are made-to-order, which reduces waste. Last year, Burch named Adeigbo one of her Tory Burch Foundation Fellows; the program is designed to provide women entrepreneurs a community of support to grow their businesses. She also put Adeigbo’s barrettes in her holiday-season Seed Box, a gift that gives back. “When she selected me, that was a big impetus for the people around me saying, ‘Okay, you’re serious about this,’ ” Adeigbo says. “It was a new level of credibility.” This past summer, Adeigbo closed a $1.4 million capital round. “I’m the 36th Black woman to raise over $1 million in venture capital,” she says, “and the first, I believe, to do it for a fashion brand.”—N.P.