Designers on The Up: The New York Locals

This story originally appears in Justsmile Issue 3, Reflections are Protections.

Photography Rafael Martínez

Styling Marissa Baklayan
Text Dominic Cadogan

Seyiola wears sweater and dress ECKHAUS LATTA. Track pants, earrings and ring model’s own.

Forget what you heard about ‘New York Fashion Weak’, the city is doing just fine without the heavyweights, who have transplanted to Paris or disappeared from the NYFW schedule entirely. A melting pot of influences, styles and heritages, the city’s fearless fashion scene is a manifestation of its diverse makeup – unified only in a mantra to forge their own lanes.

Anonymous Club

Max wears jacket, t-shirt, pants, shoes and hat ANONYMOUS CLUB.

The newest offering from Shayne Oliver, Anonymous Club marked the designer’s fashion comeback after previous stints at Helmut Lang and Diesel. Functioning as a creative studio across the realms of fashion, art, music and performance – Anonymous Club builds on the foundation of Hood by Air (which Oliver co-founded with Raul Lopez in 2006), while ushering in a new generation of designers. With a 360-degree view, Anonymous Club is synonymous with nightlife – providing the music to dance to, the performance to lose yourself in and the clothes to wear. From crystallized tees to hulking leather jackets and oversized pants, these are clothes meant to captivate well past the end of the night out.

Nguyen Inc

Seyiola wears top and skirt NGUYEN INC. Boots and jewelry model’s own.

Born amid the pandemic in 2020, Nguyen Inc is a celebration of ex-Supreme designer Kim Nguyen’s Vietnamese heritage. Drawing inspiration from Kim Gordon’s cult 90s brand X-girl, Nguyen Inc’s upcycled streetwear is a mash-up of color clashes, crochet and cutesy tees. For Spring/Summer 2023, Nguyen hosted a guerilla show in Chinatown with models made up of friends Paloma Elsesser, Richie Shazam and Lynette Nylander.

Puppets and Puppets

Jaidev wears jacket and pants PUPPETS AND PUPPETS. T-shirt, shoes and ring model’s own.

Since its inception in 2018, Puppets and Puppets – birthed by Carly Mark and Ayla Argentina – has straddled the worlds of fashion and art. Playfully poking fun at fashion, the word ‘puppet’ is a jab at naive trend-followers. A fifty-fifty creative collaboration, Argentina heads design while fine artist Mark acts as creative director. Toeing the line between costume and clothing, the looks bounce between absurd one-of-a-kind pieces – like cheese wedge-shaped hats – to items like its covetable cookie-adorned handbag and Victorian silhouette blouses.


Max wears shirt, pants and swim brief BARRAGÁN. Aleah wears top and miniskirt BARRAGÁN. Necklace model’s own.

Hailing from Mexico City, Victor Barragán’s eponymous label brings his native to New York. Drawing inspiration from his birthplace’s underground youth, the brand celebrates CDMX club kid culture via a potent mix of sex and subversion. Brash and playful, Barragán’s models look like they’re stumbling the streets after a night out – their clothes unzipped and askew, falling off them. Intentional in both design and message, the designer uses his label to explore queerness, immigration and identity.

Sandy Liang

Aleah wears top and skirt SANDY LIANG. Shoes and necklace model’s own.

A New York native, Sandy Liang launched her eponymous label in 2013 after graduating from Parsons. Among her Asian-American peers, Liang smashes cultures together, the LES meeting Chinatown grandmothers like her own – the model for her debut lookbook. Since then, her Tomboyish silhouettes are no-nonsense designs that are made for the designer and women just like her.


Precious wears minidress, sandals and earrings RUI.

In 2019, a year after graduating from Parsons, Chinese designer Rui Zhao launched her eponymous label, RUI. Expanding on her signature knitwear, Zhao’s designs manipulate fabric with clever cut-outs, the look sculpting around the wearer’s body. A series of weblike monochromatic and multicolored panels, twist and stretch to reveal and conceal. In the years since, her offering has evolved to incorporate fuzzy, traditional knits – earning her the LVMH Special Prize in 2021.


Idries wears tank tops (layered) LRS. Jewelry model’s own.

Beginning as an experiment for Mexican-born designer Raul Solis, LRS has since evolved into a fully-fledged label. Initially cutting his teeth at New York peer Proenza Schouler, in 2014 Solis stepped out to work on his own label. Fusing American streetwear with elements from his heritage, the results are equal parts sexy and silly. Only in the LRS world would a red hoodie be adorned with devil horns, or see a hashtag transformed into sparkling eveningwear. Wardrobe staples are elevated with cheeky cutouts or almost unrecognizable with denim, overly distressed and barely-there tank tops seemingly unwearable (hint: they’re meant to be layered).

Ratio et Motus

Clara wears top, skirt and purse RATIO X CLUB GLAM. Shoes, socks and jewelry stylist’s own.

Translated from the Latin for ‘Sense and Emotion’, Ratio et Motus was launched by design duo Angela and Shenghao Li in 2018. With the dual concepts at its core, the accessories brand prioritizes craftsmanship and design details with vintage motifs, that are utilized to create handbags that are cherished keepsakes. Incorporating sustainability in the design process, the pair are purposeful with their water consumption, fabric use and offering – only recently offering a sophomore item: lace-up opera gloves.

Eckhaus Latta

Seyiola wears sweater and dress ECKHAUS LATTA. Track pants, earrings and ring model’s own.

Since 2011, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta have been at the forefront of New York’s burgeoning scene. Now a mainstay, the brand’s use of ‘unconventional’ models in its shows – previously casting friends like Dev Hynes, Kelela and Hari Nef – has become commonplace in the wider industry, bringing urgently needed genuine runway representation. Straddling the worlds of art and fashion, the brand has presented within several art institutions: including the Whitney, MoMa PS1 and Hammer Museum. Based between New York and Los Angeles, its offering effortlessly melds East Coast cool with West Coast repose. Think cozy knits in playful shapes, crafty accessories and fun footwear – all meant to be mix-and-matched for him, her or them.

Melitta Baumeister

Oliver wears tank, skirt, tights and shoes MELITTA BAUMEISTER. Jewelry model’s own.

German-born designer Melitta Baumeister first moved to New York to attend Parsons, launching her self-titled label after graduating in 2013. Immediately picked up by VFiles’ NYFW show, her debut explored a longtime obsession of form versus function. From jackets to dresses, proportions are playfully blown up to reveal the simplicity in their design. As the brand has evolved, so too have Baumeister’s looks – her recent outings, edging on sculpture with misshapen bumps bulging from the models’ bodies.


Precious wears bra, skirt and bag SC103.

Debuting in 2019, SC103 was Sophie Andes-Gascon and Claire McKinney’s chance to finally launch their own label – after years of working for others since graduating from Pratt. Using their respective archives as a starting point for inspiration, found fabrics are used to create patchwork and comically oversized leather links enmeshed to create tote bags. Both whimsical and heartfelt, the brand is a testament to the designers’ collaborative relationship – giving wearers a slice of sisterhood with clothes that feel as if they have come straight out of their own wardrobes.

Photography Rafael Martínez

Styling Marissa Baklayan

Text Dominic Cadogan

Hair Junya Nakashima 

Makeup Andrew Colvin

Styling assistance Kaia Carioli 

Hair assistance Sol Rodriguez 

Makeup assistance Zac Hart

Casting Blair Broll 

Models Aleah, Clara, Dani, Idries, Jaidev, Max, Oliver, Precious and Seyiola.

PUBLISHED: March 8th 2024