Unexpected Fashion Stories: Emerging Capitals

Is it time to redraw the world’s fashion map?

Text Hannah Vasdekys

So many claim that style is a global language, but we all know that that doesn’t mean all places are equal when it comes to their status in fashion – even if the internet has broken down many of the world’s cultural barriers.

But, here at ACS, we’re strong believers in life in high-end fashion beyond the so-called fashion capitals. The smaller cities, the backwaters, the quieter corners of the world, the underdogs that’s where we’re starting to see development and birth as well as some of the most progressive, rousing names in style culture. They don’t see not being in Paris, Milan, New York or London as a hindrance. Their homeland and its history is a springboard for their creativity.

Showcasing a handful of the cities currently shining on the international fashion scene, exploring the West-to-East economic rebalancing and a pioneering shift toward emerging-market cities through the lens of fashion, here are three rising capitals ACS think are shaking things up…

sketch 040 the blue mosque, istanbul turkeyIstanbul

East meets west geographically and culturally in Turkey’s largest city. Located across both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus, Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents.

Since the first Istanbul Fashion Days in 2009, organised by local designers and industry groups, Istanbul has become a compelling presence on the global fashion radar. The international success of Turkish designers such as Ece Gozen, Les Benjamins and Zeynep Kartal has strengthened the country’s fashion rep, while, on the home front, a rising crop of local designers and brands are coming into their own.

Istanbul Fashion Week now encapsulates the mergence of old and new, bringing together contrasting cultures for a celebration of Turkish designers and brands in national and international tribunes.

Ece Gozen

Having begun her career at Hakaan Yildirim, where she was involved in designing collections in Paris, London and Milan fashion weeks, Ece Gozen quickly became noticed for her skill
and clarity of vision. In 2012 she received 3rd place in the 20th IHKIB Young Fashion Designers Award for her project ‘Reflection’. This recognition, along with her wealth of experience, drove her to found her own successful label in 2013. Think sports meets couture, feminine women exploring a more athletic aesthetic to powerful effect.

Les Benjamins

Les Benjamins aims to communicate ‘a true vision of modern-day Turkey’. Modern, playful pieces nod to experimental trends while remaining loyal to traditional tailoring techniques. Each season’s collection is inspired by geopolitical events.

Founder Bunyamin Aydin draws inspiration from the spirit and attitudes of ‘Les Jeunes Turcs’, a young group of political reformists during the Ottoman Empire. Having expanded from Istanbul’s hip area of Galata to sell worldwide, he continues to live by the motto ‘Something old, something true, something borrowed, all ways new’.

Zeynep Kartal

Manchester-based Zeynep Kartal has turned a lifelong love of couture into a label. Having benefited from the support of Fashion Scout, an initiative which cultivates design talent and is responsible for launching the careers of Peter Pilotto, Craig Lawrence and Pam Hogg. This kind of endorsement and timeless designs, it’s only a matter of time before Kartal enjoys the same level of success.


Seoul 007

South Korea may lie in the cultural shadow of China and Japan but that hasn’t stopped its capital from building a thriving fashion scene. With natural spectacles and street markets galore, it’s no wonder that South Korea is becoming known as a hub of culture and artistry.

Seoul’s top designers twist the Western fashion blueprint into something completely their own.The city’s street style, meanwhile is, to put it mildly, a little outrageous. Outfits are donned by flamboyant Koreans – some of who have even been propelled into TV careers off the back of their street style stardom.

From Seoul’s distinctive street style to runway chic, here are ACS’s top 3 South Korean fashion brands defining some of Asia’s best looks. For the moment anyway.


pushBUTTON is a press favourite. It’s rare to pick up a Korean editorial without one of their garments featured. Park Seunggun, the brand’s creative director, often steers collections in a playful direction, whilst never straying from a contemporary and clean line. Founded in 2003, pushBUTTON have collaborated with the likes of Puma and Korean beauty giant Amorepacific, lending their aesthetic to more everyday items.

Johnny Hates Jazz

Johnny Hates Jazz is the creation of University of the Arts London graduate Choi Je Hyung. Hyung creates thoughtful, witty collections with undertones of social messaging. She has previously worked with kindred spirit and British icon Vivienne Westwood. Previous collections have included looks inspired by military wear and the Cuban revolution.

Steve J. & Yoni P.

Having debuted their first collection at London Fashion Week in 2007, this duo’s designs can be found at fashion retailers such as Opening Ceremony. Steve J. & Yoni Ps clothes are wearable, but with an unexpected kick in the details.




Avant-garde is an everyday thing in Antwerp. The world’s diamond trading capital burst onto the fashion scene in 1988, when the Antwerp Six (Walter van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee), all graduates from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Arts, showed their deconstructed collections together at London Fashion Week. Current design stars Raf Simons, Kris van Assche and Bernhard Willhelm have all once called Antwerp home.d5021058r

Aside from the fame of the Six, Antwerp’s emerging fashion stardom is largely due to the exceptional reputation of the Royal Academy, where Walter Van Beirendonck is artistic director. The Academy draws talented fashion students from around the world for its conceptual take on garment creation.

As a home to several luxury houses, the city found just north of Brussels has become a hotspot for young fashion creatives, retaining many Academy graduates who choose to remain in the city.

Get to know ACS’s three rising stars from the Antwerp scene.

Glenn Martens

antwerpwebIn 2008, while still in his final year at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Glenn Martens was hired as a junior designer for Jean Paul Gaultier. By 2010, after graduating top of his class, Martens was working with European clothing brands including Bruno Pieter’s ‘Honest By’. By 2012, Martens launched his own womenswear line at Paris Fashion Week. Conscious of the need to balance his artistic expression and sense of utility, he himself points out that it is important for clothing to ultimately be wearable.

Minju Kim

Awarded the H&M Design Award at the 2013 Stockholm Fashion Week, Minju Kim has swiftly made a name for herself in the fashion world. Although originally from South Korea, Minju Kim graduated in 2013 with an MA in fashion design from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Her designs have been coined ‘bubbly’, due to the rounded shapes and pastel-coloured fabrics that have become characteristic of her style. The unique quality of her work seems to originate from her interest in the Japanese art of manga, which she also draws herself.

Devon Halfnight Leflufy

Born in Vancouver, Devon Halfnight Leflufy later moved to Antwerp to study for his BFA and MA at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. As a designer, Leflufy’s style is largely influenced by his teenage years, spent surfing the web, skateboarding and listening to hip-hop music. As a result, many of his designs have a west-coast streetwear element to them, incorporating college pop culture and neon colours reminiscent of the 1990s.A Certain Syrup