I don’t know about you, but 2017 has felt like the ultimate dichotomy. On one hand, it’s been really tough, especially if you're looking to the news as an indicator. But on the other, it’s given each of us some really incredible moments. Personally, I found myself entering a new (and arguably the most formative) decade of my life in a super charged, hyper sensitive, post-election America, trying to discover not only who I am as a young woman and creative, but also as an active global citizen in this rapidly evolving (or devolving, depending on which lens you’re choosing to look through) world.
Of course, every year brings its own set of challenges. This year is no different - with the battle for equality being waged on all fronts, as the dark cloud of nationalism creeps over the world, and one natural disaster after another displace millions; however, each time - out of the weight, fear, and hopelessness they can bring - rises our most vibrant, energized, hopeful, and proactive people.
Fashion was no exception. In response to this current climate, the industry exploded with creativity. Consider it our version of rebellion. Individuality saw a particularly new kind of embrace, one where flaws, differences, and quirks were celebrated. Diversity, though it has a long way to go, took great leaps in campaigns, on the runways, within magazines, and behind the scenes. No topic seemed taboo. Systemic industry sexual harassment and abuse were bravely exposed. Race, identity, class, mental health and more were faced head on through the eyes of designers, photographers, editors, artists, and models alike. As the year that was draws to a close, we wanted to celebrate those within our industry who, with all that’s going on, were able to thrive in the chaos. So we’ve compiled a list of 30 young creatives who not only had a fruitful 2017, but used fashion to speak up, stand out, or just help us escape.
Charles Jeffrey, 26, @_charlesjeffrey
Over the past couple of years, Glaswegian designer and creative Charles Jeffrey has become king of London’s new generation of club kids with his brand and cult nightclub collective LOVERBOY. Instead of holding each as two separate ventures, Jeffrey is merging his two worlds - the vibrantly radical escapist London club scene and his binary-breaking, expressionist brand - into a single codependent entity, one organically influencing and informing the other. After a highly successful 2017, his year was capped with being awarded the Fashion Award for ‘British Emerging Talent - Menswear’.
Philip Picardi, 26, @pfpicardi
Philip Picardi’s year began with earning the title of Digital Editorial Director of Teen Vogue and Allure in a first of its kind move, and is ending with the launch and success of his “mission-driven, multi-platform, LGBTQ-focused publication,” Them, bringing depth and intersectionality to the online space. Picardi, along with Teen Vogue Editor In Chief Elaine Welteroth (who became not only the youngest EIC of a major publication, but the second black woman EIC in Condé Nast history), took the magazine to new progressive territory in the wake of the 2016 election, telling The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, “To tell a teenager that she should stick to lip gloss - when she’s being directly impacted by policies affecting her lifestyle and the lifestyle of those around her - is frankly irresponsible.”
Halima Aden, 20, @kinglimaa
Trailblazer is just one of the many monikers that can be used to describe Somali model Halima Aden. The refugee and UNICEF partner already made history for being the first hijab-wearing Miss USA contestant in 2016, but this year she did it again (again and again) when she became the first hijab-wearing model in the world of fashion - walking in all of the major fashion weeks and breaking ground as the first to wear the hijab on the cover of a major fashion publication. With credits including the covers of CR Fashion Book, VOGUE Arabia, Glamour, Allure, and Harper’s Bazaar to being one of the faces of Fenty Beauty to walking for Yeezy, Max Mara, and Alberta Ferretti, Halima’s well on her way to becoming the first hijab-wearing supermodel.. Oh, and she was crowned our 2017 Model of the Year (nbd).
Shayne Oliver, 28
We all know the genius of Shayne Oliver, thanks to his merging of high fashion and street with his brand Hood By Air. This year, Oliver made major waves with his special collection for Helmut Lang - both revitalizing and yet completely reinventing the iconic brand’s energy. By now, we’ve seen many young new designers have their go at iconic fashion labels, but by artfully balancing brazen sexuality with tailored elegance, all while maintaining what it was that made us fall for him in the first place, Oliver’s standout collection is one we won’t soon forget.
Coco, 7, @coco_pinkprincess
Would anyone have guessed a year ago that the coolest style icon to emerge from 2017 would be seven year-old Coco, the little Instagram phenom, from Tokyo, Japan? Serving looks to her 438k followers (the majority are more than twice her age), her elevated personal style of vintage and resale clothes ranges from punk to normcore to Michele-style extra-ness. She found her love of fashion amongst the clothes in her parents’ vintage store, Funktique, at just 3 years old, and since then her style has garnered a cult-like following.
Maxim Magnus, 19, @maximmagnus
Belgian model and activist Maxim Magnus had a breakout year. Not only did she sign with Linden Staub and make her LFW debut and land a major campaign with Nike, but, by joining forces with Adwoa Aboah’s Gurls Talk, she is following in the footsteps of Hari Nef and Andreja Pejić in heightening trans visibility, education, and normalization.
Petra Collins, 24, @petrafcollins
Canadian photographer, artist, model, and director Petra Collins has been the reigning Queen of the Ethereal Dream and Mother of the Modern Female Gaze for a while now, however, 2017 saw her career blossom even more. She continued her partnership with Alessandro Michele and Gucci, directing a ‘Gucci Eyewear’ short film and serving as the face of Gucci Bloom alongside Hari Nef and Dakota Johnson. Collins worked extensively with musician and friend Selena Gomez, forming a strong creative partnership. Collins created the visuals for Gomez’s ‘Fetish’ music video as well as directed her most recent AMAs performance. On top of all that, and shooting with the likes of Solange, Frank Ocean, and Rihanna for various magazine spreads, she also held exhibits at MoMA as well as in her hometown of Toronto at the CONTACT gallery, and released her debut retrospective book, "Coming Of Age."
Blondey McCoy, 20, @blondeymccoy
2017 saw skateboard culture continue on as one of fashion’s latest muses, with Thrasher merch and *literally* anything Supreme popping up everywhere, but for British pro-skater and Alasdair McLellan muse Blondey McCoy, the marriage of the two domains is a dream come true. This year the designer, artist, and curator released his debut Thames jewellery line with Stephen Webster and expanded his Thames clothing line with Fred Perry, launched his solo art show, Us & Chem, at HENI Gallery in Soho, and collaborated with Burberry to create three holiday murals scattered around downtown Manhattan as well as front their most recent rainwear campaign.
Akua Shabaka, 20, @shabakaaa
Representation within the industry was a highly debated topic this year, and - with their deeply personal brand House of Aama - Akua Shabaka and her mother Rebecca Henry are addressing that, the importance of the black experience, spirituality, and the celebration of heritage. Starting out upcycling vintage clothes in 2013, the duo launched their BLOODROOT collection, “an ode to Southern Creole spiritually and African Roots... The tales of a Rootworker, Southern Lady and Bluesman,” this year, making them one of this year’s breakout brands. The collection is steeped in the history and aesthetic of the postbellum American South, where the assertion of black pride and identity were arguably as important then as they are right now.
Harry Styles, 23, @harrystyles
This year was our re-introduction to Harry Styles. With his highly adored debut solo album, collaborations with James Corden and Stevie Nicks, and his acting debut in the critically acclaimed film Dunkirk, Styles both broke and expanded the perceptions first formed during his One Direction years. He owned 2017 sartorially, with an extensive partnership with Gucci sporting 25 different suits during this year’s leg of his world tour. Styles has also made a commitment to making every show of his world tour a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Adwoa Aboah, 25, @adwoaaboah
Though she’s always been a standout in our eyes, I think we’re going to remember this year as the year Adwoa Aboah officially became a supermodel. She was everywhere - scoring countless campaigns, editorials, and runway spots. She also graced cover after cover after cover this year, nearly breaking the internet with Edward Enninful’s debut British Vogue cover. Aboah has also continued her project, Gurls Talk, helping young women open up about sexuality, mental health, and body image. It’s no wonder she won ‘Model of the Year’ at this year’s Fashion Awards.
Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt, @artschool_london
With their fashion label/collective Art School, Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt are bending all of the industry's rules on gender. The creative duo and IRL couple both identify as gender non-binary, which influences how they design their clothes to be a nuanced representation of a genderqueer reality. Art School made a big splash at LFW this year with their colorful, Swarovski-studded, theatrical A/W 2017 show, completely dismantling any stereotype about gender fluid fashion meaning shapeless, lifeless, and bland.
Cleo Wade, 28, @cleowade
In times of darkness, sometimes the smallest words can bring the brightest hope. During this really tough 2017, the words of feminist poet/author/activist/model Cleo Wade have put so many of our inner thoughts, fears, and hopes onto paper with bite-sized handwritten and typewriter-typed poems of hope, contemplation, and positivity shared to her 302k followers on Instagram.
Sage Adams, 20, @sageaflocka
Sage Adams has had a whirlwind of a year. After dropping out of college last year, they became the writing and poetry curator for the Art Hoe Collective. They are also an artist across mediums and has served as contributor to both Fader and NYLON magazine - but it’s with their friendship and creative partnership with musician SZA that has catapulted them onto another level this year first with the artwork for the “Drew Barrymore” single, then the entire visual direction of SZA’s latest album, Ctrl. Between touring with SZA and working with the Collective, Adams also curated an “exploration of complex identity” at the Vex Populi Blackbox called, "Me, Myself, and I," featuring workshops, installations, and performances.
Paloma Elsesser, 25, @palomija
Model Paloma Elsesser is out to change the game - plain and simple. She rose from the Instagram cool-girl depths to become not just another token curvy model, but one of the freshest faces in fashion this year. Becoming muse to legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath, starring in major campaigns for Glossier, Nike, Girlfriend Collective, Fenty Beauty, and ASOS, spreads in Vogue, and more, she’s become a role model for a whole new generation of young girls by encouraging them to embrace their skin, bodies, and originality.
Roberta Einer, 25, @robertaeiner
After visiting her spring 2018 presentation in London, Estonian-born designer Roberta Einer became one of our favorite emerging designers from this year. Exploring color, skateboard culture and more, her designs tap into the vibrancy of youth with their loud, unapologetic aesthetics.
Millie Bobby Brown, 13, @milliebobbybrown
As the telekinetic wonderkid Eleven on Netflix’s Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown made a buzzcut infinitely cool and took looking “bitchin’” to another level. Yet, it was during the show’s press circuit when she became a full-fledged fashion force. She’s starred in a Calvin Klein campaign, sat front row at countless shows, and landing major magazines like British Vogue, Variety, and Interview. Never sacrificing her youth, she's donned Rodarte, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, and Kenzo. Millie is definitely one to watch.
Lou Stoppard, 27, @loustoppard
Lou Stoppard is a multi-faceted force. She's a curator, Editor-At-Large at ShowStudio, one of the most respected young voices in the industry, and now an author. This year she released her three year project, a 300+ page book entitled, "Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration.”
Rihanna, 29, @badgalriri
If this year proved anything, it's that Rihanna can do it all. Not only did she end the year as the most streamed female artist on Spotify, but her diverse new beauty line, Fenty Beauty, became a sensation named “Launch of the Year” by Beauty Inc. and one of “the 25 best inventions of 2017” by TIME. Her Fenty x Puma show brought the X-Games to NYFW, she continued her philanthropic work to bring education to children all over the world with her Clara Lionel Foundation, made a big screen appearance in Valerian, filmed her highly anticipated role in the upcoming Oceans 8, and - with the help of cover after magnificent cover - maintained her title as one of the most stylish woman in the world.
Raury, 21, @raury
For most of 2017, Raury was known for being one of the top emerging artists of the year. However he sent shockwaves across the industry when he protested Dolce & Gabbana during their spring/summer 2018 show. With “Give Me Freedom” and “I Am Not Your Scapegoat” scrawled on his chest, he made the split second decision to protest the designers’ choice to proudly dress Melania Trump and then mock and monetize protest culture with their collection, exposing the ethical hypocrisy that lies within some of fashion's biggest brands.
Simon Porte Jacquemus, 27, @jacquemus
French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus has revitalized his country's fashion scene. With his brand Jacquemus, he takes classic Parisian and Southern France tropes and turns them on their head. He elevated his signature pieces this year; the hats were larger than ever, the accessories were even more architectural, and his artistically designed shoes were museum worthy.
Molly Goddard, 28, @mollygoddard
We were first introduced to British designer Molly Goddard three years ago, with her celebrations of femininity in the form of tulle dresses, and ever since we've been enamored with her consistency and originality. After a super successful year where you literally couldn't open a magazine or scroll through Instagram without seeing a Molly Goddard confection, Molly was awarded Breakthrough Designer at The Harper’s Bazaar UK Woman of the Year Awards.
Kaia Gerber, 16, @kaiagerber
For most sixteen year-olds, the highlight of their year is getting their driver’s license. But for model scion Kaia Gerber, this was her breakout year in the industry. Debuting at Calvin Klein, Kaia also opened Alexander Wang and walked for Fenty x Puma, Versace, Marc Jacobs, Off-White, and Chanel (just to name a few). She also landed campaigns for Marc Jacob Beauty and his Daisy perfume as well as Versace and Omega. Top all of that off with her first cover for Teen Vogue and a nomination for the Fashion Awards’ ‘Model of the Year’ - it's easy to say 2017 is the year Kaia arrived.
Jaden Smith, 19, @c.syresmith
With last year’s Louis Vuitton campaign, Jaden Smith went from actor and musician scion to a full-on fashion muse challenging status quo's and pushing artistic boundaries. This year Jaden took things to the next level. Between starring in Netflix’s The Get Down and Neo Yokio, he released his debut solo album - the visually stunning Syre. He continued his relationship with Vuitton, and made waves when his accessory to this year's Met Gala were his recently chopped blonde dreads.
Cameron Russell, 30, @cameronrussell
The floodgates of sexual harassment and assault reporting completely broke open this year, with women everywhere sharing their stories as part of the #MeToo movement. Veteran model and activist Cameron Russell stood up to bring the long history of systematic assault and harassment within the fashion and modelling industry into the light by posting nearly 80 anonymous stories of assault/harassment on her Instagram with the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse. For her publicizing of these accounts she was named this year's Social Media Star for Models.com’s Model of the Year Awards.
Coco Capitán, 24, @cococapitan
Artist, photographer, and writer Coco Capitán’s work is raw, real, and very much tongue and cheek - and this year it caught the eye of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. He tapped the Spanish-born triple threat to collaborate on the brand’s fall/winter 2017 collection, putting her off-beat, hand-written aphorisms like, “What are we going do do with all this future?”, “Tomorrow is now yesterday,” and “Common sense isn’t all that common,” on various pieces within the collection.
Slick Woods, 21, @slickwoods
As we've seen throughout this list, individuality was celebrated like no other year - and breakout model Slick Woods is a complete individual. This year she took the industry by storm with her buzz cut, tattoos, beautiful pout, and tooth gap. But it was her unapologetic attitude and total self-expression that really won everyone over. You could find a major runway that didn't have Woods on it, nor open up a magazine. To top things off she became on of the faces for Rihanna's Fenty Beauty, completely embodying the brand's essence.
Destiny Frasqueri aka Princess Nokia, 25, @princessnokia
Destiny Frasqueri, better known as Princess Nokia, is the creative mind music has been missing. Her work - be it her album 1992 or her podcast Smart Girl Club Radio - strives to create a complex and nuanced perspective of blackness, queerness, and femininity. Nokia also emerged from 2017 a style muse with her 90s tomboy aesthetic, scoring a major campaign with MadeMe.
Jazelle Zanaughtti aka Ugly Worldwide, 22, @uglyworldwide
In the light of this beauty revolution we’re experiencing, breakout model Jazelle (otherwise known by her Instagram handle @uglyworldwide) took this year by storm with her mind-bending look, outspoken mind, completely original makeup looks, and positive messages of self-love and acceptance. First catching the eye of photographer Nick Knight with her buzzed hair, gold grills and her colorful, cartoonish, quirky style, she landed major spots on the runways of Gypsy Sport and Fenty x Puma this year, as well as the ASOS Makeup and FKA Twigs x Nike campaigns.