The 25 Most Relevant Fashion Figures in 2017

Familiarize yourself with the change-makers already making waves this year, including models, designers, stylists and more

Alessandro Michele takes a bow at Gucci.
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Adwoa Aboah, Model

It's not enough to just be a model in 2017; girls these days need to have a side hustle that brings even more attention to their look, walk and steez. Aboah is admirable because when she's not posing for Calvin Klein or walking for Marc Jacobs, she's working on Gurls Talk, a platform that empowers young people to embrace modern day feminism and really be whoever they want to be. Recent stories on the site discus social media-induced jealousy, growing up in Ulanhot, China and the real meaning of the word "no."

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Adrian Joffe, President of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market

Dover Street Market is one of the world's most inspiring stores with it’s intelligently curated, high-end market feel and Joffe is the man responsible for the edgy, thought-provoking boutiques that can be found in New York, London, Ginza, Beijing and Singapore. The CEO and co-founder (his wife, Rei Kawakubo, is the other half) has served as a champion for established brands and a catapult for younger brands. Russian artist and photographer Gosha Rubchinskiy is one of the emerging labels that has found success, thanks to Joffe's unwavering support.

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Alessandro Michele, Creative Director at Gucci

Before you roll your eyes and click to the next slide, hear us out. Michele made this list because he not only embraces maximalism with open arms, but he does not cut corners, under any circumstances. His runway collections for Gucci usually contain upwards of 70 looks (Fall/Winter 2017 included an astonishing 120 outfits), each of which is composed of many moving parts: a flowered shirt, a ruffled and embroidered skirt, crystal-festooned boots, a heavily braided silk headband, half-gloves, a tangle of necklaces, layers of bracelets, dangling doorknocker earrings, plus a purse and maybe some sunglasses. His fashion week invitations have just about become collectable pieces of art. The words "simplicity" and "minimalist" don't seem to be in Michele's vocabulary and he's done his part in removing it from the fashion industry's vernacular, at least for now.

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Alexandre de Betak, Founder of Bureau Betak

This NYFW, Betak's touch could be seen all over, in the boulders at Lacoste, the gilded walls of the St. Regis for Jason Wu's 10th anniversary, the surprisingly enchanting Hilton Hotel ballroom at Sies Marjan, within the crumbling walls of RKO Theater for Alexander Wang and so on. He is the go-to show producer for top designers around the globe and he is known for creating sets that transport the audience far from their seats, for the most exciting shows of fashion week. There will be no blank canvases here, when Betak is hired to set a scene.

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Christopher Bailey, President and Chief Creative Officer of Burberry

The see-now, buy-now bandwagon is saturated with brands both big and small, but few labels have succeeded at a shoppable runway quite like Burberry. Consider the fact that Brooklyn Beckham appeared on the cover of Wonderland rocking a sweater that debuted on the runway a mere 24 hours before. Bailey has elegantly ushered the heritage label into the 21st century. Though stylists and editors might not appreciate the many non-disclosure agreements and iron-clad secrecy that each collection is shrouded in, the immediacy of the Burberry runway designs do deliver a sense of magic to their in-store rollouts.

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Demna Gvasalia, Creative Director of Balenciaga, Head Designer of Vetements

This list wouldn't be complete without a mention of Gvasalia. He has done his part in making Juicy Couture cool again (thanks to a collection that was stuffed with various collaborations), tapped Bernie Sanders as inspiration and put boxy suiting back on the style map. He's not re-inventing the wheel here but everything this designer puts on a runway, whether it's the glorified and storied Balenciaga or the experimental version at Vetements, he sparks a conversation. And often, a million copies.

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Elaine Welteroth and Phillip Picardi, Editor and Editorial Director at Teen Vogue

Once upon a time, Teen Vogue was a cheerful pint-sized fashion bible for high schoolers, known for doling out tips on how to decorate their bedrooms like a cool Upper East Side teen or serving up lists on the must-have jeans. Now, they are the focus of stories like this: "The true story of how Teen Vogue got mad, got woke, and began terrifying men like Donald Trump." That story, published by Quartz, sums up pretty well how the glossy became a soapbox for actual issues that teens face and a source of news for basically anyone living in 2017 (partially due to the vibrant and effective political writing by Lauren Duca). This new focus can be credited to Welteroth and Picardi, who are guiding the magazine and its website into the 21st century, in a well-informed and smart manner, along with some fashion discussion, too.

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Esther Kinnear-Derungs and Tara Davies, Co-Founders at Linden Staub

At just one year old, the Linden Staub modeling agency is extremely green, but their mission to be an honest, transparent and empowering base for their models makes them a standout. As a 100 percent mother agency, they are humanizing the casting process by protecting their young talent from the rough politics that exists between agents. Founded by women, for women, Kinnear-Derungs and Davies have booked models on jobs for Gucci, Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith; their most notable faces are are Dasha DenisenkoPia Priewe and Brogan Loftus.

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Courtesy Linden Staub

Hari Nef, Model

This model is more than just BFFs with Alessandro Michele and the first famous face to front a Mansur Gavriel campaign. She's the first trans model to not only sign with IMG Models, but to land a campaign with L'Oréal. Earlier this February, at an LGBTQ immigration rally, she delivered a moving, impromptu speech. "I did not expect to speak today, but I reached from the top of my head for something I find to be crucial in the midst of our mobilization against Donald Trump and his pernicious administration. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, are the mothers of the LGBT movement," she proudly said. She has paved the way for many other trans models to follow in her footsteps.

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Hedi Slimane, Photographer

This former creative director at Saint Laurent might be operating from the sidelines, but he's still making waves. In March 2016 he departed the brand, after four years at the helm, but not without making a lasting mark. A few months following the termination of his tenure, he sent out a series of rambling tweets, which have since been deleted, defending his changes of the brand name and his use of the YSL logo. He also successfully sued Kering, Saint Laurent's owner, collecting $13 million for the way his departure was handled.

Now, Slimane is focusing his time and effort into photography. He shot a portfolio of photos for V Magazine in January 2017, which is part of an ongoing partnership.  However, returning to design isn't totally out of the cards.

"I never intended to stop designing. I never said I will stop designing in the future," he confirmed to The New York Times. Recently, his name has been floated as a replacement for Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, so keep an eye on this disruptive character.

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Kerby Jean-Raymond, Designer at Pyer Moss

Jean-Raymond deserves a spot on this list because he is equal parts designer and activist—but he doesn't let either of those titles dominate. For example, his Fall 2017 show was an homage to both his immigrant father and the plight of the elderly. Earlier in 2016, he decided to bypass Art Basel to protest at Standing Rock. The theme of his Spring 2017 range was Bernie Sanders vs. Bernie Madoff; Fall 2016 was a resounding statement about Black Lives Matter. He's also not afraid to confront real life issues on clothing: one t-shirt featured a docket from a lawsuit Jean-Raymond was entangled in, a letterman jacket was cheerfully splashed with yellow letters that spelled out "Greed," his father's Green Card photo was printed on a shirt and so on. Clothing as activism isn't quite a novel concept, but few designers are executing it as nobly (or as wearable) as Pyer Moss is.

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Lotta Volkova, Stylist

It can be hard to discern where Demna Gvasalia's work ends and where Volkova's begins. The Russian-born stylist, who also serves as a "creative catalyst" and model for Gvasalia, is helping to inform collections at both Vetements and Balenciaga. But Volkova's subversive and decidedly Eastern European finesse isn't just relegated to the brands helmed by Gvasalia; she often works with Gosha Rubchinskiy and this season she styled runway shows for Mulberry and Emilio Pucci, in addition to being fashion director at large for Re-Edition and Man About Town.

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Matthias Wickenburg and Peter Fitzpatrick, Co-Founders at Swipecast

"Swipecast is Linkedin for the fashion industry, with the ability to do payments," explained Fitzpatrick, rather simply. The invitation-only app and website can be used to hire freelance talent, including photographers, stylists, models, retouchers, influencers, hair and makeup artists and almost anything else one would need for production. Ellen Von Unwerth, Nick Knight, Holly Shackleton and Glenda Bailey, plus brands such as Alexander Wang, Tom Ford, Laird & Partners and Gucci, make up the 5,000 members on the app; there are 16,000 others on the waitlist.

Not only is it a cheaper alternative to the old fashioned way of booking—a 10 percent fee, rather than 40 percent—talent must be paid within 24 hours of completing a job. This site is revolutionizing the talent booking system, for the better.

Courtesy Swipecast

Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, Co-Founders of Eckhaus Latta

Avant-garde, gender-fluid clothing isn't usually made to end up in museums, but that's exactly what has happened to threads from Eckhaus Latta. Both PS1 and the Hammer Museum have included the brand in exhibits, which is quite a feat for a five-year-old company. Their fashion shows, held in unexpected corners of New York (like a midtown Bolton's department store) draw cool kids, top editors and a surprising sprinkling of established buyers.

The design duo opened their first retail store in East Hollywood in 2016 and considering both co-founders are under 30, they're proving that you don't need to have mass appeal in order to find success.

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Monica Rose, Stylist

Rose falls on the entirely separate end of the stylist spectrum from others on this list, but she is influential nonetheless. She makes young stars look like their of-the-moment style is home-made. Rose just happens to be the woman who clothes Gigi Hadid in her picture-perfect, model-off-duty look, whether that means hitting the red carpet in a sparkling gown or emerging from a fashion show in the puffer jacket of the moment. Other models who depend on Rose's services include Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber and Chrissy Teigen. Some have likened this celeb stylist to Rachel Zoe, who carved out a sartorial niche in the early 2000s, by dressing a gang of "it" girls in similarly chic getups that could easily be traced back to the stylist where they originated.

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Pat McGrath, Makeup Artist

This makeup artist tends to err more on the side of art than makeup but she is doubtlessly the most in-demand backstage master of our time. Not to mention, by all accounts one of the nicest and easiest people to get along with. According to The Cut, she books 80 shows per year, in addition to creating makeup lines for Gucci, CoverGirl, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and so on, but her greatest achievement has to be her namesake range of makeup. Starting with a glimmering gold pigment called Gold 001, she has moved on to highlighters, lipsticks, eyeliner and "eye blush." Ever since her first launch, the product line has drawn massive crowds to Sephora and sold out online almost instantly, making Pat McGrath one of the most sought-after makeup brands, too.

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Paul Gaudio, Creative Director at Adidas

Adidas has been riding the waves of athleisure and streetwear simultaneously, attracting a large customer base along the way. And Gaudio is often lauded as the visionary who made Adidas cool again. Sure, the brand's classic styles are still a mainstay in closets around the world, including the Stan Smith, the Samba and the Superstar, but recent collabs with Kanye West, Alexander Wang and Raf Simons keep Adidas in the cultural conversation. The in-house line designed by Gaudio has drawn quite a bit of attention, too.

"Gaudio is in charge of 650 designers that dream up everything Adidas makes — from shoes to clothing to posts on Instagram," Buzzfeed wrote in a profile on the creative director. He's responsible for the extremely successful Ultra Boost Uncaged, which sold 11,000 pairs within an hour of its release, NMD and innovations like 3D printed shoes and sneakers woven from spider's silk. That might explain why the brand was the number two US sport footwear and apparel brand in 2016. According to NPD Retail Tracking, they surpassed Under Armor and are listed right under Nike.

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Peche Di, Model and Founder at Trans Models

Di is another figure paving the way for the trans community in the fashion industry. In fact, this 27-year-old has landed a coveted spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2017. She founded the Trans Models agency just two years ago, with a desire to protect others from the discrimination she was facing. Now, Trans Models is the leading U.S. agency for transgender models. Since then, her models have appeared on the pages of Teen Vogue and The Atlantic, in addition to ad campaigns for Budweiser and Smirnoff.

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Petra Collins, Photographer

The New Yorker said it best when they described this photographer-cum-model as "the poster girl for an aesthetic that has taken hold in the fashion world and some quarters of Instagram—a dreamy, hyper-feminine approach that sometimes appears under the headline 'the female gaze.'" Collins graduated from taking photos of her sister at home in her native Toronto to shooting short films for Gucci and snapping ads for Adidas and Nordstrom. She's even appeared on the other side of the camera, modeling for the likes of Gucci and Calvin Klein.

But despite the fame, this 24-year-old has remained true to the pink-washed, female-empowering style of photos she became famous for, taking her crew of Instagram famous friends along for the ride. Many consider her to be a feminist, modern day Andy Warhol.

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Raf Simons, Chief Creative Officer at Calvin Klein

There was just one name that drew an impressive international crowd to New York Fashion Week: Men's. And yes, it was Simons. Not only is he being credited with reviving the lackluster week of men's shows with his eponymous brand, but he is certainly working his magic at Calvin Klein, too.

This Belgian creative, who is revered by most fashion folk, is breathing fresh life into every inch of the classically American label. He has rejiggered the logo splashed on everything from the waistband of white underwear to the label in a designer frock (with help from Peter Saville). He also placed the cast of Moonlight in an ad campaign and dropped it just hours after their controversial (but deserved) Best Picture win at the Oscars. Simons' revival of the Calvin Klein label seems to be going as planned and it looks as if he's rewriting the book on how to be an effective and successful designer at a massive brand.

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Rei Kawakubo, Founder of Comme des Garçons

Expect to hear this designer's name thrown around quite a bit this May, when her Costume Institute exhibit at The Met is unveiled. She is the first person, since Yves Saint Laurent, who has received this honor. The theme of the exhibit is "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between" and the notoriously reserved Kawakubo is about to be everywhere. Well, she will at least be attending the corresponding media storm, known as the Met Gala, on May 1.

She is one of those reclusive creative icons who is rightfully credited with changing the course of fashion, with experimental designs that question the status quo and happen to be a lot more than just clothes. Often, she lets her clothes do the talking, providing little commentary on how they should be interpreted and received by her customers.

Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Ronnie Fieg, Owner and Designer at Kith

He was crowned the "King of Sneakers in 2016" by GQ, and there couldn't be a more accurate honor for Fieg. His empire of Kith stores has helped usher the sport of acquiring limited edition and hard-to-obtain sneakers into the mainstream. Lest you forget, Kith's Manhattan flagship, women's shop, Brooklyn outpost, Miami boutique, Aspen pop-up, shop-in-shop at Bergdorf Goodman and recently introduced Maxfield presence, also sell clothing. But it's Fieg's impressive ability to sign collaborations with companies of every caliber, including Colette, Coca Cola and Columbia, plus Nike, Adidas, Rugrats, Iro, Cap 'N Crunch and so on, all proving his importance to the retail scene. As brick and mortar shops go head-to-head with e-commerce destinations to prove their relevance, Kith is making a solid case for the IRL shopping experience.

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Simon Porte Jacquemus, Designer

At just 26 years old, this designer is well-known as the best young talent on the Paris fashion scene. And this isn't a new accolade; Jacquemus first started designing at 19 and as his brand has expanded, so has his artistic expression. His fashion shows, which usually take place on the first day of PFW, always include a healthy dose of theatrics. In September 2015, that included a cameo by a horse; in March 2015 the beauty look alternated between paper bags and face paint inspired by photographer Sebastian Bieniek’s “Doublefaced” series.

Fashion week drama aside, the clothing created under the Jacquemus brand is inspired by the freedom of childhood and heavily influenced by Comme des Garçons. These ballooned silhouettes, frequently featuring a copy-and-paste approach, have found commercial success; Jacquemus can be purchased at retail stores around the globe, from Nordstrom to Net-A-Porter, Opening Ceremony and Shopbop.

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Victoria Sekrier, Celebrity Stylist

You might not know this stylist's name, but if you watched Alicia Vikander accept her Oscar in 2016 or saunter onto the carpet in custom Louis Vuitton in 2017, then you've seen her work. Sekrier originally set out to become a model, moving from Russia to Manhattan to chase her goal, eventually walking the runway for Prada and Alexander McQueen. She then transitioned from appearing in the pages of Vogue and i-D to working behind the scenes of major images, she began assisting big names like Alastair McKimm and Anna Sui.

Now based in London, she's Vikander's go-to wardrober, often dressing the young Swede in custom Vuitton designs, while styling editorials for cool indie mags like Unemployed and Office. Stay tuned for her next big move, or just follow her well-curated Instagram account.

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Virgil Abloh, Founder at Off-White

With his name also being floated as a possibility for the top job at Givenchy, Abloh has become a pretty big person of interest among the fashion set. His Milan-based Off-White brand is critically acclaimed and seems to be steadily improving season after season, moving away from the flashy streetwear aesthetic it was built on; it’s now in the midst of acquiring a high fashion veneer. Critics praised his latest Fall/Winter collection as "sophisticated" and "grown-up," perhaps endorsing Abloh's consideration for the Givenchy role.

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It can be tough to navigate the relevant names and faces of the fashion circuit, if you’re not fawning over them on a daily basis. And considering how a designer can be “in” one month and unceremoniously sacked the next, it can be even more difficult to remain in-the-know.

Luckily for you, we’ve pieced together 25 of the most important names to know in 2017, from the current big ticket designers to know to some of the smaller players that we think will make it big this year.

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