THE CLASS OF 2017:
Meet the Designers

Moda has always been a destination for emerging talent. However here we’ve taken it a step further, fostering the growth of those we believe have incredible potential. Let us introduce you to four fresh names that deserve your attention. 

MEET MARKARIAN

MARKARIAN “There’s this trend where people are intentionally trying to dress ugly.” 31-year-old designer Ali O’Neill, who specializes in dresses, isn’t exactly a fan of the edgy street look. “At the end of the day, women want to look pretty,” she says. Her eveningwear label Markarian—all celestial floral prints (it’s named after a galaxy, after all), bias cuts and corsetry that sucks you in at all the right places—is uber pretty, yet easily translates across age and style. She explains, “it’s not always a girly girl that gravitates towards us.” O’Neill, who is self-taught, understands women want to look and feel beautiful without having to think about it too much, so she creates wearable silhouettes that require little else. “You just put the dress on and you’re done,” says the New Yorker. It’s a winning formula that in less than a year has attracted a diverse (and impressive) clientele including Hollywood celebrities (Emma Roberts and Emily Ratajkowski) and successful New Yorkers (the Met’s Kimberley Drew). Even O’Neill’s 90-year-old grandmother wears custom Markarian. "I make all her ‘guest of’ outfits,” says O’Neill. “The last one was an ivory silk two-piece for my brother’s wedding. She loved it!" —Tatiana Hambro

MEET YEON

Though technically just over one year old, Yeon Park’s label (pronounced “Yun” to rhyme with “fun”) has actually been several years in the making. “I spent three years researching fabrics and meeting with factories before even launching,” says the 34-year-old Seoul-native. After graduating from Parsons, the New York-based designer worked at Donna Karan and Proenza Schouler. But it was at a mass retailer where she realized slow fashion was her calling. “That experience destroyed my soul,” she confesses. “You can’t really do anything special with fabrics when you’re thinking about how to save ten cents.” “Special” is almost an understatement. Made from scratch in the best Italian mills and requiring months of development, her fabrics can be traced back to the salt flats in Peru and wooden floor formations in Japan—natural, aged textures that she discovers while traveling. Timelessness and quality define Yeon, which is made in France using the same factory as Chanel, Céline and Hermès. "We are the only emerging label they have agreed to work with.” she reveals. True investment pieces, her designs defy age. Says Park, “it’s about style—about women who understand beautiful clothes.” —Tatiana Hambro

MEET ELEANOR BALFOUR

St. Martins and Parsons-trained Eleanor Balfour’s clothing is made to suit the busy lifestyles of her and her international friends. “I hate the word ‘versatile’ because it’s so overused, but that’s really what I go for,” she says. “We all work until at least 7pm—no one has time to go home and change.” Shuttling between New York and London (she lives in the latter, but produces her collection in the former), the English-Austrian designer relies on a wardrobe of statement tops and tailored trousers. “My friends don’t tend to wear cocktail dresses in the traditional sense. They’re looking for pieces that can easily be restyled for work and weekends—in the city or at the beach.” Take the Amelia, a white mini dress with a removable black bow which the recently-engaged Balfour plans on wearing to her wedding after-party. “It’s right on the cusp of Black Tie,” she says. “Without the bow, it’s more ’90s sport and can be worn with sneakers, or it works as a top with smart trousers.” Said bow is an homage Oscar de la Renta, whom Balfour interned for under Monse designer Fernando Garcia. “An Oscar dress is for a special occasion; I’m trying to make those pieces that women feel special in—even when they’re just going out for dinner with friends.” —Tatiana Hambro

MEET LAKE STUDIO

A graduate in political science and economics, former ballerina, trained architect and interior designer: 36-year-old Anastasia Riabokon has anything but your traditional designer resume. But who needs more FASHION when most women are in search of real clothes that work for their real lives? The Kiev-based creative director (with Olesya Kononova who constructs the clothes and runs production) doesn’t chase trends, but rather designs for a woman (not unlike herself) whom she describes as cultured, confident, deeply sensuous and possessing a strong feminist side (raise your hand if that sounds like you). In a decade defined by Kardashians and Hadids, her brand of intellectual fashion feels like a breath of fresh air. On the surface is an easy elegance, but everything is more than it appears: her signature silks are sourced in Como, prints are often crafted in collaboration with Ukrainian artists, and the embroideries are done by hand by the in-house team dedicated to that alone—something most designer labels can’t claim. “My inspiration is women,” she says—obvious except for what she follows with. “I see them, I understand them, I know them, I am one.” —Megan Hayes