Five Of British Fashion’s Brightest Rising Stars Celebrate The Power Of Their Collectives

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Behind every designer stands a community of devoted family, ride-or-die friends and dedicated teams. Here, five of British fashion’s brightest rising stars celebrate the power of their collectives…

Clay Gardner

Bianca Saunders + Yvonne, Carrington and Ashley Saunders

Words by Naomi Pike

At first glance, the Saunders seem a normal family, but among them hides the discerning eye of one of Britain’s most exciting fashion stars. At 30, Bianca Saunders has risen in ranks of the industry, building on her education at Kingston and The Royal College of Art to become a leading light in menswear. And, increasingly by demand, in womenswear.

If she ever needed to know that there is a female customer for her clothes, then her sister, Carrington, 21, proves it. On social media, to her own growing audience, Carrington is quick to say that her pieces are by her sister. The very same designer who is dressing Harry Styles and Hailey Bieber and attended the Met Gala with Usher.

‘You know when musicians have a hype man? That’s how I feel,’ the younger sister shares. ‘She has really impacted the way I look at clothes, and makes me want to be more adventurous.’

Though it might only be her name on the label, Saunders has made her brand a family affair. ‘Everyone helps when they can,’ the designer admits. ‘I’ve had my cousins and brothers in photoshoots and my mum does my backstage catering.’ When she’s not whipping up meals behind the scenes, her mother, Yvonne, is a hairdresser. Having access to that salon environment has been an invaluable resource for Saunders, who often turns to the clients for advice and expertise.

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Looking back, some of Saunders’ earliest fashion memories, while growing up in South London, are of how her mum would often choose matching clothes for her and her older sister, Ashley. Now, however, mum is keen to get in on the matching action. ‘She uses us like her catalogue and shops what we’re wearing, so she can be twinning,’ Saunders says, laughing.

For the Saunders family, sharing is caring, and takeaways from childhood endure, especially Yvonne’s schooling on the importance of quality, well-made clothing. Her lessons on being ‘immaculate’ have clearly spread beyond her personal approach to inspire Saunders’ work.


we are family march 2024 feature

Clay Gardner

Nensi Dojaka + Sindi Dojaka, Nicole De Marco and Michal Wisniewski

Words by Naomi Pike

Even without their matching monochrome wardrobes as a visual marker, it would be easy to spot Central Saint Martins-trained designer Nensi Dojaka and her loved ones on the ELLE UK set. The foursome – Dojaka, her architect-student sister, Sindi, and Nicole and Michal from her studio design team – move in a pack, muttering in hushed tones, in a way that often replaces actual conversation. It’s the kind of uniformity that happens when bonds are especially strong.

Dojaka, who moved to London from Tirana, Albania, aged 16, has become one of the capital’s most exciting designers. Bella Hadid and Beyoncé have worn her barely there pieces that demonstrate her contour training and centre the female body, while Emily Ratajkowski and Mariacarla Boscono have walked her shows. Paeans have come thick and fast for the now 30-year-old, who won the 2021 LVMH prize just a year after starting her eponymous label. At the heart of it all? A close-knit web of family and friends that blurs the lines between employee and confidante, relative and muse.

‘My mum and sister influenced me a lot as I explored what the brand would be,’ the softly spoken Dojaka says. ‘Sindi is my little muse, and she has about 70 per cent of the collection, which she wears all the time. She is 23 and, as I’m maturing, she brings that youthful juxtaposition to my point of view.’ A less-is-more approach came from her mother, she adds. ‘I’ve been influenced in a subliminal way because my mum has always been minimalist and chic.’

When it comes to Wisniewski and De Marco, Dojaka says they are not just the pillars of her team, but her best friends, too. ‘I can’t really imagine my brand or my life without them. The last year has been challenging, emotionally and mentally,

and they really have been there, which has positively influenced my work. I would have been in another situation had they not been by my side.’


we are family march 2024 feature

Clay Gardner

Saul Nash + Ingrid Dudley, François-Xavier Goby, Tyler Spencer

Words by Eni Subair

The Designer, choreographer and dancer Saul Nash’s favourite memories are of going shopping with his mother when he was a teen. ‘We’d go to Wood Green shopping mall, and I’d head straight to the store that sold American streetwear. I’d buy Rocawear tracksuits. Then I’d make friends with employees at trainer stores, so I’d receive discounts,’ he says, laughing at the memory. ‘My mum always gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to wear.’ It came as no surprise, then, that Nash’s chosen career path, one which has earned him a Queen Elizabeth II Award and the 2022 Woolmark Prize, followed a creative route.

‘The beauty of taking him shopping from a young age was led by him always knowing what he wanted,’ says his mother, Ingrid, filled with pride. ‘When he was eight, he bartered with a shop owner and bought an outfit he didn’t have enough money for by promising he’d continue to shop there,’ she says, through laughter.

‘There’s an element of my work that’s inspired by the people I grew up around,’ Nash explains, gesturing towards the close-knit bunch huddled together on set. His immediate circle – thrilled to be shot alongside him – consists of his niece Tyler, his partner, French illustrator and director François-Xavier Goby (aka ‘Fx Goby’), and his mother.

Since the inception of his eponymous brand in 2018, the north-east Londoner has crafted a body of work that oscillates between fashion and dance. Challenging athleisure codes, his genderless pieces focus on functionality and movement with ease. Refined silhouettes in high-stretch materials such as woollen knits, recycled polyester and organic cotton slot him into luxury sportswear territory. Now, at 30, his garments are worn by a host of famous names, ranging from Lewis Hamilton to J Hus, and The Royal College of Art menswear alum’s familial messaging has gained him worldwide recognition.

Family is still at the creative heart of his label, meaning that anyone wearing these pieces carries a part of Nash with them. Siblings, his AW23 collection, was inspired by his brother, while SS24 was an ode to his grandfather and Mauritian heritage. ‘My family and the people around me have always shaped the way I dress. As a designer, your work is an extension of the way that you perceive the world.’


we are family march 2024 feature

Clay Gardner

Dimitra Petsa + Doris Petsa, Zenia Petsa, Nassia Matsa, Ellie Koslowsky

Words by Eni Subair

In a North-West London studio, Greek designer Dimitra Petsa’s mother, Doris, has just arrived from Athens.

Practising her poses in the mirror, she’s excited to be shot beside her daughter. Meanwhile, Nassia Matsa, Petsa’s muse, friend and an integral part of her last two runway shows in London, is sitting on a sofa wearing one of Di Petsa’s signature water-soaked-style dresses, reminiscing about the first time she met the designer in their native Greece. ‘Dimitra and I would travel home from a night of clubbing at 5am. She introduced me to the concept of ecofeminism and rebelling against women being ashamed of the wetness we produce, whether through sweating or periods. Her championing of women and self-love is unmatched.’

The creative’s sister Zenia (who also does event-management for the brand), and her set designer of six years, Ellie Kos-lowsky, are also wearing Petsa’s inimitable dresses, twisting their bodies in the mirror, admiring how the slinky garments hug their frames. Without this group, Petsa is adamant she wouldn’t be in the room. ‘My family is very much the reason that I’m in fashion,’ she says. Her core team is made up of women, so celebrating the female body and its autonomy comes naturally to the label, which was established in 2019.

Creativity runs in the family; Petsa’s grandmother was a seamstress in Greece, and taught the 2023 British Fashion Council’s Newgen recipient pattern-cutting from the age of 12, opening her eyes to the prospect of a career in fashion. Living in Athens meant that fashion opportunities were scarce, so Petsa and her mother approached local seamstresses and fabric factories to source deadstock materials to kickstart her unwavering vision. ‘I had no contacts. My mother and I figured it out together at the start.’ Petsa moved to London to study both performance design and womenswear at Central Saint Martins. Now, the two disciplines come together in her London Fashion Week shows, which are an immersive experience, typically involving pools of water. ‘All the models I used were from my community; all were my friends, some from childhood.’ It was at CSM that she developed her meticulous draping technique, fashioning her trademark wet-look dresses, which have won the attention of Zendaya, Bella Hadid and Anya Taylor-Joy along the way.

With rising success comes pressure, but as long as her family is beside her, Petsa will be in it for the long haul, she feels certain. ‘As a performer in my fashion shows, there’s a relief in knowing my team has everything in hand backstage when things become stressful. In a very practical way, and not in a clichéd way, this community is real.’


we are family march 2024 feature

Clay Gardner

Charlie Casely-Hayford + Alice Casely-Hayford

Words by Laura Antonia Jordan

‘Family is everything to us,’ says designer Charlie Casely-Hayford. ‘Some people might think it’s too much. We lean on each other across everything. We always have done, in terms of our personal lives and professional ones.’

The Casely-Hayfords are a tight-knit, formidably talented bunch. Charlie’s younger sister Alice is Net-a-Porter’s content director, uncle Gus is the director of V&A East and mum Maria is the brand director of Casely-Hayford, the label Charlie co-founded with his late father – the legendary designer Joe – in 2009.

At the 2023 Fashion Awards, Joe Casely-Hayford was posthumously given a Special Recognition Award. ‘What he was doing was vital, it was powerful and it had a really strong impact on a lot of people. I know that because people come up to me every day, and want to express the impact that either his work, him as an individual or what he stood for has had on their lives.’ Collecting the award, Charlie said of Joe, ‘he very much believed in everyone coming up together, rather than every man for himself’. In testament to that spirit, a Joe Casely-Hayford MA scholarship has just been launched.

Charlie and Alice also live by that principle. Their success is underpinned by an elegant way of operating in the world: with humility, warmth and generosity, a ‘value system’ inherited from their parents. ‘We welcomed their education and their experience, their knowledge and their openness to treat us as equals. We just soaked up their energy and world.’ It parlays into the brand, too. Knowing that the tailoring world can be intimidating and snooty (‘we don’t roll like that’), the Casely-Hayford boutique in Marylebone – designed by Charlie’s wife, the interiors whizz Sophie Ashby – is made to ‘feel like an apartment and not an old man’s club,’ says Charlie.

There is a respect and integrity with which Charlie inhabits the Casely-Hayford name and business. ‘I feel like I’m a custodian or something. I’m just holding onto it and trying to maintain it; to better it a little bit, hopefully, and pass it on,’ he says. ‘It’s bigger than me. It’s not my name, it’s a name that I’m fortunate enough to have been born into’.


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