From Gianni Versace to Zac Posen, queer designers have always been at the forefront of fashion, sharing their visions and creativity with the world. While there is still a long way to go to make the industry fully inclusive, there are a number of up-and-coming designers we have on our radar. They are quickly establishing their brands as trendsetting and boundary-pushing, and many have already broken through to a mainstream audience. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian and Rihanna wearing the creations of Ludovic de Saint Sernin, or Patrick Church’s well-received collaboration with queer icon Amanda Lepore, a number of queer brands are garnering recognition from A-list celebrities and stylists alike. The brands below are ones that we anticipate to continue growing over the next few years, in part due to their ability to share their work via social media and capitalize off of their significant followings. Their work will further propel queer voices to the center of discussions around fashion.
Ludovic de Saint Sernin
Recognizing a need to “return to beauty,” Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Creative Director and Founder of his eponymous brand, perfectly-timed the debut of his Spring-Summer 2018 collection during a time when everything else in fashion seems to be mass-produced. Straying from the norm, Saint Sernin recognizes the importance of creating pieces that feel and look special, custom, and sensual. Saint Sernin founded the label in 2017, after two years as an embellishment expert at Balmain. The Paris-based designer creates pieces for both men and women, without any specific gender in mind. The beauty of Ludovic de Saint Sernin, or LdSS, is that people of all genders can feel equally sexy and beautiful in their creations. Despite only debuting their initial collection a few short years ago, the brand has already been featured at both the Men’s and Women’s Paris Fashion Weeks, most recently at the Fall-Winter 2022 show last March, which featured runway “it girls” Bella and Gigi Hadid. While LdSS is well known for creating luxury underwear for men, the label continues to branch out with ready-to-wear pieces of jewelry, accessories, and swimwear, as well as made-to-order custom pieces. Saint Sernin’s “Crystal Mesh Lace-Up Top” and “Golden Shadow Crystal Mesh Lace-Up Dress” were standouts of the runway in Paris.
While I hate comparing labels – especially as Ludovic de Saint Sernin is certainly a standalone success – their craftsmanship and attention to detail is most comparable to that of Dior. From the choices in materials, textiles, textures, patterns, and accessorizing of the pieces, LdSS is made to last. What is perhaps most notable about the label is their close relationship with their ateliers, who state: “The majority of the clothes and accessories are made in France, and sustainable practices are always closely followed, consciously shortening the supply chain and maintaining a close relationship with all ateliers.”
The playfulness of the brand, which regularly features ready-to-wear leather, lace-up accents, and cropped tanks further elevates its sex appeal. In this way, LdSS redefines masculinity through fashion, playing a careful game of hide-and-seek with precisely placed cutouts, sheer fabrics, and distressed ensembles. This balancing act oozes sensuality. However, all this being said, the brand isn’t “in your face” at all. It’s effortless, relaxed, and sensible in its sexiness. It isn’t trying to be what it’s not. I can only say that as I wait to see what comes next from LdSS, whether it’s on my Instagram feed or stomping down the runway of Paris Fashion Week, I’ll be waiting with anticipation.
Gay. Like, super gay in the best way. That’s perhaps the first thought that comes to mind when I think of designer Patrick Church and his brand. Frankly, amongst a fashion landscape that is overdone and hyper-saturated with the same kinds of looks, patterns, and designs, Patrick Church is a breath of fresh air. His work is instantly recognizable and distinctly original. It’s his own creation and his alone. Patrick Church is not only a designer, but an artist. His artistic ability is evident through his designs, which feature his original drawings, paintings, and motifs plastered across his collections. At present, Church is perhaps best-known for his “All Over You” and “Get In Line” motifs, which are reminiscent of the kind of graphic, pop art works of Andy Warhol and Leigh Bowery. Given his additional work in home decor, fine art, and the Patrick Church Studio, it’s clear that Church’s intention is to create walking, living art through his fashions.
This is what the fashion landscape has been missing. Church has rejected the “overdone” and the “toned-down,” opting for bold colors, bold patterns, and an even bolder message. “He [Patrick Church] paints from a personal point of view. Blurring the boundaries between art and fashion, juxtaposing vulnerability with fearlessness; reflective of Patrick’s own character,” the label claims. Church’s approach to fashion and the subject matter he conveys has resonated with a legion of loyal queer customers. Worn by the likes of Tom Daley, Kehlani, and Megan Thee Stallion, Church’s refreshing take on fashion – from sequined pajama sets to backless mesh dresses – can’t be missed and won’t be ignored.
Charles de Vilmorin
Abstract and avant-garde, Charles de Vilmorin burst onto the scene in April of 2020 in style. Shortly after an unknown buyer purchased all of his first pop-colored coats, Charles was able to fund his very first collection, which featured exaggerated silhouettes like puffy jackets and flowing garments that moved beautifully – all at the age of 23. The purchase was perfectly timed, as Charles had been struggling as a creative trying to find an internship that would set him on a fashion trajectory. Pairing the pieces of his fall collection with neon body and face paint, the presentation of his first collection was colorful, yet the subject matter was macabre; the presentation was like a Baroque painting come to life. Charles artfully accessorized the collection with matching skeletons draped on the fronts of many of the models. Citing fashion inspirations like Dracula, Cruella de Vil, and Edward Scissorhands, it’s clear to see how Charles has always been influenced by the dark, dramatic, and high-fashion aesthetics of some of our favorite fictional characters.
A few short months after the success of his first collection, Charles was named the head of Rochas, which he admits has taken precedence over the development of his own brand. However, despite his preoccupation with the success of Rochas, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’ll be seeing more from Charles in the near future. He’s already established himself as a fashion prodigy. Given his drive and unfettered artistic genius, I anticipate Charles will continue to develop his own brand and unique voice through his work. If there’s one thing fashion lovers, particularly those of whom are queer youth, should take from Charles and his story, it’s to pursue your passions tirelessly. Pour everything into your vision.
Free-spirited and inspired by the coastal lifestyle, Salt Murphy transports its wearers to a heavenly getaway. Founded and based in Melbourne, Australia, it’s no surprise the designs of their first collection were reflective of the region’s beauty, utilizing neutral tones and natural fabrics. Creative Director Mark Kenny founded Salt Murphy in 2020 with the intention to convey feeling through his clothes to enhance the day-to-day lives of his customers. Spurred by the global uncertainty at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark initially launched the brand to share his vision, which was aimed at conveying “a sense of freedom and light which was a reflection of what we craved amongst the chaos.” While Mark’s latest collection has taken a different direction, utilizing more blacks and vibrant pops of color, the attention to detail and high quality of his garments has remained constant. From frayed skirts and distressed dresses to lace-up sheer shirts, Mark considers how his pieces make his wearers feel.
In addition to the pops of color, Mark also unveiled his first women’s range during the launch of his “High Summer” collection on May 23rd. If this is any indication, fans of the brand should expect Salt Murphy to continue its growth, expanding its ready-to-wear pieces. I’d especially love to see swimwear and made-to-order, custom pieces moving forward. There’s certainly a market for Salt Murphy swimwear, as it seems like a natural fit for the label’s relaxed, sensual vibe. Similarly to the trajectory of Ludovic de Saint Sernin, it’s only a matter of time before we see celebrities and their stylists flock to Salt Murphy. Bretman Rock, ever the trendsetter, has already been styled and photographed in a Salt Murphy ensemble for his Urban Decay Cosmetics collaboration. It won’t be long now until other celebrities follow suit.