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The 10 breakthrough fashion brands of 2020

A few surprises and many confirmations among the labels that have dominated the last twelve months

The 10 breakthrough fashion brands of 2020  A few surprises and many confirmations among the labels that have dominated the last twelve months

If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that the year about to end was nothing but easy. In these difficult last twelve months, we have witnessed the different ways in which the fashion industry and the brands that are part of it, have been able to react and reflect the global situation. Yes, because in addition to the health emergency, fashion brands were forced to deal with issues of historical significance, such as the social and cultural fight of the Black Lives Matter movement and the increasingly central commitment to sustainability. To all this is added the search for a new, more sustainable and ethical balance between supply chains and fashion seasons, disrupted by lockdowns and digital shows, in a broader attempt to establish a more human rhythm, that might help to fight overproduction. 

nss magazine has selected below 10 brands that in 2020 stood out for their work, their choices and their collections.


#1 Telfar 

It couldn't but be the brand founded and led by Telfar Clemens, together with a collective of designers and creatives, the breakthrough brand of the year. In fact, despite the troubled collaboration with Gap - which seems cancelled at the moment - the Shopping Bag were the true symbol of the expansion and success of the Brooklyn brand. In addition to the endorsement of various celebrities, including AOC and Oprah, just to name a few, the secret of the Bag's success lies precisely in its simplicity, in that practical but versatile design, and above all in an affordable price, something that was missing for quite some times in the list of It Bags. The success was so disruptive that Telfar was forced to change its business model in its entirety. After the continuous sold out and the first attempts to resell, Telfar has in fact decided to make the bags available only through pre-order, thus breaking down the problem of unsold goods and above all helping to further build the hype that surrounds the brand, which remains one of the most successful independent black-owned businesses of the year. A great victory for a brand that has always made blackness one of the core elements of its identity. 


#2 Pangaia 

There's no brand more representative of the first lockdown and all subsequent ones. In a single outfit consisting of sweatpants and hoodies, Pangaia has been able to combine the new dominant aesthetic, made up of comfortable pieces to wear at home, with the sustainable demands that have become pressing more than ever. The start-up based between London and New York, created thanks to the support of Future Tech Lab, an incubator of responsible innovative technologies founded by the Russian mega influencer Miroslava Duma, stands out mainly for the materials used in the essential silhouettes, which over the last few months have become a must-have, also thanks to heavy sponsorships on Instagram. T-shirts, for example, are made from 20% seaweed fibre (which is harvested in Iceland every four years) and the remaining 80% from organic cotton. In general, all the fabrics produced by the brand are treated with mint oil, to reduce the frequency of washing and thus reduce water pollution. In the same way, all the different shades that characterize Pangaia's garments are obtained thanks to natural pigments. Even the bags in which the items are delivered, made in special packaging in an equally innovative material, are compostable and biodegrade after 24 weeks. Pangaia is the most punctual and precise embodiment of what fashion has been in 2020. 


#3 Marine Serre 

Hers was the logo of the year. Nothing new, you might say, but how does the popularity of a brand change when Beyoncé wears it? Quite a lot, judging by the online searches that interested the French brand after the release of the Already video. That crescent moon has become a leitmotiv of the industry in recent months, also thanks to the incomparable ability of the young French designer to propose it renewed and revisited, but always true to itself, in every collection. It should also not be forgotten that Serre, since her debut, has always worked hard for the sustainability of her items, often proposing a futuristic and at times apocalyptic approach to raise public awareness on the risks of climate change. 


#4 Pyer Moss

Pyer Moss, with its designer and founder, Kerby Jean-Raymond, are the most representative voices of the evolution of Black creativity that is progressively conquering the top of the major brands, in a crucial year for the recognition and enhancement of African American creatives. Not only have researches for Pyer Moss increased by 220% on an annual basis, as Lyst reports, but the very successful collaboration with Reebok has led Jean-Raymond to a historic appointment, that of global creative director of the sportswear brand. In fact, it's no secret that Kerby's vision and design concept have a strong cultural connotation. Each of Pyer Moss' collections aimed at challenging the obliteration of black culture. His latest show, for example, was staged in New York in one of the first free former slave communities and featured culturally distinctive features such as a black church choir and a collection woven with paintings commissioned from artist Derrick Adams, whose work focuses on exploring the concept of black identity. At a time when diversity is so important, no one has represented it better than Pyer Moss. 


#5 Arc'teryx

When on the Paris catwalk of the Off-White™ fashion show dedicated to the FW20 season, Gigi Hadid appeared on the catwalk wrapped in a tulle dress paired with a cropped jacket by Arc'teryx, only a few people were able to recognize that logo in reality so distinctive. If at the time the American brand had defined the collaboration with Virgil Abloh's brand 'unofficial', over the last few months Arc'teryx has fully embraced this new fashion vocation that the trendsetter audience had already captured and for which it had been waiting. Thanks also to the continuous expansion of the gorpcore aesthetic, that has definitely gone beyond its status of a simple trend, lately Arc'teryx has announced the collaboration with Jil Sander, releasing in the upcoming months, and the one with Palace, released a few weeks ago. The intention is, therefore, to permeate the fashion industry both in the luxury sector, where it could be easier to breakthrough, and that of streetwear, where the brand already boasts a certain cult status. The next twelve months will be crucial for the future of the brand.  


#6 Aimé Leon Dore

Very few brands can boast the stylistic identity and the narrative that Aimé Leon Dore is able to give. The brand born in Queens, New York, has always made its roots one of the cornerstones of its identity, without giving up a wider stylistic and narrative vision. The New York soul is the filter through which all the collaborations of the brand must pass, a branch that this year has found its maximum expression with New Balance, Clarks and Woolrich, in an eclectic range of names but still similar to that look - sophisticated, effortless and always cosy - that Aimé Leon Dore looks for. Not only an inspirational mood board not too different from JJJJound, the social communication of the brand, and the Instagram page, in particular, are the mirror of that community, inclusive but deeply black, that the brand wants to represent.


#7 Brain Dead

The collaborative tendency has always been one of the key elements of the identity of the brand founded by Kyle Ng together with Ed Davis, as Ng himself told nss magazine at the end in 2019, but it has been in the last twelve months that this leading brand of the streetwear scene has given its best. First of all, there was the social and political commitment, first with the T-shirt made together with Dev Hynes which raised over 500K dollars for the Movement for Black Lives, then with another tee, in collaboration with Slam Jam, in support of the Mediterranean NGO. In terms of pure fashion, after the capsule with the cult production house A24, the collection together with The North Face did not disappoint, as well as the new project created together with Converse, which saw once again the participation of Dev Hynes. But the most interesting and innovative project of the year for Brain Dead was revealed only a few weeks ago, the shirt made for As Roma and available in physical version and on PES. Not only has the brand created a mixture of football and fashion that was lacking for some seasons, but it has been able to explore an unprecedented frontier, which could soon become central to the entire fashion industry, namely gaming. Brain Dead has worked as a pioneer this year, sure that many will follow in the coming months.


#8 Casablanca 

 A brand on the rise, that this year has added two important elements for an even more wide expansion. The brand founded in 2018 by Charaf Tajer, former co-founder of Pigalle and a long-time friend of Virgil Abloh, and immediately part of the schedule of the Paris Fashion Week, first made waves with a collection designed as a positive and optimistic response to the lockdown. Within the collection, the two new colourways of the Casablanca x New Balance 327 stood out, one of the most interesting silhouettes of the sneaker game of the year, which immediately set the aesthetics and aspirations of the emerging brand in a clear way. Aspirations further confirmed by the announcement of the creations of a womenswear collection, which like everything related to the brand is the result of different inspirations, coming from different eras, but made contemporary and fresh. Casablanca is definitely one of the brands to keep an eye on next year. 


#9 Crocs

Far from being an emerging brand, in the past twelve months, Crocs has expressed its inclination towards fashion at the highest levels through multipurpose but complementary collaborations. If in fact, the brand's path in the world of fashion began with Christopher Kane and Balenciaga, this year Crocs has focused more on the streetwear industry, and with great results. In fact, 2020 saw the collaborations with Beams, Grateful Dead and Chinatown Market, Journal StandardPLEASURES, and again Bad Bunny, Post MaloneNicole McLaughlin and Justin Bieber (the latter had also made the price of Crocs' shares soar). The mixture of celebrity culture and the claim of that aesthetic of the ugly, which however meets that cosy vocation that dominated the whole of 2020, are two of the elements that lie behind the success of the brand. 


#10 Jacquemus

True, there's nothing breakthrough in the success of Jacquemus, which for years has been one of the most influential luxury brands in the world. However, this year the French Maison has proved that it knows how to use social networks better than anyone else, with challenges on Instagram that have further strengthened the already solid relationship between the brand and its community, but above all by finding a new aesthetic. It did it with that home-made campaign shot on FaceTime with Bella Hadid, that went immediately viral and then copied, starting a trend that few have been able to equal. Everything Simon Porte creates seems to be done for social virality, whether it's a show set in a wheat field, a campaign with his grandmother or one with Laetitia Casta, or with a total pink collection. In any case, Jacquemus is the brand to look at to understand what the next trend will be.