On the official Paris Fashion Week schedule that wrapped up earlier this month, there were a total of 66 runway shows and 41 collection presentations — all for ready-to-wear collections, leaving several emerging accessory labels to fend for themselves.
This despite that accessories play a crucial role in generating revenue and building brand awareness for fashion brands. With higher profit margins than clothing and a more accessible entry point for consumers, many up-and-coming designers are choosing to focus on developing a strong accessories line as a core part of their business strategy.
After all, juggernaut heritage brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci originated as leather goods manufacturers, eventually introducing ready-to-wear clothing as a vehicle to further flesh out their respective universes and showcase their profitable accessory lines.
We spoke to the designers behind some of the most exciting jewelry, shoes, and bags currently available to learn about their new collections.
Abraham Ortuño Perez, the mind behind Loewe’s surrealist deflated balloon strappy sandals, JW Anderson’s molded leather paw mules, and early Jacquemus mismatched sculptural heels, has been churning out bags and shoes under his moniker ABRA since 2019. A self-described accessory designer at heart, ABRA has been adding RTW to his label which resulted in a total of 43 looks stomping down the runway to a soundtrack of clashing acid Gabber house and classical strings on the last day of Paris Fashion Week.
"I was getting tired of being called a nostalgic 2000s designer, because I used to thrift the styling for our shoots, so I decided to start making the looks myself," he says.
His ‘’office barbie’’ aesthetics are inspired by the style he and his sister shared as teenagers. ‘’I used to dress extremely feminine, very girly, and my sister was the complete opposite, she only wore football t-shirts," he says. As they grew up their styles started to merge. The inspiration is most visible in pieces like a washed cotton soccer polo morphing into a floor-length gown worn by artist Kristina Nagel. After posting an IG-story dump of his personal collection of late '90s t-shirts, much of it CUSTO Barcelona, the iconic Spanish brand reached out for a collab. This resulted in their trippy archival prints being splashed on eye-catching bags and bodysuits.
Feeling the need to radically be himself in an oversaturated market, he twisted the essence of past designs into a range that reads as something of a "best of" curation. This turned out to be a winning move as made out by the passionate responses of his loyal community after the show.
Lorette Colé Duprat
LCD's Paris-based studio resembles a makeshift molecular kitchen, with pots of resin simmering on the stove, emanating chemical fumes that permeate the air. Lorette has developed her own secret recipe to hand-dye transparent resin into the seductive colored gradients for which her brand is known. With a background in product design, wearability is key to her designs. Chunky, solid-looking necklaces are actually lightweight metalized resins, and rings are designed to prevent them from accidentally slipping off one's finger, as has happened with most of her inherited and thrifted rings. Her approach quickly attracted the attention of the industry and earned her an invite to produce a capsule collection for the late legendary retailer Colette, as well as a three-year stint as the head of jewelry at Casey Cadwallader's Mugler.
Her Algerian-French roots mean that jewelry is in her DNA. Gold adornments hold traditional value and are passed down through generations. The metal is soft and tender, but its shine never fades. This legacy helped her during a time when she was feeling low. "When my first big love broke up with me, and I was crying on her bed, my mother took out her jewelry box, and seeing my family's history and treasures cured me," she says.
The development of her new collection began with an image of a molecule. Colé Duprat created rings, bracelets, and ear cuffs inspired by the recognizable ball-and-stick model used to visualize atoms and the bonds between them. Pieces are stackable, and some shapes have been reduced to a level of intricacy that is new for the brand. She is honoring her heritage by launching a capsule collection dedicated entirely to gold, a departure from her usual chrome palette. "I want to break out of my comfort zone, and to do that, I need to go back to my roots first," she says.
Hugo Kreit is all about subversion. Founded by industrial designer Hugo Kreit and co-managed by image director Nordine Makhloufi, the Paris-based duo’s visual language rejects outdated notions of classical beauty and leans toward vibrant colors, directional shapes and bold casting. Their Fall 2023 lookbook depicts a queer wedding, both grooms decked out in vibrant red lace and satin ribbons, as well as a modern-day Narcissus dressed in a moto-jacket, seductively gazing into his own reflection wearing a sheer negligé. For Hugo and Nordine, who are partners both in business and in love, this is not a political statement per se. ‘’We both grew up in the queer community, this is just how we see the world.," they said.
Their interest lies in disrupting the world of fine jewelry. ‘’I’m not afraid to present something made from plastic, as long as it’s made perfectly, and maybe combined with a crystal," they explain. Obsessed with florals, Art Nouveau and Arabesque architectural motifs, their pieces reference organic shapes but are crafted using industrial production methods. Chokers, earrings and pendants are 3D printed, polished and hand-glazed using an enamel normally used in the automobile industry that is scratch and temperature resistant as well as hypoallergenic. Where there’s normally a hierarchy in precious metals and gemstones, Kreit’s designs mix high and lowbrow materials into something undeniably desirable. Their approach resonated with designer Harris Reed, who put them in charge of jewelry for his Nina Ricci debut this season.
Launched in September 2020 on social media, the label’s designs went viral after being used in a Skims campaign styled by industry titan Carine Roitfeld. Instagram still remains the most important platform for the brand to connect to its fanbase. Strategically restocking their e-store at quiet moments, their signature styles always sell out within a matter of days.
Ancuta Sarca studied for her BA and MA in Womenswear in her native Romania before moving to London to become a ghost designer for other brands. She started out making shoes for just herself which led to people sliding in her DMs asking to buy a pair. Her work quickly got picked up by publications which eventually led to the British Fashion Council reaching out with the offer to adopt her into its NEWGEN incubator where emerging talent is nurtured and supported.
’I have collected vintage shoes since I was very young. I love-love shoes," she says. "Subconsciously, I think I have probably always focused more on footwear than on ready-to-wear.’’ Still, her background can be seen in the way she approaches her designs; she starts with draping when making a shoe prototype, using the same processes as when making a garment.
Her most recognizable design is an upcycled hybrid of a vintage kitten heel and deadstock Nike trainers mashed together and reconstructed into a retro-futuristic, instantly recognisable product. Fall's further inspiration came from her hometown Negrești-Oaș and its picturesque surroundings of woodlands, forests and snow-covered hills. This translated to boots and heels made from pre-loved quilted nylon jackets able to withstand alpine temperatures and end-of-roll faux furs.
Last year she launched a collab with London retailer Browns, reworking hundreds of pairs of overstock trainers into a batch of limited edition heels, and this season she partnered with Lee to create clogs and pumps made from repurposed denim jackets.
Top photo via Getty