We may be forever fixated on NYC and LA, but some of the freshest clothes and accessories around are coming out of our own backyard.
By Jenna Knouse
Kendall Jenner? Nope. Gigi Hadid? Nah. New York City’s the only name making fashionistas fangirl. Run by pink-haired style bloggers, celeb culture and megabrand HQs, the Big Apple is American fashion’s Big Cheese. But, cheese is better on a soft pretzel, and soft pretzels are best in Philadelphia.
So look to your backyard—past the sandbox and Steven Starr restaurants—you’ll spot fashion talent bringing cool to a lukewarm industry. Sure, big brands meet a need: They’re the whitespace, the canvas. But, small brands fill a void: They’re the paint, the personality. Forget the sweater everyone’s wearing. Shop homegrown one-of-a-kinds instead. To get you started, here are five labels that are pushing to become nationwide names before the year’s out.
Concrete Polish Jewels
Angela Monaco overhauled granny’s heirlooms. The result? Concrete Polish Jewels. Working out of Northern Liberties, Monaco fuses metal to mineral in timeless but edgy design. And, she’s good at it—her brick-and-mortar, Ritual Ritual, won Best Jewelry for Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly 2016. Why? Concrete Polish is wow, and so are its other offbeat brands. Peers helping peers. Can I get an amen?
Mod is the mood, and Nicole Haddad brings it. Born from a South Philly studio, Lobo Mau is bold and sophisticated, a combo reflecting its Portuguese translation: Big. Bad. Wolf. Nothing’s bigger or badder (in a good way) than a well-dressed woman. Especially if she’s comfy. Win. Oh, and Haddad’s all about collab—fine artist Ryan Parker creates her prints. Share that brotherly love.
Structural, moody, lustrous. Rebeca Imperiano’s eponymous label’s the lovechild of architecture and fashion. Fitting because the designer holds a bachelor’s in architecture and a master’s in fashion. (Shout-out to my alma mater, Drexel University, for the second degree). Out of school only three short years, Imperiano’s aesthetic is impressively mature. Sleekness your weakness? Watch James Bond, buy Rebeca Imperiano.
West Oak Design
Christie Sommers makes fashion by making an eco-friendly statement. Dress scraps become a shirt, and shirt scraps, a clutch. Her process wastes zilch, and her products are top-notch. Think air-dried, hand-dyed fabrics and easy shapes. Handcrafted locally in Wyndmoor, West Oak Design is earthy, crunchy cool. Look good, feel good and save Mother Nature in the process.
After graduating in June, I founded jenna k. I’d write a blurb, but I’m too biased to not gush. Check me out online instead or follow me on Instagram.
Photos courtesy (from the top): jenna k., Concrete Polish Jewels, Lobo Mau, Rebecca Imperiano, West Oak Design, jenna k.