A beginner’s guide to contemporary fashion: 10 labels to know now and what they’ll mean for your wallet

Contemporary Fashion

In the world of fashion buzzwords, one bandied around on the daily is “contemporary.” Meant to describe labels with a designer aesthetic and more accessible price points (and we use the term “accessible” loosely, with most pieces averaging out around $500), the term means big bucks where the fashion industry’s concerned, having become one of the biggest areas people spend their money in the last few years.

With the rise of bloggers and social media turning designer goods into Instagram bait, the market for conspicuous consumption has never been higher. But despite this overwhelming urge to own a piece of luxury, the reality is that most credit cards aren’t equipped with Céline-level spending limits. Enter contemporary fashion. You may never be able to afford that $50,000 Birkin, but after a few weeks of saving, a 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli bag may just be within reach.

Not only will contemporary labels allow you to up your designer arsenal without forcing you to exist on an exclusively Kraft Dinner diet, but the pieces are also constructed with everyday wear in mind (no couture-like assembly required). Not to mention that contemporary lines still boast that oh-so-coveted designer aesthetic and quality craftsmanship—perfect if you’re looking to break away from the usual suspects in fast fashion retail. To assist with this transition, we’ve wrapped up the brands that we think are owning the contemporary game across all four fashion capitals in a handy top 10 list.

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Contemporary Fashion

Carven

Location: Paris
Bio: Founded in 1945, Carven has enjoyed a resurgence since the hiring of designer Guillaume Henry in 2009, who transformed the house from old-school couturier into the cool girl’s label du jour. Despite his success at refurbishing the nearly 70-year old brand, Spring 2015 was Henry’s last season with Carven, as he will be moving on to Creative Director at Nina Ricci.
MO: Emphasizing an aesthetic that is the perfect marriage of hyper-femininity and urban sportiness, with a penchant for details such as cutouts, prim collars, and playful prints.
Celeb Fans: Emma Watson and Alexa Chung
Price: Sweatshirts start at $300 with dresses retailing for just under $1,000.

Contemporary Fashion

Jonathan Simkhai

Location: NYC
Bio: His first womenswear collection was shown in 2010, where Simkhai debuted his take on dressing for today’s cosmopolitan woman. A master at tailoring oversized pieces to flatter the female form, his designs run the gamut from exaggerated boxer shorts to basketball jerseys.
MO: Presenting a refined style of dressing that speaks to a girl’s tendency to borrow her boyfriend’s clothes.
Celeb Fans: Julia Restoin Roitfeld and Emily Ratajkowski
Price: $200-$400.

Contemporary Fashion

Band of Outsiders

Location: Los Angeles
Bio: Scott Sternberg originally founded Band of Outsiders as a minimalist menswear collection in the midst of the gaudy aughts. The brand’s success was so resounding that it led to the creation of a womenswear line in 2007.
MO: BoO’s monikers include a variety of takes on uniform dressing, including shrunken schoolboy blazers, narrow oxford-cloth shirts, and impeccably cut trousers.
Celeb Fans: Michelle Williams and Karlie Kloss
Price: Ranges considerably, from $125 for a polo to almost $2,000 for a trench coat.

Contemporary Fashion

N°21

Location: Milan
Bio: Started in 2010 by designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua, the brand offers a smorgasbord of whimsical designs that can be effortlessly integrated into a modern wardrobe.
MO: To re-invent the accepted categories of fashion by throwing opposing ideas together (think “military rococo” or “bourgeois matrons”).
Celeb Fans: Rita Ora
Price: Coming in between $400-$1,800, these pieces are guaranteed to get their money’s worth as conversation starters.

Contemporary Fashion

Trademark

Location: NYC
Bio: Founded last year by sisters Pookie and Louisa Burch (ex-step daughters to one Tory), the line offers apparel and accessories in the vein of classic American sportswear.
MO: Taking a no-frills, almost generic approach to modern dressing, the FW14 season is all about ankle-clearing trousers, high-necked sweaters, and monastic slides—French schoolgirl-cum-Amish countryside, if you will.
Celeb Fans: Elizabeth Olsen and Leandra Medine
Price: $200-$300 for separates and around $500 for dresses.

Contemporary Fashion

BLK DNM

Location:
NYC
Bio: Developed by popular Euro designer Johan Lindeberg in 2011 with the intent to create a hybrid category of “rebellious classics” using a variety of inventive tailoring techniques for denim and leather.
MO: Making clothes for ambitious women looking for that elusive mix of New York grunge and Parisienne chic.
Celeb Fans: Chloe Sevigny and Emily Weiss
Price: Jeans begin at $215 with jackets going for around $800.

Contemporary Fashion

Mother of Pearl

Location: London
Bio: Re-launched in 2008 under the creative direction of Amy Powney, the brand has honed its attention to colour, embellishment, and athletic details.
MO: Maintaining a focus on artisanal craftsmanship, each season MoP collaborates with a different artist on unique prints to be featured within the collection (Spring 2015 saw the influence of British artist Mat Collishaw’s grotesquely beautiful “Insecticide” series).
Celeb Fans: Elle Fanning and Susie Bubble
Price: $300-400 for printed sweatshirts and canvas sneakers, with crystal-encrusted coats going for over $1,000.

Contemporary Fashion

Tome

Location: NYC
Bio: Tome is the culmination of best friends Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin’s 13-year-long dream to start their own line. Their collections revolve around strong women, and as such a female artist is always incorporated into the pair’s work (past names include Georgia O’Keeffe and Ana Mendieta).
MO: Designs exude a distinct earth goddess vibe, with even the most gamine of garments looking as though they’ve been carved and sculpted.
Celeb Fans: Hannah Bronfman and Dakota Johnson
Price: Separates come in at $300-500 and dresses begin at $600.

Contemporary Fashion

MSGM

Location: Milan
Bio: Started in 2008 by DJ-turned-designer Massimo Giorgetti, who cited his interest in indie music, contemporary art, and the online revolution as motivating factors behind his foray into entrepreneurship.
MO: Subscribing to the “more-is-more” school of thought, Giorgetti has an affinity for kaleidoscopic colours and shapes, which has earned him a cult following among bloggers.
Celeb Fans: Chiara Ferragni
Price: Separates are around $400, while some of the line’s more elaborately printed dresses can hit upwards of $1,000.

Contemporary Fashion

Sandro

Location: Paris
Bio: Started by Moroccan-born Evelyne Chétrite and her husband Didier in the heart of the Marais in 1984.
MO: Focusing on details that are elegant and effortless, Sandro’s specialty is personifying that coveted brand of French je ne sais quoi and insouciant edginess.
Celeb Fans: Taylor Swift and Reese Witherspoon
Price: Separates total between $200-400, while their impressive selection of leather accessories fall into the $500 range.