WORDS BY ELAINE YJ LEE
The NEXT 20 is a biannual report identifying key emerging brands and individuals defining fashion and culture, compiled in partnership with Lyst .
A first of its kind, The NEXT 20 combines the global shopping platform’s quantitative data analysis with qualitative input from the Highsnobiety community, uniquely and effectively forecasting the next generation of leaders and innovators of our space.
In 2022, we finally began to see a semblance of a return to normality. Though our lives — the way we work, interact, and consume — may have irrevocably changed, some things have, surprisingly or not, remained constant. Our desire to create and thirst to seek out the next new thing have only continued to grow, as evidenced by the 20 creative innovators and cultural leaders named here.
In partnership with Lyst, Highsnobiety brings you the new edition of The NEXT 20, the top 10 brands and 10 cultural pioneers at the forefront of defining youth trends today. This year, we are experimenting with a biannual list rather than a quarterly one as we’ve done in the past, and narrowed down our finalists to be altogether 20 so as to be able to spotlight each individual more. This is the first of two lists we will release in 2022, a mid-year check-in of who has been making the most waves so far this year.
The new NEXT 20 is particularly special because this time, we enlisted the Highsnobiety Rolodex — our roster of “superfan” readers — to weigh in on the list. Most of the 20 names below have been chosen by our very readers, with some specially nominated by the carefully selected members of our Advisory Board.
Highsnobiety’s Research and Insight analysts designed an open-ended survey and distributed it exclusively to our Rolodex subscribers and members of staff. 200 people responded, and some 170 Rolodex superfans and 30 Highsnobiety employees came up with almost 400 names to choose from.
Using Lyst’s comprehensive data analysis tools and custom algorithm, we ranked the initial masterlist by a combination of social media engagement and growth, as well as change in search volume for the last six months.
But surely, numbers don’t tell all. To paint the whole picture and ensure The NEXT 20 are ultimately the most relevant in our space, we consulted our Advisory Board comprising some of the most authoritative and knowledgeable experts in the global fashion industry. The Board, whom we also call panelists, provided their insightful and honest feedback, adding some key brands and people to consider who may otherwise not have been captured by numerical data. Diversity was one of the most important qualitative focuses.
The below brands and cultural pioneers are by no means conclusive, but they do accurately reflect the present and future of the talent, vision, and direction we believe the industry is heading. They are presented here in no particular order or ranking.
As is to be expected, each of the 10 brands are unique and therefore altogether make up an eclectically diverse bunch, but their distinctiveness is also what unites them. They share the commonality of having cemented their foundations by a clearly defined, core principle and/or cultural identity.
A cohort of brands are especially noteworthy for their direct and specific reference to certain cultural roots and history. Denim Tears and Barriers Worldwide, for example, proudly highlight the Black diaspora, both illustrating the plight of the Black people and honoring them: Tremaine Emory’s cotton wreath denim, which has become Denim Tears’ most popular signature, symbolizes slavery; Barriers makes T-shirts and hoodies with depictions of prominent Black figures on them, from Miles Davis and Rosa Parks, to Maya Angelou and W.E.B Dubois.
“Barter’s authenticity and connection to his culture and history is important in today’s creative leadership,” Advisory Board member Sandrine Charles tells Highsnobiety of Steven Barter, founder of Barriers who goes by his surname.
Theophilio, LUAR, and paria /FARZANEH are respectively inspired by post-WWII Caribbean immigrants, Brooklyn’s Queer Dominican community, and Iranian traditions. “It’s incredibly refreshing to see Paria’s vision in challenging the western perception of Middle Eastern culture and aesthetic, and boldly blurring the lines between the two distinctly different worlds that have informed her experience,” Advisory Board member Gia Kuan says.
“Barter’s authenticity and connection to his culture and history is important in today’s creative leadership.” – Sandrine Charles, HS Advisory Board
“Theophilio [is the] number one designer that immediately comes to mind when I think about who has been making the most impact both on the product and cultural level,” says Highsnobiety Rolodex member, Brendan Smith (25, Advertising & Marketing).
Julie Gilhart, Chief Development Officer at Tomorrow showroom, expands on Theophilio: “Edvin Thompson offers a fresh perspective while seamlessly marrying past and present into the narrative of his work. [His] garments are infused with memory and meaning; they are a celebration of identity relating to his Jamaican roots.”
Now more than ever, brands that may have been typically cast away in their own league are appealing to a wider demand, reaching beyond their immediate niche and uplifting underrepresented communities.
– 599% Instagram follower growth, the highest increase among the 10 brands
– Released a Converse collaboration in June 2022
– The most mentioned brand among the HS Rolodex
– 4.5 million views of #corteizrtw on TikTok
– 307% search volume increase
– 12 million views of #denimtears on TikTok
– 428% Instagram follower growth
– 296% search volume increase
– 128% Instagram follower growth
– Released an adidas Originals Ozweego collaboration in March 2022
– 966% search volume increase, the highest change among The NEXT 20
– 194% instagram follower growth
– 143% Instagram follower growth
– Their “It bag,” the Ana, has been worn by Dua Lipa and Troye Sivan
Museum of Peace and Quiet
– 600% search volume growth
– 571% Instagram follower growth
– Collaborated with Vault by Vans in May 2022
– 264% Instagram follower growth
– 230% search volume increase
– Collaborated with Converse in September 2021
– 64% Instagram follower growth
– Worn by Solange, Luka Sabbat, and Gabrielle Union
The founding principle for (di)vision, the Copenhagen-hailing brand run by siblings Simon and Nanna Wick, is environmental sustainability. The brand only creates from “what already is,” taking deadstock material and vintage workwear and military pieces to cut-and-sew 1-of-1 designs. “What’s currently the hardest challenge for us right now is scaling without neglecting our core values,” Simon Wick told Highsnobiety in an interview last year. “We want to grow, but we also want to do it the right way. If suddenly we get an order of 1,000 pairs of jeans and we can’t deliver them sustainably, we’re not going to deliver them. That’s what we want to show, because I think that’s what people need right now.”
Some of the top 10 brands stand out for their way of operating more as a collective and community, rather than by a sole founder or creative director. LUAR, although founded by prominent fashion figure Raul Lopez (who also co-founded Hood By Air, is known for its tight-knit family of friends and muses. “It’s amazing to see the strength that lies in the community and family surrounding Raul and his brand — the trust, vision, and love that comes together is very powerful,” Kuan says.
“It’s amazing to see the strength that lies in the community and family surrounding Raul and his brand — the trust, vision, and love that comes together is very powerful.” – Gia Kuan, HS Advisory Board
The same is true for London-based Corteiz, run by the enigmatic founder who only goes by “Clint.” The brand’s rebellious spirit shows through in its guerilla-style pop up releases and giveaway events, which are only marketed via social media and word-of-mouth and still attract hundreds of people to swarm the streets. “Thinking in terms of streetwear, London-based brands are taking over, especially Corteiz… They are seeping into music videos, fashion influencers’ wardrobes, and even doing collabs, too,” says Highsnobiety Rolodex member, Julia Lebosse (Student). Indeed, Corteiz’s recognizable Alcatraz logo has been spotted on Stormy, Dave,Slowthai, and Jorja Smith . Even Virgil Abloh wore Corteiz socks to the MET Gala last year.
Kusikohc, the backwards spelling of its founder’s name, Cho Gi-Seok (Kisuk), is the only brand from Asia that made this NEXT 20 list. The Seoul-based label is as artisanal in its design approach as Cho is in his photography, the first medium through which audiences came to know his work. “Kusikohc [is] showing fresh new looks and has got my attention with interesting silhouettes and creative motifs,” says HS Rolodex member, Walter Prince (25, Advertising & Marketing). Bohan Qiu, HS panelist and founder of Boh Projects, a Shanghai-based creative agency, agrees: “Gi-Seok pioneers an alternative vision into his clothing that is shaking up aesthetics, merging subculture notes. [He has] a very refreshed contemporary ‘street to luxury’ attitude that feels instinctively Asian but also universally relevant.”
Martine Ali, the only exclusively accessories-focused brand on the list, handmakes made-to-order jewelry and silver hardware bags in Brooklyn. “Martine Ali [is] another designer that has sent shockwaves through 2022 with her jewelry,” Brendan Smith says, a sentiment also echoed by our panelists: “[She’s] killing it in the jewelry space — truthfully very well made [and] long-lasting but also statement pieces,” says Kuan.
Los Angeles-based Museum of Peace and Quiet, which was part of our “On the Rise” NEXT 20 runner-ups in 2020 Q3, calls itself “a leisure company.” The casualwear brand is headed by husband-and-wife duo, Christion and Ashley Lennon, who offer up relaxed ‘fits and lifestyle objects like Joya candles that provide a nice, relaxing mental detox from the busy-ness of our lives.
This year’s top 10 cultural pioneers represent a healthy mix of industries and specialty, from of course fashion and entertainment to even sports.
In fashion, independent designers Sami Miro and Kofi McCalla made the list, respectively based in LA and London. Sami Miro, like Museum of Peace and Quiet, is committed to upcycling materials for “ethically made” garments. At her brand, Sami Miro Vintage, Miro’s title is “Impact Designer,” and tagline, “Protect Mother Earth.”
Twenty-five year-old McCalla, who newly founded his brand, Bonne Nuit, is also a DJ who runs a streetwear YouTube channel , The Unknown Vlogs, with almost one million subscribers. “I feel like Kofi McCalla aka @icykof has a lot of impact on the culture. He seems to be working less for show and more to make his dreams and passions come alive, which is something that we all should go for,” tells HS Rolodex member, Mateusz Palenica (24, Student).
“[Kofi McCalla] seems to be working less for show and more to make his dreams and passions come alive, which is something that we all should go for.” – Mateusz Palenica, HS Rolodex
Continuing the fashion influence are Leo Gamboa and Ismaila Traore, who are not designers themselves, but still retain creative functions. Gamboa previously headed collaborations at Reebok and now oversees global collabs at Levi’s, and Traore is a creative at marketing agency Weiden + Kennedy. Traore also heads his own design agency, Coral Studios, which made industry buzz with clients like Nike and Umbro.
Interestingly, three of the pioneers this time around are fashion photographers: Thibaut Grevet, Sandy Kim, and Theo Liu respectively hail from Paris, Los Angeles, and Shanghai. “[I like] the people behind the brands: the photographers, image creators, designers, curators, and stylists,” says Shane Gormley, Highsnobiety’s Associate Creative Director of Marketing.
“[Theo] is one of the photographers from China crafting a quirky and experimental approach to photography,” Qiu says. “[He uses] minimal techniques to combine with his intuitively unique vision that paved a new path in photography in China and globally.”
Grevet, who also doubles as a filmmaker, has shot for Dior, Salomon, Rimowa, Carhartt x Converse, and Virgil Abloh, with a modern and artistic aesthetic that is uniquely his own.
OG fans of Sandy Kim, whose social media presence spiked after shooting Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS campaign in February 2022, will recognize her consistent work with Supreme. She’s also popular for her honest, intimate, at times in-your-face self portraits challenging conformity and the female identity.
“[The] qualities [of a pioneer are] passion, knowledge, niche skill sets, niche interests, transparency, [and] range of output.” – Shane Gormley, HS Staff
On the entertainment side, Angus Cloud’s Euphoria-driven star power has catapulted him one of the most talked-about and recognized actors of our generation, an astonishing feat considering the HBO series is only his debut work. While arguably already a superstar, we included him in The NEXT 20 because we believe it’s only his beginning.
Alongside Cloud is actor Hoyeon Jung, who made a splash with her appearance in Squid Game, which caused her Instagram following to grow a staggering 56 times. Buzz around Jung is still going strong, as she continues to trend nine months after the Netflix show. “Hoyeon Jung’s influence is a beautiful example of the fluid intersection of fashion and film,” Gilhart says. “Her ability to transcend genres in and beyond her native Korea, while captivating audiences on the screen and fashion alike is a testament to her power and global impact.”
The Tokyo-born, LA-based Yuto Horigome is the sole athlete in The NEXT 20. The 23 year-old skateboarder won the Olympic gold medal at the 2020 summer games, “becoming an inspiration for millions of youth in Asia and beyond to get into the grime,” according to Qiu. Horigome has consistently placed second in men’s street skate in the World Skateboarding Olympics Ranking since 2019, the year he also landed his Nike SB sponsorship.
– 1 billion views of #anguscloud on TikTok with a 50% engagement rate
– 1,375% search volume increase upon the release of Euphoria 2
– Cloud’s appearance at the Euphoria premiere in an orange Versace suit spiked the search volume for “orange suits” by 132% in 24 hours
– 200% search volume increase
– 163% Instagram follower growth
– Coral Studios, which is run by Traore, increased 200% in search volume
– 64% Instagram follower growth
– 12.5 million views of #yutohirogome on TikTok
– 120% Instagram follower growth
Each of The NEXT 20 brands carry a strong sense of mission and message, whether it’s about diversity and inclusion, education and awareness, and/or sustainability. The pioneers are dedicated self-starters, accomplishing breakout feats in each of their fields. Our audience now — as far as the Highsnobiety community is concerned — seem more inspired by achievement, ability, and vision more than fashion sense or social media prowess. In the post-Covid era — if we could call it that — we are acutely aware of the core issues surrounding us, and simply want more from our creative leaders. “[Their] qualities [are] passion, knowledge, niche skill sets, niche interests, transparency, [and] range of output,” Gormley explains.
One crucial takeaway is that for now, the distinction is blurred between emerging brands and pioneers. Each pioneer may as well be their own brand, and some brands are so strongly associated with its single founder, that they are almost synonymous with one another.
We are excited to embark on the journey with The NEXT 20 brands and cultural pioneers, as they continue to grow and evolve.
The Highsnobiety x Lyst NEXT 20 is always made possible thanks to our Advisory Board of some of the most authoritative and influential industry experts from around the world.
Sarah Andelman, Founder of Just An Idea, Paris
Serge Carreira, Head of Emerging Markets at Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la
Sandrine Charles, Founder of Sandrine Charles Consulting & Co-Founder of Black In
Fashion Council, New York
Julie Gilhart, Chief Development Officer of Tomorrow, London
Gia Kuan, Founder of Gia Kuan Consulting, New York
KB Lee, Fashion Consultant, Los Angeles & Seoul
Christopher Morency, Chief Brand Officer of Vanguard, London
Chris Morton, CEO & Founder of Lyst
Bohan Qiu, Founder of Boh Projects, Shanghai
Corey Stokes, SVP of Creative at ESSENCE, Los Angeles
Yuki Uenaka, Brand Partnerships Director of Highsnobiety Japan, Tokyo
Marco Vianello, VP of Business Development at Tomorrow, London
Last but not least, we would also like to thank the 200 Highsnobiety Rolodex subscribers and members of staff who responded to the survey to contribute invaluable input.
Katy Lubin, Camilla Clarkson
Highsnobiety Research & Insights:
Erika Ammerman, Tattiana Lamas, Esmaeel Elsayed
Manus Browne, Tetiana Khvorostiana
Highsnobiety, Getty Images