September 22, 2023

Personal expression through fashion has helped Dorian Who founder Dorian Rahimzadeh find her focus as a designer. After growing up in Iran, Rahimzadeh studied fashion design at LaSalle College in Istanbul before moving to Toronto, where she entered the industry by volunteering at Toronto Fashion Week. In 2019, she struck out on her own and launched Dorian Who, an avantgarde streetwear brand focused on slow-made, seasonless fashion. Incorporating deadstock fabrics, Rahimzadeh’s made-to-order pieces reflect her Persian heritage, and each of her collections is focused on a different theme. Her fifth collection, released earlier this year, is called “Noor” and was inspired by a show of solidarity with oppressed communities around the globe and their emerging movements. Bold tones and prints and military fabrics are a call for attention and the need for women’s voices to be heard, while the contrast between traditionally masculine and feminine elements reflects the individual’s search for gender equality. In 2022, she was nominated for the Award for Emerging Talent, Fashion, at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards. Given the brand’s aim to empower those who wear its designs, it’s no surprise that one of Dorian Who’s signature pieces is a padded headband—a crownlike statement maker that’s fit for a queen.

Elena Velez’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., is better known for beer and cheese than haute couture, but that’s exactly why it provides the designer with the inspiration to create pieces that are unlike anything else on the runways. Incorporating elements of the kind of traditional metalwork found in the Midwest, Velez’s designs are a biting take on the power of femininity, and they have developed a fan base that includes Charli XCX, Solange Knowles and Rico Nasty. Now based in New York City, where, in 2021, she made her Fashion Week debut, Velez is on a mission to democratize fashion-industry resources and access for those living outside of the traditional fashion capitals of the globe. She won American Emerging Designer of the Year at the 2022 CFDA Fashion Awards, a clear indication that her refreshing perspective is reaching the right eyes. As a guest of Balenciaga’s at this year’s Met Gala, Velez dressed artist Sasha Gordon in a custom gown that referenced stained-glass windows and Renaissance paintings. Despite this acclaim, Velez has been open about the financial hardships of starting a fashion company, recently sharing her $370 bank balance with The New York Times. In an effort to be transparent about the amount of equity needed to launch a brand, Velez also revealed that her line is somewhat of an experiment in creating with minimal capital.