by John Russel Jones

Saks has launched the second year of its emerging designer accelerator program, The New Wave, presented by Mastercard. This year’s program features eight new-to-Saks brands, including Claude Kameni, KEEYAHRI, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Nalebe, SUNNI SUNNI, Undra Celeste, Who Decides War and Zeynep Arcay. To celebrate the program, Saks will feature participating designers in a robust marketing campaign across its digital channels and in a special window installation at the Saks Fifth Avenue New York flagship on display now through Tuesday, October 11th.

ABOVE: Image from Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s A/W 2021 campaign, and Who Decides War’s Levi’s capsule presented at New York Fashion Week.

The New Wave program develops and supports high-potential independent brands in accelerating their growth at Saks, and ultimately across the greater fashion industry. This year, participating designers were sourced from all categories, including women’s, men’s and gender-fluid ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories. Participants were identified by the Saks leadership team as brands that possess significant growth potential and would benefit from additional support to scale their businesses.

The program also aims to amplify BIPOC voices and furthers Saks’ commitment to increasing representation in its merchandise assortment. This year, six of the eight participating brands are Black-owned businesses, and Saks has ensured that at least half of the program participants will be BIPOC brands each year.

“We are excited to continue using our platform to uplift emerging brands and support BIPOC designers,” noted Tracy Margolies, Chief Merchandising Officer, Saks. “This incredible program provides a unique opportunity for up-and-coming designers to accelerate their growth at Saks and across the fashion industry. At the same time, it furthers our commitment to increasing representation in our assortment and delivering fresh, compelling fashion to our customers.”


This year’s New Wave program includes:

  • Onboarding bootcamp at Saks’ corporate headquarters in New York City.
  • Cross-functional advisory sessions with leaders from key areas across the Saks business, including merchandising, marketing, public relations and business operations.
  • Mentoring sessions with industry experts, including designer Joseph Altuzarra, Harlem’s Fashion Row’s Founder and CEO Brandice Daniel, and Executive Vice President at Purple PR, Andrew Lister.
  • Roundtable discussion with NBA All-Star, entrepreneur, investor and Saks board member James Harden on entrepreneurship and style.
  • Small business workshops and consulting led by program partners including Launch Collective, NuORDER by Lightspeed and SKYPAD.
  • Deskside meetings with Vogue editors and access to professional development through the CFDA.
  • Opportunity to receive a $10,000 grant to support business operations and growth.


For the second year in a row, Mastercard is the presenting sponsor of The New Wave program. Mastercard will provide participating designers with Digital Doors® Toolkits, including exclusive tools and resources to help small businesses digitally transform, as well as one-on-one mentorship on digital enablement. This partnership builds on Mastercard’s sustained commitment to build a more inclusive digital economy and to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black communities.

This year, United Airlines is also taking part in The New Wave program. United hosted a competition for this year’s participants to design the refreshed Saks Fifth Avenue day blanket that will appear on board United flights in United premium cabins from April 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023. Following review by leadership teams at Saks and United, Claude Kameni was selected as the winner of the design competition. In addition to her design being featured on board United flights, Claude will receive a $10,000 travel grant and a $10,000 monetary grant for design services from United.

The two featured brands that include menswear are:


Saint Sernin represents a return to beauty, seen via the lens of sensuality and sexuality, with an exacting approach to design.The French designer graduated in Fashion Design from ESAA Duperré and worked in a number of French fashion houses before launching his own label in 2018. Ludovic de Saint Sernin is for guys and girls, with many pieces designed without one gender in mind. Ludovic has shown his collection on both the men’s and women’s official Fashion Week calendar in Paris. The label is known for its underwear, forming a new product category of luxury underwear for men, with the eyelet brief being the brand’s signature item. The majority of Ludovic’s clothes and accessories are made in France and sustainable practices are always closely followed, consciously shortening the supply chain and maintaining a close relationship with all ateliers.


In 2019, Artistic Director Ev Bravado and his creative partner Tela D’Amore presented their first full-scale collection in Paris. Widely recognized for newfound signature denim silhouettes, Who Decides War hones in on carefully crafted pieces, expert garment distressing, recycling, reworking and multi-phase hand-dyeing, all with incomparable and meticulous attention to appliqué detailing. These key factors are what continue to set this creative team apart. As Who Decides War continues to grow exponentially, its in-house team retains the same grounded outlook and mission statement of instilling faith, culture and a handmade touch into each garment created.