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Baby Designers Vie for a Spot in Fashion's Incubator

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Sydney Maresca, looking very liberal-arts in a red scarf and tortoiseshell glasses, was the first designer to show her collection to a panel of fashion editors (myself included) on May 9. A recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence, she cheerfully admitted to having no retail experience before presenting a white raincoat daubed with the words of a poem she'd written about a canoe. "But I studied costume design and Russian literature," she said. "So I'm smart." She stuffed the crinoline of a bright-yellow sundress into her garment bag and set off for home as the panel filled out a questionnaire: "This designer could be the next . . . " Cynthia Rowley seemed about right.

Maresca was applying for the right to sell her clothing at an "incubator space" called Forward, a boutique at 72 Orchard Street that's subsidized by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District. She and 35 other would-be Marc Jacobses and Anna Suis had lined the sidewalk, patiently clutching their jewelry boxes and garment bags.

Next up was Noa Bolozky, 26 -- one of many hopefuls who seemed to be fixated on corsets made from embroidered Chinese silk. Then there was Erica Rosenberg, who received encouraging murmurs for her pair of stretchy thong underwear. In came Yulando McMullen, with a master's in textiles from Cornell, who produced his own interpretation of the skort; and Denise de Bosé, who showed off a plus-size lemon-yellow vinyl suit with a matching wide-brim straw hat. "How long have you been designing?" one editor wanted to know. "Honey," answered De Bosé, "how old is dirt and water?"

Finally, as Jemima Jackman (top) showed off her neo-preppy smock-front sundresses, she received the ultimate seal of approval. "I have," gasped Elizabeth Kiester, the fashion director of YM, reaching her arm across the table, "to have that."


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