Of the more than 100 designers showing spring/summer 2011 collections at Fashion Week, there are at least nine worth bookmarking — 'cause if your friends and co-workers aren't raving about 'em now, they will be soon. You see, this lot is fierce with a capital F and plenty of emphasis on the saaah. It includes a Halston trainee, a designer who has made dresses out of toilet paper, and creatives who already count Lady Gaga and Kate Moss among their fans. But don't take our word for it: Click ahead to meet the nine designers yourself, see sketches and samples of their work, and be able to say with confidence that you knew them way back when.
Who he is: A designer long overdue for a little attention. Though Mohapatra, 37, worked for Halston and French furrier Gilles Mendel befpre taking over as design director of J.Mendel, counts Bergdorf Goodman among his distributors, and was accepted into the inaugural Council of Fashion Directors of America Fashion Incubator program earlier this year, he still hasn't gotten his runway due. This season — his fourth go with a womenswear collection under his own name — may change that.
Why we like him: Mohapatra’s clothes are sculpted from lavish fabrics and beadwork is often hand-stitched. The garments are sophisticated, but with sexy, modern touches like sheer panels and thigh-baring slashes. “My client doesn’t just care about her appearance,” says Mohapatra. “She cares how her clothes are made. She respects the craft.”
Show info: 9/14 at 1:30 p.m. at the Box at Lincoln Center.
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Who he is: Canadian designer Clayton Evans studied fine arts before moving to Montreal, where he devoted three years to learning the basics of cutting and draping. After watching a documentary on architect Buckminster Fuller, Evans was taken with the idea of simple, functional geometric design. His line, founded in 2008, slowly gained notoriety through the style blogs, and fellow Canadian Tommy Ton was recruited to shoot the spring/summer 2010 look book. Montreal boutique Reborn was the first to pick it up; now progressive local retailers like Oak and Assembly New York stock his goods. This is Evans's first time showing at New York Fashion Week.
Why we like him: Evans's strength is his ability to toy with proportion and imagination. With no distinct front or back, the androgynous pieces are meant to be interpreted by the wearer. For spring 2011, Evans cites air as his main inspiration: "I was struck by the idea of sandstorm — air is normally invisible, but a sandstorm shows how forceful and massive air can become."
Show info: 9/14 at 12:30 p.m. at Pier 59 Studios.
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Who he is: Twenty-nine-year-old Graeme Armour has been designing since childhood: "Mom told me I used to make dresses from toilet paper," he says. "Things always add up to why you like them later.” The Glasgow native went on to get his master's degree in womenswear from Central Saint Martins before starting a three-year stint with Alexander McQueen. In 2008, Armour showcased his design chops, winning the Scottish Young Designer of the Year award. He finally launched his eponymous line in 2009; this will be his second time showing at New York Fashion Week.
Why we like him: While the designer says his clothes are “quite dark" with "an industrial feel,” it’s the edgy silhouettes and provoking cutouts that really rock us. If you have the guts to put on one of Armour’s fringed, metallic, or barely there designs, you can find his clothes at Opening Ceremony — or do like Lady Gaga does and place a personal order.
Show info: 9/13 at 11 a.m. at Milk Studios.
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Hexa By Kuho
Who he is: Jung Kuho studied at Parsons before returning to Seoul and working as a creative director at Samsung, where he oversaw numerous fashion brands for the Asian market; he also dabbled in art direction, creating costumes for theatrical productions. Then in fall 2010, he founded Hexa by Kuho; the name comes from the Greek word for the number six, which, Kuho explains, signifies "universal associations with harmony, balance, and unity of purpose or form, most notably in spirituality and religion." For his big debut, Kuho cast Freja Beha and Tao Okamoto to walk as a Nick Knight–produced movie featuring Ranya Mordanova played in the background. The avant-garde designs were immediately picked up by forward-thinking boutiques 10 Corso Como in Seoul and IF. This is his second time showing at New York Fashion Week.
Why We Like Him: Kuho's austere color palette and focus on deconstruction is an unexpected contrast to the ladylike trend we're seeing everywhere else. For spring 2011, Kuho questions the interplay of beauty and functionality and takes inspiration from images of obsolete medical prostheses.
Show info: 9/13 at 4 p.m. at the Park Avenue Armory.
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Who he is: The New York native grew up merchandising window displays and helping out with his family’s fashion-manufacturing business in Scarsdale, New York. What he couldn’t learn from his parents, he picked up in classes at F.I.T. and Parsons, refining his sketching and pattern-making skills. Simkhai launched his menswear-inspired women’s label at age 24, debuting a fall 2010 collection based on the pieces his girl friends kept stealing from his closet: boxers, bow ties, button-downs, and blazers. His first collection was picked up by Intermix and 25 Park and flaunted in the pages of Lucky and WWD. For spring 2011, his second time showing in New York, expect a slight twist on the modern-day-man aesthetic: Simkhai pored over stacks of vintage Vogues to inject a hint of fifties femininity.
Why we like him: Simkhai designs for that downtown-cool girl who is effortlessly sexy, sans the plunging necklines and scandalously short hemlines. He realizes the value in crafting the perfect blazer, button-down shirt, or slouchy-chic trousers.
Show info: 9/13 at 5 p.m. at 50 Gansevoort Street.
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Who she is: A 26-year-old Massachusetts native whose eponymous debut collection hit Convent and Oak last month. LaPointe and business partner/roommate/best friend Sarah Adelson met at RISD in 2006 and quit their jobs last year to start the label; LaPointe handles the creative side while Adelson manages the books. The fall 2010 collection was a bold combination of minimalistic shapes and loud fabrics (think iridescent silks, ink-splattered prints); this season marks the duo’s first serious runway show, which LaPointe hopes will bump up her visibility: “I want to elevate it for a more sophisticated consumer,” she says.
Why we like her: LaPointe’s unfussy silhouettes make her punchy materials all the more wearable. She’s also been working with something called “horsehair eyelash”: “It’s, like, about six inches of what looks like horsehair coming out of the fabric,” she gushes. “It looks amazing!”
Show info: 9/12 at 8 p.m. at 548 West 22nd Street.
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Who he is: A 24-year-old designer who attributes his creativity to his family: “My granddad was a draftsman; I saw technical drawings of buildings and that inspired me.” Tempest studied at the London College of Fashion, worked as a cutter and pattern-maker for Giles Deacon, and did freelance work for Diesel. In 2008, he established his own label and was quickly tapped to show his collection at London Fashion Week’s Fashion Fringe competition. This in turn led to many a celebrity convert, including Emma Watson and Kate Moss. Spring 2011 marks Tempest's first time showing at NYFW.
Why we like him: His highly constructed pieces have a distinctive architectural edge — from supportive internal corsets to artful draping. His new collection was inspired by the ocean: the structure of shells, strange sea creatures, and mythical sirens. Tempest fuses bright colors and ethereal shapes that reflect the “healthier and alive” feel of the beach, while maintaining his signature glam factor.
Show info: 9/13 at 8:30 a.m. at the Box at Lincoln Center.
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Who she is: South Korean womenswear designer Yuna Yang spent her twenties honing her craft in Europe, first designing evening dresses with Alviero Martini in Milan, and then doing production for Ann Sofie Back and Clements Ribiero in London. Despite early success, the Central Saint Martins grad had always told herself she would helm her own label by the time she turned 30; so, in December of 2008, at age 30, she launched Yuna Yang. She made her New York Fashion Week debut with a fall 2010 show at Arario Gallery, presenting a glamorous array of cashmere coats and ruffled frocks inspired by twenties silent-film star Lulu-Louise Brooks; the collection landed on the cover of WWD. And though she’s perhaps best known for her frothy evening gowns, Yang has also caught the eye of the trendsetters as well — Whitney Port wore one of her dresses this season on The City.
Why we like her: Her slinky cocktail dresses are unabashedly feminine, whether inspired by twenties flappers or — for spring 2011 — sixties housewives. Yang has a particular affinity for hand-done lace and accent beading, turning each piece into something timeless and distinct.
Show info: 9/11 at 9:30 a.m. at the Hudson Hotel.
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Who he is: A 27-year-old designer hailing from Millbrook, New York, who dabbled in the art world while working at the studios of Sol LeWitt and George Condo. Those cutting-edge aesthetics shaped his vision during post-grad work at Parsons, and later as a menswear designer for Yigal Azrouël and J.Crew. True to his artsy roots, Casertano presented his first collection at Luhring Augustine Gallery in fall 2010, and tapped Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek to model for his pre-spring look book. “The women in my life influence my designs,” says Casertano, adding that his ideal client is “bookish, beautiful, and a bit daring."
Why we like him: Sleek, angular, and sharp, his clothes reflect both his appreciation of modern art and his precision tailoring. “It’s analog but user-friendly,” he says. The inspirations are as varied as his background, and include the things he “studied in school and continue[s] to explore: a love of materials and craft, a vein of irreverence, an American approach to design and dressing, and [his] babysitters circa 1994.”
Show info: 9/9 at 3 p.m. at Benrimon Contemporary (514 West 24th Street, second floor).