March 10, 2011

Fashion's Fresh Faces

From teenage fashion bloggers sitting front row of top runway shows to fresh-faced twenty-somethings straight out of design school producing the must-see shows, the forefront of New York fashion rests in the hands of a youthful generation. With unscathed creativity, passion, and the first to embrace technology and social media, the young dare to be bold and prove that age really is just a number.

Today, we highlight several of the leading young fashion designers, sharing their success stories and why they deserve to be on the look out. All with their own unique beginnings, each carry a distinct vision that has brought them to where they are today. Here are our top five picks, completely different in style, but united by their entrepreneur spirit and strong influence they bring in today's fashion.

photo via: WSJ
1. Jason Wu
Jason Wu became an overnight sensation when Michelle Obama danced the night away dressed in one of his gowns at the inaugural ball. That night, at the tender age of 26, Wu became an instant household name and his career skyrocketed into what many designers spend years dreaming to achieve. Today, two years later, Wu has expanded to a globally recognized empire of ready-to-wear, bridal, handbags, and shoes. On his way of building a global luxury brand, his name is carried in over 130 stores world-wide, and an opening of his first flagship store in New York City is one of the next things on his check list.

Recognized for opulence and an effortless elegance, Wu brings royal decadence to New York's traditional sportswear scene that is like no other. His latest fall/winter collection showcases more than 15 different types of lace, hand-worked Swarovski crystal beading, luxe sweatshirts, and show stopping floor-length ball gowns. In a very short period of time, Wu has proven to be far beyond just a go-to cocktail dress designer and has become a personal favorite to the social elite and Hollywood's most glamourous.

photo via: Fashionista

2. Vena Cava
Most business men would be hesitant to suggest friends or lovers becoming business partners. But we know in fashion, this could sometimes be a designer's best decision. We've all seen the success of Viktor & Rolf and Dolce & Gabbana so in some cases, like we said earlier, two really is better than one.

Both raised in California, Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock met in the west before both left for New York to attend the prestigious Parsons School of Design. At the end of their education, when their work wasn't selected for the Senior Thesis Show, instead of giving up, they decided to put together their own show three weeks later after graduation. From what began on their living room floor eight years ago, the design duo now sells their collections all throughout the world.

The two aren't afraid to take on additional projects on top of managing their own label. Stating that trying new things is key to keeping their business moving forward, Vena Cava has a long list of collaborations, including Gap, Via Spiga, Aqua for Bloomingdale's, and Converse. The next retailer in line is rumored to be Uniqlo.

photo via: StyleList

3. Alexander Wang
Building a name out of a wardrobe inspired by the "model-off-duty" look, Alexander Wang is a favorite, and probably a friend of, the coolest downtown it-girls. With an approximately $25 million business at a young age of 27, it's clear that Wang knows what women want. With his first flagship store recently launched in Soho, Wang is just getting started.

One of his strengths that really helped build his success is his strong relationship with his family. We all know the saying "blood is thicker than water," but that is truly the motto in Wang's fashion empire. His brother is the chief principal officer and his sister-in-law is the CEO. His mother also owns a manufacturing business in Shanghai. Former Barney's Creative Director Julie Gilhart quotes the family "really knew about production," an advantage Wang had over many other young designers. From the very beginning, his family was extremely supportive of his dream and encouraged him with all that they could offer.

photo via: BlackBook

Wang is often criticized as a designer who makes "affordable" or "wearable" clothes. And although some may see this as an insult, Wang doesn't seem to care as long as he knows that he's doing the right thing. His debut started just around when the economic downturn put a tight strap on everyone's wallets. And although this was a tough period for most, he saw this as an opportunity to redefined luxury in an economically unstable era. From his $74 t-shirts to $1,200 dresses, his goal is to make every woman a Wang Woman.

photo via: Ecouterre

4. Tara St. James
If grades were ever issued to fashion designers, Tara St. James deserves an A+. The recipient of the 2011 Ecco Domani Award for Sustainable Design, Tara St. James is the founder of the label Study NY, launched in September 2009. An inspiration to all, St. James integrates zero-waste pattern making, recycled textiles, organic fabrics, and collaborations with artisans all around the world to create fashion forward, thoughtful pieces. For her most recent collection, she collaborated with CPALI, a nonprofit that works to prevent deforestation in Madagascar, and Madres & Artesanas, a women's cooperative in Bolivia.

Unlike many designers, St. James is very open with her work and encourages young designers to go green. With her Study Hall program, interns work side by side the designer to develop and produce their own sustainable mini collections. Like an open book, St. James does not hold back in lending a hand.

photo via: Fashioner
5. Joseph Altuzarra
Joseph Altuzarra may be Parisian by birth, but he has the wit and cool of a true New Yorker. Although he's based in New York, Altuzarra spends almost an equal amount of time on the other side of the sea. Bringing the two worlds together, his sexy, body-con, sophisticated style has often been compared with the legendary Tom Ford. And with an impressive resume that includes work experience at Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, and Givenchy, Joseph Altuzarra put his time in both cities before launching his own name-sake label in 2009.

Although Altuzarra has the credentials to back his talent, the designer also gives credit to the Internet. He states, "You can build a brand very fast now, especially with bloggers and how fast images can get out -- the message just goes out faster and stronger than ever before." The designer, like many today, saw the wealth of information and communication freely available in the cyber world and took advantage of it. And while it means there are thousands of more designers trying to get noticed, instead of being blurred with the rest, Altuzarra proves that he is one worth noticing. 

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