'A combination of severity and opulence,' is how designer Julian Louie (left) describes his sensibility, although when it comes to his own wardrobe the Cooper Union architecture student favors jeans and a T-shirt. Maybe it's that high-low tension that persuaded Calvin Klein Collection creative director Francisco Costa to recommend Louie (then interning for the label) for Italian Vogue's Prot'g' Project in 2007. The result was a series of geometric minidresses adorned with wetsuit zippers and Swarovski crystals, inspired equally by Tiepolo's Perseus & Andromeda and surf culture. Louie followed up with a fall 2009 collection that switched out scuba gear for Spanish bullfighter flair. Though the accents might change, Louie's contemporary, architectural approach is fast becoming his trademark.
The weather and the economy were both bleak last February when Prabal Gurung (right) unveiled his first collection. But the former design director of Bill Blass faced the task with confident pragmatism. From chic cashmere coats to crisp cocktail dresses, Gurung's work favors a sophisticated palette of black and white splashed with vivid reds and earthy taupes influenced by his native Nepal. These are 'clothes for a thinking man's sex symbol,' says Gurung, who studied at New Delhi's National Institute of Fashion Technology and Parsons School of Design. 'Dare I say, for the anti'Paris Hilton.'