The 10: New Designers And Their Muses

Spencer Wohlrab
The 10: New Designers And Their Muses
11 Start slideshow

With Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week commencing today, there’s a lot to be excited about. Feeling similar to the first day of school, it’s not only wonderful to see what different lines have been up to since we last viewed their collections, but also to catch up with long-lost friends who have been buried under clothes and emails.

To be frank, as much as we would love to attend every show or presentation, it’s difficult with show times overlapping and locations spanning the gridlocked island of Manhattan. Unfortunately, some of the smaller designers get overlooked despite the hours of blood, sweat and tears they devote to their lines (and without the help of massive design teams to boot). Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the hoards of money they pour into their collection, sometimes even without investors.

With talent oozing out of their fingertips (quite literally) these designers are pushing boundaries and are notably humble in their gifts. Ever curious, we decided to chat with these virtuosos to learn what inspires them as they embark on what’s sure to be incredibly gangbuster success. Tapping some of the most influential people to their process, the designers paired with their muses who offer daily encouragement and creative stimulation to pose for a photoshoot and reveal some of their latest collections.

Click through the slideshow to see which designers we picked as our newest faces to watch in 2012 and who’s inspiring them in the best possible way.

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Designer: Bliss Lau, Jewelry

Muse: Kristin Gallegos, makeup artist

How did you get into design? I think you're born with the need to make things. Designing and creating is something I've always done. I studied apparel at Parsons and fell in love with using leather and metal. Part of the draw in using leather is that it used to be alive. I enjoy the experience of giving a new life to a material or reviving old manufacturing techniques.

When beginning a collection, how do you embark on the design process? I play. I go shopping in a huge vintage jewelry vault and grab this and that, then I bring it all to my studio, lock the door and spend a few nights with my model form, my tools and my thoughts.

How do you infuse your inspirations into your design? I have two inspiration directions -- the literal and the figurative -- that I use as inspiration.  Figuratively, the sensuality of my jewelry on the body, its touch, the connotations of the shapes they create on the form and the feeling you have when wearing each piece.  Literally -- the inspiration is simple and purely visual. I studied the theories behind geometric shapes and the geometric solid, thus using a variety of geometric shapes to create my own unique kind of geometric solid skin for the body.

What is your overall approach to design -- what are the underlying emotions found in your latest collection? I'm an extremely visceral person and in many ways I put myself wholeheartedly into each design.  I have been exploring more and more the importance of embracing your sexuality and not to be afraid of your daily emotions.  I named each of my pieces from this collection excerpts from Anais Nin. 'The Madness' necklace has a suggestion in its shape of a pendulum.  The metal apparel piece worn by Kristin is called 'reflections' many connotations, I suppose that is self-explanatory!

Bliss on Kristin:

What is it about Kristin that so inspires you? I think there's a power and confidence to the severity of her fashion sense. She's undeniably herself and is fearless with that look. Kristin has an inner positivity, a confidence and comfort with her choice in life that comes out even in an image but also in her personality and the generosity of her presence. I liked her immediately when I met her a few years ago.

If you could collaborate with Kristin, what would the project be? I would love to develop some kind of crazy metal eyelashes. I love the semi-permanent eyelash trend and think it would be cool to develop it further so we can accessorize our lashes... hmm. I have to think about that!

Designer(s): Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, Public School, menswear

Muse: Zac Sebastian, photographer

How did you guys meet? How did you decide to work together? We actually met on and then reconnected later designing for a big menswear company. We always stayed in contact after we left and came together at just the right time with the same idea for a detailed menswear label that was inspired by our hometown, New York City.

How is it working with another person -- what is the dynamic like? When we first started we tried to do everything together, but as time went by we both started working into our strengths. We both sketch and design, but if someone feels more passionate about something we'll always defer to the other person.

When beginning a collection, how do you begin the design process? Every season starts with our main character. He's the classic loner; a dark anti-hero who sits on the periphery and doesn't quite fit in anywhere. We follow his story through each season, taking cues from different time periods. From there we start playing with fabrics and then shapes. It's an ongoing sequel each collection.

Who would you rather dress, James Bond or Don Draper? Definitely James Bond. He's such an iconic figure in history, just a bad ass who's always dressed appropriately… and he always gets the girl in the end.

Public School on Zac

What is it about Zac that so inspires you? Zac is a rare breed who is both equally comfortable behind the camera as he is in front. He's also just a cool downtown kid who understands how to be relaxed and understated. He does just enough to stand out without trying too hard and that's what we try and accomplish with our collection.

How do you infuse your own inspirations into your design? We have a pretty clear point of view that doesn't change much from season to season. Our inspirations only help to build on top on of the look we've already created.

Designer: Aimee Kellner, Miha, womenswear

Muse: Sylvia Hommert, artist

How did you get into design? After starting my fashion career in sales, I quickly moved over to the creative side in product development and actual garment production. The creative and technical process was much more interesting to me because I like to know how things work and how the pieces fit together. It only made sense for me after years of working for other contemporary lines and designers and learning the business and technical process to launch my own line so I could create a more personal vision.

When beginning a collection, how do you begin the design process? Of course current trends and what is coming out of Europe is influential in every collection but you then need to build around that and  translate what it means to you. Sometimes the process starts with a single print in which the collection is built around. Other times it is a time period or a movie or even a song that inspires the collection. It's never the same but always similar in the sense that there is an evolution of ideas that creates the final product. Very rarely is the first sketch of a style the literal embodiment of the final sample.

What were the biggest perks and challenges of diving into design after working in other areas of the industry? The perks are having total control over your collection and your vision with the experience and knowledge of what is realistic and what is not. I've always said the single most important knowledge for a designer to have (besides having a creative talent) is to have a solid understanding of production.

How do you infuse your own inspirations into your design? When you have your own line you design what you like.  The collection should be representative of the woman I am and the woman I'm striving to be.

Aimee on Sylvia

What is it about your muse that so inspires you? Why? The Miha woman is intelligent, successful, international, creative and influential. She is an active participant in the world around her. Sylvia embodies all of those qualities. Sylvia is not only a talented and successful artist, but also a wife and a mother. She works hard in every aspect of her life while maintaining a balance in all, which is so inspiring. She can go from the studio, to a meeting with her agent, to a school meeting to an art opening in one day without an outfit change because she has effortless style and is her own woman. That is the Miha woman.

If you could collaborate with Sylvia, what would the project be? I would love to create a print with Sylvia for the collection or even beyond that, it would be amazing to do a joint opening featuring a capsule collection and her works built together and inspired by each other and donating those proceeds to Dress for Success or some other non-profit that works towards the empowerment of women. I need to call Sylvia!

Designer: Ruari Mahon, Nudie Jeans, denim

Muse: Apache Beat, band

How did Nudie begin? Nudie Jeans began in Gothenburg, Sweden back in 2001, when founders Maria Erixon and Palle Stenberg set out to sustainably produce denim with a long-term vision of a completely organic collection. Our founders got behind something they really believed in – they believed there should be no compromise between production and profit.

What is your role for Nudie? Creative & Marketing USA

What were the biggest perks and challenges of offering unisex designs? We produce a wide range of fits in sizes 24-38, therefore everyone can find what they are looking for. The unisex element is a huge perk – it removes traditional limitations and allows the Nudie wearer to put their own interpretation on our jeans. Design and quality ultimately facilitate this, and we will always stay true to denim, therefore this isn’t perceived as so much of a challenge.

What three words do you think best describes the latest collection? Organic, nostalgic, and understated

Ruari on Apache Beat

What is it about your muse that so inspires you? Why? Sustainability is at the forefront of our mind, and music is our soul. Denim and music go hand-in-hand with each other. Apache Beat embodies Nudie Jeans – original, simple, with a slightly underground style, and they have an almost organic air to them. These guys stay true to their nature, just as we do.

If you could collaborate with Apache Beat, what would the project be? Collaborations need to be relevant… so I would like to see our longtime charitable efforts with Amnesty International and music from Apache Beat merge. If we could take it beyond product itself – create a platform to raise awareness for human rights, while at the same time offering our followers something exciting and exclusive, this would be a great partnership.

Designer: Yara Flinn, Nomia, womenswear

Muse: Colleen Nika, Fashion Editor for Rolling Stone magazine

How did you get into design? I experimented a bit with fashion design while I was in college working on sculpture and video installations. It's not until later that I thought I would try my hand at designing a line, then I took pattern-making classes at FIT to learn how to execute designs I wanted to make.

When beginning a collection, how do you embark on the design process? It depends every season, sometimes I have a clear idea what I want to use as a reference and sometimes it's an evolving process where one design leads to the next.

What is the most difficult part of designing for you? Why? The first few designs are always tough for me, but once I start building the foundations they start flowing much easier.

How do you infuse your own inspirations into your design? In my studio, I surround myself with images and sounds and even smells that inspire me, and naturally they become a part of the design.

What three words do you think best describes your latest collection? Soft, colorful and fluid.

Yara on Colleen

What is it about Colleen that so inspires you? Colleen and I first bonded over our mutual love of music. She's always exposing me to new artists and genres. Music is one of the more important inspirations to me; creating a mood while designing is key to the development of a new collection.

If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be and why? Well, my last collection was inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe. Her work made me focus on colors and vibrancy of the landscape in New Mexico. The way the red earth played off the bright blue skies and the intense bright orange/red sunsets really struck me.

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