LYNNE LARSON
For most designers, an eponymous collection is a goal from the start. Not Lynne Larson. "I didn't think I was ever going to do that," the Parsons grad says of her women's wear line that launched for spring 2005. While childhood sewing lessons set her on the design course at an early age, Larson, a 15-year veteran of New York's Garment District, was content to remain under the radar. During the late Nineties, she honed her draping and fitting skills with Daryl Kerrigan at Daryl K. She later worked with Susan Dell, and in 2001 moved on to Katayone Adeli. After watching all three labels fold, Larson exited the industry with no plans to return.

Six months later, she had a change of heart. "I wasn't thinking about going back to work, but suddenly I was missing it," says Larson, 37. "I realized that I know this market really well and it's very competitive, but I felt like I had the experience to deal with it." Armed with a renewed interest in the creative process as well as the lessons of her former employers' mistakes, the designer found a small space along 35th Street and went to work, focusing on contemporary sportswear. Within two years, she pulled together her collection — simple basics with special details such as leather appliques. There are layered cotton T-shirts, chunky cashmere sweaters and a group of Russian princess-inspired cashmere coats. Fred Segal snapped up much of her spring 2005 collection, and fall is about to hit the racks in eight boutiques, including Atrium in New York and Sage in Los Angeles. Wholesale prices start at $62 for long-sleeved tissue-weight cotton T-shirts and top out around $340 for a leather car coat.

Larson points out that her focus will always remain on the fine points — a trait she attributes to Adeli. "Working for Katayone, everything was about detail," she says. "She used a lot of vintage pieces as inspiration, and I had never done that before." Larson's tropical-weight wool pants, for example, reference the Edwardian age with a diagonal button fly and crisscrossed grosgrain ribbon waistband. "I've done a lot of pants," Larson adds. "It's the easiest, coming from Daryl and Katayone."
— Jessica Iredale
GABA ESQUIVEL
A year after Gaba Esquivel split with her design partner, Thomas Vasseur, she was taking some time off, vacationing in Brazil. But when she got a job offer there, she returned home to Buenos Aires to pick up her three beloved dogs. It's then that she discovered her name on the calendar to show during the city's fashion week, scheduled less than four weeks away. Esquivel, 32, took the error in stride. "I just thought, ‘Okay, how can I do a collection in 24 days?'" recalls Esquivel, a raspy-voiced, energetic wisp of a woman with enormous coffee-colored eyes. "So I just thought about my childhood in the country and the tradition of horses in Argentina, the gauchos."

The result is a small, beautifully made collection that combines Esquivel's tomboyish style with the sexy spirit that characterized her former collaboration with Vasseur. The influence of Argentina's famed pampa shows is evident in pieces such as the cropped trench that she likens to the jacket worn by the the country's cowboys. Foil prints of fish and crocodiles on tops and dresses recall Esquivel's hometown of Corrientes, an Argentinean city on the banks of the Parana River. All the pieces are produced in Buenos Aires by a group of sewers whose talent Esquivel claims is worthy of Parisian ateliers, such as Balmain and Chanel where she once worked under Gilles Dufour. Of course, great quality doesn't come cheap. Esquivel's new collection is set to wholesale from $200 to $900.

On a visit to New York in May, she met with Barneys New York and Jeffrey — stores that once carried Vasseur-Esquivel. Though it was too late in the season to place orders, reactions were favorable. "I'm looking forward to seeing more from her," says Julie Gilhart, Barneys New York vice president and fashion director. "She had some good pieces and Vasseur-Esquivel was really promising." Esquivel's official reentry into the fashion world will take place in September, when she plans to show during New York Fashion Week — an event that, this time, won't come as a surprise to her.
— Meenal Mistry


TALIE NK
Even though Brazilian Natalie Klein was a little nervous before her trip to New York a few weeks ago, she couldn't be happier she made the journey. True, she had been here before, but this time, she was toting her line, Talie NK, with her, hoping to crack the city's retail scene."It's a very tough market," says the former architect student, "because everyone wants to get into the U.S." No problem, though. While here, the line was picked up at Jirisuda, the cool little shop down on Elizabeth Street. This fall, Talie NK will also be in Miami Beach's Oscar, Apropos in Newport Beach, R.I., and Rouge in Princeton, N.J.

Klein, 29, started the line six years ago in her hometown of Sao Paolo and launched it at NK Store, the boutique she had opened two years earlier. "I opened the store to buy everything I like," she says. "I wanted to put everything in one place." Her line now hangs alongside her other favorites, including Chloe, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and Luella Bartley.

Coming to America, Klein realized she had to expand the scope of the line. "In Brazil, we don't have heavy winters so we don't use heavy fabrics," she says. That meant introducing wools and fur into the collection to help combat chilly North American winters. Still, one South American signature will remain a large part of the collection. "Brazilians know how to mix colors really well," she says, especially walking that precarious line between bright and blinding — Klein tames her hot pinks and punchy teals by pairing them with earthy hues and black. The designer also plays with silhouettes, teaming a swingy jersey top with trim tweed pants or a girlish polkadot blouse with palazzos. Talie NK's wholesale prices range from $33 for a basic cotton T to $888 for a fox-fur blazer.
— Nandini D'Souza

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