By and  on February 9, 2010

NEW YORK — “I like dark, strange things,” says Rajo Laurel, 37, who, though new to the U.S., is already a noted designer in his native Philippines. “I like to find beauty in the unexpected.” That’s true of his fall collection, which revolves around an insect inspiration. The slinky body-con dress shown here, for instance, comes wrapped in a cobweb of shredded silk jersey.

Rajo Laurel
Backstory: Manila-born Rajo Laurel, 37, has been making waves in his native Philippines since launching his self-named collection more than a decade ago. Exhibit A of this success? Laurel, a Central Saint Martins graduate, has been a judge on “Project Runway Philippines” since the show began in 2008. Exhibit B: The designer employs a staff of nearly 400, has two factories and oversees a number of lines, from bridal and made-to-measure to children’s wear (Rajito) and corporate uniforms (Laurel et Ross). This year marks Laurel’s entry into the U.S. market, with his main Rajo Laurel collection.

Collection: “My sisters always say, ‘Rajo, you’re so creepy,’” notes Laurel of his sensibility, “because I like dark, beautiful, strange things. I like to find beauty in the unexpected.” And, indeed, for his fall collection, the designer found inspiration in his love of insects. A slinky body-con dress, for instance, comes wrapped in a layer of shredded silk jersey for a gauzy, cobweb effect, while other frocks feature magnified dragonfly prints. “There’s a French phrase that I love,” Laurel adds, “jolie laide.”

Stats: Wholesale prices for the collection range from $85 to $265.

Basta Surf
Backstory: A weeklong surf vacation in 2008 was all it took to inspire Samantha August, then a market editor at Domino magazine, to quit her job for a year of beach-bumming around the globe — Australia, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia, Bali and so on — with a friend. “I fell in love with surfing and sort of got over the [New York] lifestyle,” says August, 27, who began researching swimwear upon her return.

Collection: “Along the trip, my girlfriend was always in boyish suits, and I was always in fashion suits that would fall down when you surfed,” says August, who developed her collection of six sporty suits, each named for a famous surfing spot, using high-end Italian fabrics for the exterior and performance material for the lining. “It’s for a woman who wants to play on the beach, not just sit on it.”

Stats: Wholesale prices range from $34 for bikini tops and bottoms to $73 for a one-piece. All suits are technically reversible, although August recommends wearing them as shown for active endeavors. The collection is sold at and
— Jessica Iredale

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