By  on January 29, 2009

NEW YORK — In economic times such as these, up-and-coming talents can find themselves particularly challenged, and any recognition can help.

That sentiment was voiced by several of the finalists and winners at the Fashion Group International’s 12th annual Rising Star Awards on Thursday. “This is the best energy boost right before fashion week,” women’s apparel winner Christian Cota told the crowd at the Rainbow Room, adding, “As a young designer, you really need everyone’s support and advice.”


Sergio Davila, who tied in the men’s apparel category with Carlos Campos, seized the opportunity in different ways. “I hope to see you all at fashion week in Bryant Park. You are all invited.” FGI recognized emerging talents in eight categories, and this year’s other winners included Pantera’s Claudia, Laura and Alejandra Laviada for accessories, Ariane Zurcher for fine jewelry and The Dressing Room Boutique & Bar’s Alexandra Adame and Nikki Fontanella for retail. The organization also honored Julie Birns of Prescriptives/the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. with the Rising Star award in the beauty/fragrance corporate field, and Cathy Gins of Aromawear LLC. as this year’s emerging beauty/fragrance entrepreneur.

The event brought out designers and industry executives like Jason Wu, Paul Morelli, Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo, Henri Bendel’s Ann Watson, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Joseph Boitano and former Saks vice president and women’s fashion director Michael Fink, who declined to disclose details about his plans.

Many designers had words of wisdom for the new crop, particularly when it came to survival in this climate.

“You have to step up to the plate and swing the bat as hard as you can,” said Phillip Lim, who was a presenter in the women’s apparel category. “Now, more than ever, it is our job to inspire and to give hope, and play in the game.”

Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki, who presented the retail award, took a more concrete approach. “Learn to pattern cut,” said Hulanicki, who is said to be returning to fashion this year with a special collection for Topshop. “Go on a survival business course,” she said, adding, with a laugh, “Learn about creative accounting.”

Keynote speaker Tory Burch, who took home the retail award at this event four years ago, said, “Considering the current economic environment, store closings and deep discounting, I think customers are looking for concepts that inspire them more than ever before.”

The designer admitted to the daunting nature of launching a new brand, and she found herself having to contend with a few naysayers in the beginning. “Many asked the question, Does the world really need another fashion label?” Burch recalled. “The most important thing that I can say to anyone considering a launch, or facing the tremendous task of growing a business, is that you have to have confidence in your vision, and have an incredibly focused point of view.”

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