By  on June 29, 2004

NEW YORK — Three up-and-coming designers, each of whom grew up overseas, are taking markedly different approaches to setting up their businesses.

Instead of working under a series of well-known designers for years, Chomwan Weeraworawit, Hye-Jin Hwang and Prabal Gurung are making names for themselves.

Raised in Bangkok, educated in London and based in Paris, Weeraworawit plans to show her first collection here this fall. She has designed the uniforms for the wait staff at Kittichai, a new Thai restaurant at 60 Thompson, which is a popular Manhattan hotel. She said during a phone interview last week that her designs were inspired by trousers worn by Thai fishermen. Diners at Kittichai have liked her work so much that she has taken 30 personal orders and her Bangkok-based tailor will ship them next month.

“The response has been much greater than I expected. Robin [Leigh] warned me, but I didn’t realize it would be like this,” she said, referring to her friend Leigh, who launched Kittichai with partners Michael Callahan, Jean-Marc Houmard and Huy Chi Lee. Weeraworawit agreed to make the uniforms after bumping into Leigh in Bangkok. She had started selling customized Thai-inspired clothes to private clients about 10 months ago through her Web site Chomwan.com.

Under her new company, Chomwan Ltd., Weeraworawit has developed a 15-piece collection and the Web site. In September, she plans to show her first full collection here in a venue that is “definitely a little underground” and will eventually relocate to New York to attend Parsons School of Design. Weeraworawit said her clothes are “what Daisy Buchanan from ‘The Great Gatsby’ might wear if she came to Thailand.” Wholesale prices range from $60 for wrap tops to $150 for chiffon dresses.

Her career has a few layers. After receiving her law degree from King’s College in London, Weeraworawit worked for the international law firm Linklaters in Bangkok in mergers and acquisitions for about a year. Now she is getting her master’s degree in French law at the Sorbonne, and then plans to sharpen her focus on design. “I love studying law and it’s been very useful,” she said. “It’s a means to an end. I’m getting technical skills for [the business side of] fashion.”

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