By  on August 28, 2007

For someone who has only been part of the New York design scene for two years, Frank Tell has certainly made some headway. And now with a little help from a few connected friends, the 20-year-old is ready to launch his signature collection.

The Barcelona native relocated to Manhattan in 2005 and was first hired by As Four. A year later, he joined Sue Stemp. After exiting the latter four months ago, Tell has been engulfed in sketching and draping in his Lower East Side apartment. The flowing shapes and vibrant colors seen in Georgia O'Keefe's floral paintings provided a major source of inspiration for his "Apple Blossom" style, a reference to the vast body of work she completed in the Twenties. While cutting the 10 yards of chiffon for a magenta dress, the material splayed out on his apartment floor like a flower in full bloom. Tell said of O'Keefe, "She is known to have once said, 'A flower was cheaper than a model, and better since it never moved or talked.'"

Another artist, Ross Bleckner, whose painting class at New York University the designer once took, has a more literal tie to Tell's work. Bleckner has agreed to let his former student use one of his paintings as a dress pattern. Bleckner is among the guests expected at Tell's Sept. 6 presentation at Pure Project. Daryl K, Victoria Bartlett, Stemp and Bruce Weber are also on the list.

Tell and his business partner, Hector Meza, helped line up sponsors and organize the South by Southwest premiere of Weber's short film that featured the Scottish singer Angela McCluskey. In addition to handling Tell's business, Meza has a product placement company called Placement Culture.

Tell said he is most eager to hear what his peers think about his debut. The 16-piece line features a silver stretch charmeuse sailor dress, a white chiffon long-sleeve dress, a pale pink taffeta dress with sewn-in bloomers and a belted stretch sateen coat. First-year projected wholesale volume is $175,000 to $250,000. Wholesale prices range from $175 for the Saint-Tropez top to $405 for the magenta Flowy dress. His aim is to update ideas and shapes from the Twenties, Thirties and Forties "to make them modern and chic — never looking retro or vintage," he said.Even his name, which is actually his middle name, is a throwback. His mother, a huge opera fan, named him after composer Gioachino Rossini's "William Tell" opera. Like his mother, Tell is detail-minded. In keeping with the ultragirly theme of his first collection, the designer and Meza will serve pink truffles and Champagne at the Pure Project event. The Colorado-made Wen chocolates have crystallized violets, a nod to O'Keefe's fondness for flowers.

Even though he never went to design school, Tell said he started designing at the age of eight. "I knew it was what I always wanted to do," he said.

Given that, he is counting the days until his New York debut. "This has been the most outrageous month of my life. The thing is, it's really happening — I can feel it," he said. "It's what I've always wanted."

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