Tuesday, April 22nd marked the fifth annual International Design Competition Styles 2003, and, as with any other event with Gen Art at its helm, the evening celebrated innovation. A panel of judges who included designers Nicole Miller, Norma Kamali, John Varvatos and fashion scholar Valerie Steele, among others, awarded a total of $45,000 in categories ranging from men’s wear to accessories to women’s avant-garde. The ever-spirited Ines Rivero hosted 1,500 people with a little help from ABC News finance reporter Gigi Stone who interviewed judges and designers and addressed the most pressing question of all, whether the rise or fall of this year’s hemlines would affect the stumbling American stock market.

Judging from the 25 finalists culled from more than 550 entries from around the world and throughout the U.S., however, there was no unanimous answer. Ready-to-wear winner Marni Joy paired short sexy skirts with lace and off-the-shoulder tops. Designers Orson Poon and John Speakman of Clothedit elicited applause from the crowd by reconstructing the tuxedo suit as eveningwear. In men’s wear, Obedient Sons won for its urban take on boarding-school attire with graffiti shirts under blazers. And the look that wowed the audience and confused that hemline issue even further? A dress from designer Yengkhom Devson Singh in the women’s avant-garde category. Skirt lengths are known to vary from season to season, but Devson Singh’s second piece collapsed knee-length and midi into a single moment. With the tug of a string that wrapped a mass of wire and nylon around her body, his model let loose a flared multi-tubed skirt from which confetti streamed in every direction. A celebration of the increasingly transient nature of fashion? Perhaps, but a celebration of fashion nevertheless. And what better way to end a night dedicated to up-and-coming designers and their fashion-forward ideas?

Other innovative designers who competed off the runway included Catherine K. Chung of Whitestreet, who won for her mother-of-pearl cuffs and earrings, and Clay Weiner, winner of the Perrier Bubbling Under Award for the "best futuristic design" concept.

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