By  on March 6, 2002

You might say Jose Enrique Ona Selfa is bringing fire and ice to Loewe. The 27-year-old designer, who hails from Brussels and Spanish emigre parents, said he plans to balance his hot-blooded roots with cool Belgian chic Friday when he shows his first ready-to-wear collection for the house, owned by luxury giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

"I want to be on the borderline between hot and sexy on the one side and Belgian on the other side," he explained. "The Belgian woman is very cold. She is everything but sexy."

Even to sit with the designer for a drink at the Hotel Costes here is to witness these two sides. One minute he's seriously discussing the intricacies of a leather manufacturing process he encountered at Loewe's Madrid headquarters -- the next he's jiggling in his seat and promising pants that will do wonders to enhance a woman's bottom.

Karl Lagerfeld said Ona Selfa's key attribute is his "real passion" for the business -- evident in his about-to-burst energy level and his decisive approach to the craft.

"I like him a lot, for his enthusiasm and also his real sense and knowledge of couture and cut," Lagerfeld said. "That's very rare with 'young' designers, who easily think that 'creativity' is the thing and not technique. He really knows."

Lagerfeld met Ona Selfa through the designers Olivier Theyskens and Laetitia Crahay, a classmate of Ona Selfa's who now works with Lagerfeld on Chanel jewelry. In fact, Lagerfeld was instrumental in putting Ona Selfa up for the post. "I thought he would be perfect for Loewe, not because he speaks Spanish -- which is also a good thing -- but because he seemed perfect for the job," Lagerfeld said. "I am very happy he got it and I hope it will be a success."

At Loewe, Ona Selfa succeeds a slightly more seasoned designer, Narciso Rodriguez, who exited the house last fall after a four-year stint. LVMH had recruited Rodriguez as part of its plan to revitalize its stable of names with hot young designers. During the same period, the group tapped Marc Jacobs to become creative director of Louis Vuitton and hired Michael Kors to design Celine.

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