NEW YORK — Gen Art, the fairy godmother of the young designer set, held its fourth annual runway competition last week at the Hammerstein Ballroom for an audience that included the reigning Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. The event, called Styles, is an open competition for student designers and those who have designed under their own name for fewer than seven years. Gen Art also produces a Fresh Faces show aimed at giving young designers their first runway exposure, and an Alumni show, a runway production held twice a year during New York Fashion Week.
Winners in five categories — eveningwear, ready-to-wear, accessories, men’s wear and avant-garde — were each awarded $5,000. Beefeater gin, an event sponsor, gave $7,500 to the winner of the Beefeater Bold Spirit Award. The evening’s judges included Jill Stuart, Mary McFadden and Alexandra von Furstenberg. Celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, who has added actor and fashion correspondent to his resume, emceed the event, along with Arthur Chi’en, a transit reporter for NY1 News.
The award for eveningwear, underwritten by Nokia, went to Discola by Consuelo Bellini, who showed an Asian-print tunic dress and a wrap skirt with a chiffon top. Next was the Beefeater Bold Spirit Award that challenges designers to dream up a new look for the iconic kilt-clad gent on the label. The winners, East Village design duo Gaelyn & Cianfarani, proved that there’s more to latex than gloves. The pair, who specialize in latex and rubber gear, showed a long, Goth-inspired wrap coat with knickers, all in the rubbery material.
Next in the lineup was the ready-to-wear award, which went to Sari Gueron and her sleek, sophisticated dress and skirt of ribbon-like tiers of nude chiffon. In the accessories category, Michael Spirito, a jewelry designer and co-owner of Exhibitionist, a boutique on Orchard Street, won for his metal-and-ruby necklaces which walk the line between glamorous and fetishistic. Men’s wear designers Ron & Ron won for their period-influenced men’s wear, which featured a dandy-esque Thirties suit and a floral-print “peasant” suit. Finally, the last award went to Jorge Luis Salinas, of Lima, Peru, who won the avant-garde competition for his colorful and intricate knitwear that gave new meaning to the term “Peruvian sweater.”