Byline: Karen Parr

NEW YORK — While critics may be lamenting a numbing sameness in fashion these days, there seems to be plenty of room in accessories for young designers to express their individuality.
For fall, five creative entrepreneurs — Claudia Rapisarda, Elizabeth Gillett, Tracy Watts, Tracey Schuster for Princess Foufou, and Susan Lazar — are taking cues from such diverse inspirations as Tibetan Buddhism, Czarist Russia and the canine kingdom for their knit accessories and hat lines.
Here is a look at what they’re doing.
A picture of a Buddha hangs in an alcove of milliner Claudia Rapisarda’s studio. It’s a symbol of the religious belief that has edged into her fall collection of knit caps.
Two years ago, Rapisarda converted to Tibetan Buddhism. This fall, her wool hats will have patterns knitted into their crowns, taken from a tome she found in a monastery in India — the “New-Sun-Self-Learning Book on the Art of Tibetan Painting.”
“I like the symbols, the energy,” the Brazilian-born designer said.
That isn’t to say, however, that function has been abandoned. This collection is also designed for warmth, with shawls, separate neck cowls, long gloves and scarves attached to hats.
Beyond the patterned wool, Rapisarda is also working in viscose chenille with flecked color threads.
The wholesale range for all accessories, from gloves to shawls, is $30 to $200.
Rapisarda is also imprinting her hat labels with pithy maxims from her spiritual guide, Lama Gangchen, including “peace is always in fashion,” “inner peace is mind makeup” and “inner peace is real beauty.”
“My work has altogether to do with that,” she said.
“I love the stiff people walking around Manhattan with frisky dogs,” said milliner Elizabeth Gillett. “I think of my hats as that type of frisky accessory, like a little pet.”
From that spirit comes merino wool knit hats such as “The Jack Russell,” in brown, black and ivory tones, and “The Schnauzer,” with a gray base and hints of brown and dark charcoal.
Gillett’s collection consists of two knit shapes — a beanie and a cap that rolls up. She said the sportier looks have a “pixie-ish quality.”
In addition to the canine colors, she’s doing rich rhubarbs and neutral camels. The hats will wholesale from around $20 to $39.
Unusual textures and color combinations are the domain of milliner Tracy Watts for fall. The line, which bears her name, includes sporty toques, berets and “playful” bonnets, with cool and warm tones playing against one another, such as clay tones mixed with pale aqua or mustard with periwinkle.
“It’s more about texture this season and the color of the wools,” she said.
Tweed cotton rayon and wool chenilles will have that “velvet richness,” she noted, and trims will be more subdued.
“The ornamentation will be coming from the knits, with ribbing and lacy effects,” she said. These knits will wholesale for $30 to $45.
Eclectic is the word for the fall line created by Tracey Schuster, aka Princess Foufou, the name of her line.
These hats are inspired by specific times and places — from Seventies-style floppy-brimmed denim and leather hats to fake-fur Cossack hats.
“I call it the Russian czarina look,” Schuster said of the Cossack hats. “With the faux fur, I think of the Russian czars sitting on the dog sled.”
In addition, she has taken cues from the fashion world, using men’s wear-inspired pinstripes in some styles and Missoni-look knits in others.
“Everything I do is more about the fabrics,” she said. “They inspire the shapes.”
In her spartan studio high above the din of the garment district, clothing and accessory designer Susan Lazar has merged the two worlds.
Her latest invention: a one-shoulder wrap halter in merino wool and cashmere that ties with a scarf wrapped around the neck.
In addition, Lazar is doing ultralong scarves in cashmere, merino wool, camel hair, Mongolian lamb and fake fur. All the accessories hearken back to her designer apparel collection.
Scarves wholesale for $35 to $150, and the sweater-scarf pieces from $62 to $146.
“I’ve never done this before, joined the two together,” she said of the sweater-scarf. “I think women want something new in their wardrobe, but not so extreme that it goes out of style in a year.”

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