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Darwin traveled to the Galapagos Islands to watch natural selection at work. Too bad he’s not around for New York Fashion Week, where only the strong survive. Still, the latest crop of fashion week debutantes isn’t letting anything stand in their way — from Chapter 11 to Friday the 13th. Here, a salute to New York’s newest upstarts. Take that, recession!


JILLIAN LEWIS: Thursday, Feb. 12, 1 to 3 p.m., Tela Design  Studio, 31 Little West 12th Street.
Jillian Lewis has already met Victoria Beckham and Heidi Klum. Cathy Horyn is next on her list. The former “Project Runway” contestant says her dream is for the editor to attend her presentation. Though she became a Bravo household name and netted a sponsor (Brother sewing machines), she laments that the show “hurt me in other ways. I don’t want to be known as a cartoon character.” Also on her mind? “I’m thinking
about the economy, and what’s going on around the world, and comfort dressing. Covering up a little.” To wit, the Parsons The New School for Design grad and Ralph Lauren alum will show 20 looks, including hand-knit sweaters and dresses, some with graffiti prints inspired by her Long Island City neighborhood.
Wholesale prices: $120 to $650.
Sells at: Beyond 7 in Manhattan; Georgina in Hewlett, N.Y.; Hampden Clothing in Charleston, S.C.

Next: The former design director of Bill Blass moves on >>


MIKHAEL KALE: Thursday, Feb. 12, 4 to 6 p.m., The Royalton Hotel, 44 West 44th Street.
Even though, as he admits, he didn’t know any Italian, Mikhael Kale dropped out of Central Saint Martins to spend three years in Italy working for labels including Bally and Extè. Last year, he started his own collection and showed at Toronto Fashion Week. He will present 15 looks, including dresses with draping and chain
Wholesale prices: $400 to $750.
Sells at: Holt Renfrew in Canada; New York Look and Beyond 7 in Manhattan.

PRABAL GURUNG: Thursday, Feb. 12, 6 to 8 p.m., Flag Art Foundation, 545 West 25th Street.
Who says there are no second acts in American lives? Prabal Gurung, the former design director at Bill Blass, is striking out on his own. But he’s taking inspiration from his time at the house, where, he recalls, bias-cut dresses were hung for two weeks so they would fall just right, and armholes were lined in satin. “Just being exposed to quality, I learned a lot,” says the Singapore-born designer. His 20-look lineup is for “a quiet, confident woman who believes in good-quality clothes [and] dresses for herself.” (Are you listening, Michelle?) Look for double-faced cashmere coats and jackets, some with a ripple effect, as well as an ostrich feather dress.
Wholesale prices: $400 to $2,500.
Sells at: This is his first season, so no retailers yet.


BENSONI: Friday, Feb. 13, 1:30 to 3 p.m., Skyline Gallery, 500 West 36th Street.
Designers: Benjamin Channing Clyburn and Sonia Yoon
“The Story of O” inspired this capsule collection of 15 looks. “It really took on a strong French feeling,” says Clyburn of the season. A ruffled, lipstick-print T-shirt dress and a felted wool trench with a black lace overlay channel the louche source material. The duo, who met at Parsons and have worked
everywhere from Giorgio Armani to Gap, collaborated with Bing Bang’s Anna Sheffield on accessories this season.
Wholesale prices: From $150 for a top to $650 for an evening dress.
Sells at: Nordstrom; Intermix; Mick Margo in Manhattan; Vagabond in Philadelphia; Splash in St. Louis; Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and Dubai.


Next: A surrealist Spaniard who’s proud to be showing on Friday the 13th >>



DAVIDDELFIN: Friday, Feb. 13, 4 p.m., Eyebeam Atelier, 541 West 21st Street.
David Delfin isn’t concerned that his show falls on Friday the 13th. In fact, he once put on a superstition-themed show with broken mirror pieces on the runway and models in black-cat jewelry. The self-taught designer has shown at Madrid Fashion Week for several seasons and collaborated with Converse on a capsule collection in 2007. He will present 36 looks, 20 of them women’s, against a backdrop of photo negatives. “I like the thought of Diane Arbus,” he says of his inspiration, “the way she looks, and the people she chose to
take pictures of.” His hand-knitted, knotted sweaters, which take three days to construct, are highlights.
Wholesale prices: Jackets, $195 to $650; dresses, $260 to $775.
Sells at: Two boutiques in Madrid and an e-commerce site.

MONARCHY BLACK: Saturday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m., The Promenade, Bryant Park.
Designers: Creative director Eric Kim, and David Cardona, director of women’s wear.
“People assume it’s just a T-shirt and denim line,” says Eric Kim of his four-year-old collection. This is just one of the obstacles the label has faced — the other being the recent bankruptcy of its parent company, Hartmarx. However, by promoting their higher-end Black label with 45 looks (about half of them women’s) that include wool and cashmere sweaters as well as camel-hair coats, the designers are hoping to overcome both stumbling blocks. David Cardona, who has designed for Rock & Republic and Collection Bebe, was
brought in this season to enrich the women’s line. “We’re trying to be America’s Diesel,” says Kim.
Wholesale prices: Leather jackets, $200 to $250;
cashmeres, up to $500.
Sells at: Saks Fifth Avenue; Bloomingdale’s; Nordstrom; Kitson in Los Angeles; Akira in Chicago.


NICHOLAS K (showing with MARA HOFFMAN and SERGIO DAVILA): Sunday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m., The Promenade, Bryant Park.
Designer: Nicole Kunz

A tarot card reader in Arizona told Nicole Kunz to start a fashion line in 2003. It’s not like she hadn’t been considering it, of course — she’d worked in the industry for years at labels such as DKNY Jeans, Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren Jeans and Nautica Jeans. She’ll show about 30 looks inspired by dystopian films like “Blade Runner” and “Mad Max.” “It was a very dark vision of the future,” she explains. Highlights include a leather jacket with wire in the seams to make it moldable, a shrunken bomber jacket with shearling lining and buckle details and faux-shearling shag sweaters.

Wholesale prices: $130 for a cotton jacket; $350 for a leather jacket; sweaters, $90 to $250; silk dresses, $120 to $200.
Sells at: Barneys New York and Barneys Japan; Blue & Cream in Manhattan and the Hamptons; Big Drop in Manhattan.


Next: E.Y. Wada’s galaxy of fashion >>



E.Y. WADA: Sunday, Feb. 15, 9 p.m., The Salon, Bryant Park.
Designers: Eunyoung Song and Shuji Wada

Galaxy of Nostalgia. That’s the concept behind the season for Shuji Wada, a former freelance patternmaker for Marc Jacobs, and Eunyoung Song, who interned at DKNY and Ellen Tracy. The theme comes from a Space Age watercolor fabric they discovered during the design process. The presentation will include 25 looks, from embossed silk dresses to wide-leg cotton pants. 
Wholesale prices: Dresses from $200; jackets starting at $250; coats from $350.
Sells at: Début and Beyond 7 in Manhattan.


GERLAN JEANS: Monday, Feb. 16, 1 p.m., 306 Bowery.
Designer: Gerlan Marcel
Growing up in Ohio in the Eighties, Gerlan Marcel was obsessed with cruising the mall for the latest Esprit and Benetton fashions. At 10, she instituted an Esprit Club among her clique. “You had to wear Esprit three times a week,” she explains, adding that the school principal eventually disbanded the club and “we had to
meet in secret.” After working at Jeremy Scott and Patricia Field for Barbie, she is launching a label she calls “a diffusion line without any of the diffusion.” Expect wildly printed, skintight logo jeans, oversize sweatshirts and pieces that incorporate the Eighties craze for convertible items, like a sweater that turns into a scarf, and
a tech jacket that can be worn as a backpack.
Wholesale prices: Knit tops, $60 to $70; jeans, $110; coats from $250.
Sells at: This is her debut season, so no retailers yet.


CORPUS: Monday, Feb. 16, 3 to 5 p.m., The Bowery Hotel, 335 Bowery.
Designers: Jerrod Cornish and Keith Richardson; Olympia Bermann codesigns the women’s line with Richardson.
Spring 2009 was a tester for adding women’s pieces to a traditionally men’s wear label, and the experiment worked. “The girls [always] have been into the boys’ stuff,” explains Olympia Bermann, who was a fine artist before joining the line. Of the 18 looks this season, six are women’s, and they combine men’s wear fabrics with women’s silhouettes and vice versa. Cases in point: a feminine version of that punk staple, the plaid trouser, and a tough motorcycle jacket in silk velvet. Jewelry will be provided by Derrick R. Cruz of Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons.
Wholesale prices: $60 to $300.
Sells at: Big Drop and Oak in Manhattan; Satine and Diavolina in Los Angeles; Black Parrot in Portland, Maine.


Next: Hayden-Harnett gets inspired by the dictionary >>

ALLISON PARRIS: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 11 a.m., Greenhouse, 150 Varick Street.
No avant-garde pretensions here — Allison Parris says she makes “regular feel-good clothing” like day dresses, cardigans, cocktail frocks and beaded evening pieces. A recent Fashion Institute of Technology grad, Parris started out making custom prom and cocktail dresses at age 16, and racked up internships with Catherine Malandrino and Cynthia Rowley, plus a stint at knitwear label Love by Design. Her 30-look lineup
will be shown on two separate runways, one upstairs and one downstairs.
Wholesale prices: $100 to $200 for day dresses; $150 to $250 for cocktail dresses; $400 to $500 for
Sells at: This is her first season, so no retailers yet.



COVENTRY: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 3 p.m., Cedar Lake, 547 West 26th Street.
Designer: Matthew Terry
Plenty of needle wielders with a literary bent claim to be inspired by Proust or Fitzgerald, but Matthew Terry has pop culture on his mind. His fall lineup stems from the Eurythmics video “Here Comes the Rain Again,” with its Scottish Highlands setting. In the video, the band wears traditional Scottish costume, so Terry executed some reimagined versions of the kilt in featherweight and translucent fabrications. “They’re clothes for warriors — they have a real structure to them,” he says.
Wholesale prices: $200 to $4,500.
Sells at: Odin and Pas de Deux in Manhattan.


UNRATH & STRANO: Thursday, Feb. 19, 12 p.m., Eyebeam Gallery, 540 West 21st Street.
Designers: Klaus Unrath and Ivan Strano
Given that Klaus Unrath worked for Vivienne Westwood (he designed her Red Label collection for
three years) and Ivan Strano did theatrical costumes in Switzerland, it makes sense that their line would be over- the-top. This season, they’re exploring Persian styles, showing corsetlike dresses with scalloped, tasseled edges and plenty of embroidery. About 50 looks will be shown — 40 women’s and 10 men’s.

Wholesale prices: Jerseys run from $70 to $300; dresses, $200 to $5,000; jackets and coats, $300 to $1,000. 

Sells at: Miz Scarletts in Atlanta; Pool in Munich, Germany; Fashion Clinic in Düsseldorf; Seventh Continent in Moscow.


HAYDEN-HARNETT: Thursday, Feb. 19, 6 to 8 p.m., The Chelsea Hotel, Room 219.
Designer: Toni Hacker and business partner Ben Harnett
For Brooklyn-based Hacker, inspiration came from an unusual source: the dictionary. While turning its pages, she found the term “cargo cult,” which refers to people on remote islands who pray for goods to wash ashore. Her tableau-style presentation at the Chelsea Hotel will feature models who “totally hoard goods. They’re hunters and gatherers of luxury goods.” The island inspiration will be evident as well in the “sense of ceremony and handcraft” seen in the  collection.
Wholesale prices: $45 for a silver chain hardware necklace; $72 for a minaudière; $299 for a hobo bag; $472 for a color-blocked suede jacket.
Sells at: Their boutique in Brooklyn; Barneys New York; Nordstrom; Takashimaya in New York; Tenoversix in Los Angeles; United Arrows in Tokyo.


Another new entrant in Fashion Week: Richie Rich >>



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