Zac ATTACK; in the Past Few Years, New York Has Become a Hotbed for Young, Ambitious Designers. Their Impact Has Been So Marked, They Are to Be Honoured with a V&A Exhibition Opening Tomorrow

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BAD NEWS for those snobs sorry, purists who think that the V&A has denigrat ed

itself by staging fashion exhibitions: yet another one is opening tomorrow.

Truly, it seems there is more fashion at the V&A these days than on the catwalks of Paris.

This latest, New York Fashion Now, displays 60 pieces from a new generation of designers (defined as those who launched their labels between 1999 and 2004) and seeks to answer the question of why the fashion landscape has changedso much in New York. Where once American fashion was all about big brands Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren it has broadened to encompass a phalanx of labels whose creative aesthetic owes more to Paris and London.

What is particularly striking is how very young these designers are most of them in their twenties. While young British designers, fresh out of college, often struggle desperately to establish themselves, their New York counterparts seem almost blithely to be courting Barneys with one hand while dressing Scarlett Johansson with the other. Why is this so? I put this question to Zac Posen, one of the new breed of designers who typifies New York's current scene, and a pivotal part of the V&A's exhibition. Posen staged his first show at the age of 21; now, at the tender age of 26, he has a multi-milliondollar business, his clothes are stocked all over the world and he dresses a roster of celebrities that would put Armani to shame. His most recent global triumph was to dress Gwyneth Paltrow for the Oscars, in a terracotta dress that made her look like a sunkissed mermaid. At least, that's what the kinder critics said.

"When I started, there really weren't any young designers in New York," says Posen. "People were very wary of the idea. Because of my age, it took time and a great deal of perseverance on my own part, and on a business level, on my mom's part (his mother Susan, a former lawyer, now works full-time as his business manager), to really get retailers into the idea [of stocking young designers].

"I don't think that the industry or the press was set up in the way that it is now.

My mother took great strides with retailers to get them to understand how to work with young designers; how to work with new emerging brands that don't have finance behind them." You might think that staging your first-ever fashion show a month after 9/11 would be a commercial disaster, but Posen claims the opposite. "Many people within the industry had started looking for new opportunities, and it created a farmore entrepreneurial mindset for people to look for something they could build that could be gratifying.

"People were taking risks in New York with their careers and their wellbeing.

A lot of factories were incredibly supportive and open to working with new brands 9/11 changed the landscape.

And retail was terrible before 9/11 so they needed new excitement in their stores." Of course, Posen acknowledges that celebrity endorsement plays a vital role in any designer's success these days, and that it's fareasier to achieve in New York than in London. …


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