BENSONI Sonia Yoon and Benjamin Channing Clyburn radiate savvy. Though their collection is in its fifth season, the former Parsons The New School for Design classmates showed formally during Fashion Week for the first time for fall, opting for a conveniently located (as in close to other shows) walk-through presentation, the kind of in-and-out that overscheduled retailers and editors love.
They based the collection on The Story of O, handling the racy novel’s darker themes deftly and infusing a youthful la Parisienne polish with a bit of New York street edge. Their approach has reaped benefits—the collection sells at Nordstrom; Fred Segal; a number of smaller boutiques, including Milk in Los Angeles; and as of this fall, Barneys New York, which Yoon calls “our dream store.”
The pair started out with a goal of accessibility, positioning themselves in contemporary, which has proven “pretty convenient, especially in the recession,” Yoon says. “I shop and I can’t afford a $3,000 coat.” Yet they maintain there’s no compromising on creativity. The difference between other contemporary lines and theirs, they offer, lies in the details. Clyburn and Yoon even design their own prints, and they look forward to taking that custom notion further via collaborations with artists, although not necessarily of the famous ilk. Says Yoon, “We would just like to work with local artists that we appreciate and respect.”
MATTHEW AMES With six fashion seasons under his belt, Matthew Ames could be considered this group’s elder statesman. He is also, at first meeting, the shyest, and perhaps the most deliberately artful in his approach to design, favoring geometric cuts, recently softened into draped silhouettes. Ames’s clothes conjure images of a grande dame who demands luxury that is ultrapersonal yet demonstrative, not unlike that of a Zoran woman. But then the designer mentions that Erykah Badu bought some pieces at Forty Five Ten in Dallas, and that tidbit instantly expands one’s impression of his range.
Ames studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and has worked for Miguel Adrover and Jurgi Persoons. He won the 2009 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award for women’s design and used the prize money to stage his first New York show for fall. (The clothes are available at Takashimaya.) Ames is a one-man band, working out of his apartment in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood. “I do all the draping, patterns, everything. And everything is made in New York,” he says. Although he’s comfortable remaining self-financed for now, he acknowledges the inherent challenges. “I have to move slowly,” he says, “and I mean, at some point, having some employees would be helpful.”
CUSHNIE ET OCHS Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs are glass-half-full girls—to a point. While they’re not happy the recession hit, they are determined to make it a learning experience. “Our company [is young], so we haven’t known any different,” Cushnie says. “[The economy] has not been a benefit, but it’s helped us grow more consciously and slowly.” For fall, their clothes are in New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, Aura in Santa Monica and Browns in London.