“Do one thing and do it well” is a maxim that resonates with Julien David. The 31-year-old Paris-born, Tokyo-based designer worked at Narciso Rodriguez and Ralph Lauren, and freelanced for Surface to Air Japan, but didn’t start his own label until two years ago, after a stay in Tokyo exposed him to the possibilities of Japanese textiles. “They love softness here,” he says from his Aoyama office. Also impressed by the Japanese approach to streetwear merchandising—“you only do T-shirts or hats or sneakers, not a whole collection,” he says—David started off with just silk scarves. Made of extrasoft twill in shawl proportions, his first run was full of graphic Pop prints inspired by free-style skateboarding.
After growing account by account (Barneys New York and the Webster in Miami were early buyers), David was able to turn his attention last year to his first love, tailoring. His debut collection of black coats is a meditation on the form. Each of the eight styles, now available at Colette in Paris, Mameg in Los Angeles, and boutiques throughout East Asia, is made of cashmere-soft black wool and lined in featherlight silk satin. Silhouettes range from elongated and sleek to full volume, and all of them come with cheeky references. David’s best-seller so far—a slim, low-slung, double-breasted topcoat with extended tapered sleeves—was inspired by sagging work pants; a rounded shoulder was modeled on the perfect curve of a prescription pill. No wonder we’re hooked. —Alexandra Marshall
It’s hard to imagine calling a 20-year-old designer a fashion veteran. And yet that’s exactly what Pedro Lourenço is. Like many kids who eventually grow up to join the profession, he spent his childhood sketching and playing with fabric; unlike most, he also learned how to cut, sew, and produce clothes. At age 12 he became the designer for Carlota Joakina, a diffusion label owned by his mother, São Paulo–based avant-garde designer Glória Coelho. While Coelho wished that her son would maintain some normalcy for his age—“I always told him, ‘Pedro! Come on, go out, have fun!’”—she had known since he was a toddler that standing between him and a pair of pinking shears would be dangerous.
The local press subsequently turned Lourenço into a star, and by 2005 he had started creating high-end capsule collections for private clients. The next stop: Paris. A few months ago Lourenço staged his first show totally independent from his parents, at the Westin hotel. (Okay, his father, Reinaldo Lourenço, another highly respected Brazilian designer, was backstage helping stylist Brana Wolf steam the coats.) Lourenço’s 25 looks were graphic and sleek, using stiff, vertically suspended plastic and leather panels to create structured dresses inspired by Oscar Niemeyer’s sculptural buildings. Flashes of transparency sexed up the cerebral.
Having sold the collection to 10 Corso Como, Louis Boston, and Outfit at the Wynn, Lourenço is now turning his puppyish enthusiasm to real business. He has been bonding with clients at trunk shows and getting a kick out of learning how to price (dresses range from about $700 to $9,000). “Marketing, full-on production, things that I was not used to before, I’m finding really fun,” he says. Ironically, as the emerging designer takes on more adult responsibilities, his mother says he’s rediscovering his youth, going out to the movies and clubs with friends in São Paulo, where he is based half the year. Call it the curious case of Benjamin Buttonhole. —A.M.
It doesn’t take much for Guillaume Henry, the new creative director at recently resuscitated French brand Carven, to get an idea—usually, passing time at La Mascotte, a café in Montmartre, is enough. “I like watching the neighborhood people walk by,” he says. There’s Michou, the impresario behind Paris’s famous transvestite cabaret; the postman; an opera singer; and little old ladies. “I don’t need George Lucas to be inspired. If I see a woman dressed entirely in beige walking a Labrador, that’s it; I have a story.”
Founded by Carmen de Tommaso, who turned 100 last year, Carven became a source for petite and junior dressing in 1945, when Tommaso, who is five feet one, opened shop. One of the first couture houses to enter the ready-to-wear market, Carven eventually designed uniforms for Air France flight attendants in the Seventies. When Tommaso retired in 1993, Carven changed hands several times, until a private investment group acquired it in 2008. Soon after, Henry’s debut, for spring 2010, was deemed a critical success; this fall the collection—which focuses on sexy tailoring, little hourglass dresses in demoiselle Art Deco prints, and lots of Peter Pan collars—is available Stateside at Opening Ceremony and Barneys New York.
“Carven is light. There are not a lot of style codes,” says Henry, who got his start at Givenchy and Paule Ka, a lower-priced label. “It’s easy to make a complicated dress for 12,000 euros. What’s difficult is to do a great one for 300 euros.” At the moment, Henry is obsessed with Les Biches and La Femme Infidèle, two late-Sixties Claude Chabrol films starring Stéphane Audran, an actress who has a special place in his heart. “She is hyperfeminine and bourgeois, and she has a hidden perversity I love.” But Henry has also zeroed in on the more current look favored by young, cool Parisiennes who want something chic, unfussy, and, preferably, leg baring. “My assistant, Kety, keeps a pair of Louboutins under her desk,” he says. “When she goes out tonight she’ll be wearing the same Carven dress she wore all day, only with those shoes.” —Rebecca Voight
A lot can change in a year—just ask 39-year-old newcomer Hakaan Yildirim. In 2009 he was living in Istanbul, custom-designing ornate gowns for his well-to-do local clientele. Now he has a studio in London, his new home base, and a hit line, called Hakaan, of edgy, architectural pieces (currently sold at Opening Ceremony, Harvey Nichols, Colette, and Luisaviaroma). “I always wanted to do something internationally,” says Yildirim, who feels most comfortable speaking in Turkish, “and meeting Mert was the biggest luck that has ever happened in my life.” The Mert in question is famous fashion photographer (and W contributor) Mert Alas, who is Yildirim’s creative director—and who played translator as the designer was being interviewed for this article.
Yildirim met Alas, who is also from Istanbul, several years ago. When the designer showed the lensman a few of his personal sketches—sleek silhouettes with strong shoulders and minuscule hemlines, which his conservative customers would never understand—Alas encouraged his friend to produce a collection and show it to European and American buyers. Yildirim agreed, but on one condition: that they work as a team. “I wanted to see what he had done come alive because I really believed in him,” notes Alas, who was a designer in Turkey before taking up photography. “So I gave him a few opinions and kind of modernized things, and it seems to have worked well.”
Yildirim’s clean lines, precise pleating, and body-hugging, sci-fi- inspired cutouts combined with Alas’s industry ties (Kate Moss sat in the first row at their London Fashion Week show, in which Lara Stone and Natalia Vodianova walked) results in a match made in sartorial heaven— which is why Alas is quick to deflect any talk of favoritism. “I want Hakaan to be known for what he does without there being a cloud or a question mark over the clothes,” he says. So far the fall collection—29 looks done in wools, cashmere, leather, and feathers—is speaking for itself. Which, it turns out, is also a personal goal for the designer. “I apologize that I can’t speak good English,” says Yildirim via Alas. “But I’m taking lessons, and next time I will be talking with you in person.”
He’d better brush up on his French while he’s at it. In June the designer snagged the prestigious ANDAM Fashion Award, which means that, along with winning the $270,000 pot, he must open an atelier in France and show his next collection in Paris. Talk about changes. —Sarah Taylor
Photographs courtesy of the designers