2016 Critics

critic-dennis-bassoDennis Basso, Sportswear

American designer Dennis Basso has been hailed by both celebrity and private clients for three decades. Inspired by pure glamour, his collections—from fur and evening wear to bridal and accessories—are consistently featured in the media and at red carpet gatherings worldwide.

From his early days managing sales for a furrier, Basso cultivated an eye for design and became an avid apprentice. In 1983, he was ready to launch his own business. He brought a new perspective to fur design, treating it like a fluid fabric—lighter, with more sinuous silhouettes, and bolder in color and patterns.

As his fur business grew, Basso added ready-to-wear, and opened his first freestanding boutique in 2002. Since 2007, he has shown his collections at New York Fashion Week, drawing top media, tastemakers, and Hollywood celebrities. Dennis Basso designs have been worn by First Lady Michelle Obama, Helen Mirren, Brooke Shields, Naomi Campbell, and Olivia Palermo.

Basso believes that all women should have access to a quality, sophisticated wardrobe. With that in mind, two decades ago, he embarked on a collaboration with QVC, presenting faux furs, ready-to-wear, and accessories, and, subsequently, a home collection. He’s developed one of the channel’s most successful collections, appearing also on QVC in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy.

Basso is a graduate of FIT and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the college in 2013. He is also an honoree at the 2016 FIT Foundation Annual Gala.

critic-stacey-bendetStacey Bendet, Sportswear

Stacey Bendet is CEO and creative director of alice + olivia, a company she founded in 2002 with the quest to create the perfect pair of pants. The brand was an immediate success, and shortly after its launch, Theory founder Andrew Rosen joined as a partner. The company has grown into a full contemporary lifestyle brand, encompassing a wide range of offerings including the signature collection, evening wear, the To Work and AIR lines, footwear, and handbags.

Bendet draws inspiration from her love of vintage and all things feminine, creating clothing with ornamented fabrics, whimsical prints, and form-flattering cuts. alice + olivia is available at aliceandolivia.com; at over 30 free-standing boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Dubai; and in over 800 department and specialty stores worldwide.

She is a member of the board of trustees of New York-based Baby Buggy, a foundation that provides essentials for children of families in need, and of the board of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater.

She has been featured on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List five times and is now in its hall of fame.

critic-lisa-dinapoliLisa Di Napoli, Children’s Wear

Lisa Di Napoli has designed children’s clothing for over 15 years. She is currently vice president of children’s wear at Tommy Hilfiger, and previously led design teams for Best & Co. and Baby Gap. In the 1990s, Di Napoli created a line called H.M. Woggle Bug with the intent to bring sophistication to the American children’s wear market. The use of luxury fabrics in wistful designs became her signature. The line was carried by Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom, as well as specialty boutiques across the country. In 1998, her designs won her an Earnie Award in children’s wear. She is a graduate of Parsons School of Design.

2015_critic_annalise_frankAnnalise Frank, Knitwear

When Annalise Frank was 7, her mother taught her to sew. By the time she went to high school, she was knitting her own designs. The Nashville native moved to New York to study fashion design at FIT, making her mark at school shows and at New York Fashion Week. As an intern for Twinkle by Wenlan, she used her well-honed hand-knitting skills to create the accessories for the brand’s 2009 show at Fashion Week. From New York, she went to Italy, where she studied knitwear at Politecnico di Milano. A firm foundation in design and a global perspective gave her a solid start in the fashion industry.

She started her career at Abercrombie & Fitch, where she quickly moved up to oversee the sweaters line for its intimates brand Gilly Hicks. Her expertise in textiles and passion for quality knitwear made her a valuable resource at A&F. While there, Frank began to explore new ways to express her love of textures and pattern, even outside the design office. A self-taught weaver, she’s done large-scale installations for the independent boutique Tigertree in Columbus, OH.

In 2014, Frank returned to New York to oversee the women’s sweaters department for American Eagle Outfitters. With her eye for color, pattern, stitch, and trend, She is a driving force for America’s leading teen retailer.

critic-jason-mahlerJason Mahler, Knitwear

Jason Mahler is the women’s design director of sweaters, active knits, and soft bottoms at American Eagle Outfitters. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mahler knew he was meant to work in the fashion industry from the age of 10, when he taught himself to knit. Between starting his education at FIT in 2003 and finishing at London’s Central Saint Martins in 2007, Mahler had a series of career-defining opportunities: the first was working as a collections assistant at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the second was launching a women’s contemporary private label business for JL Apparel Group. He has also designed for iconic American brands such as Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch. Mahler’s passion for fabric and yarn innovation, his ability to anticipate trends, and his love of collaboration have grown American Eagle’s women’s sweater business into the number-one tops category for the business, breaking all-time high business records.

critic-oskar-metsavahtOskar Metsavaht, Sportswear

Oskar Metsavaht is a physician, artist, entrepreneur, environmentalist, creator, and style director of the fashion brand Osklen, and also creative director of Om.Art, his art and special projects studio. He has been recognized as one of the forerunners of the sustainability movement, promoting the idea of “New Luxury,” and often speaks at conferences worldwide, such as the Milano Fashion Summit and the Ethical Fashion Show in Paris. The World Wild Foundation (WWF-UK) cited his work and named him a “Future Creator.”

Metsavaht is the Founder of E Institute (Instituto-E), a nonprofit organization in Rio de Janeiro, dedicated to the promotion of sustainable human development. The organization’s e-fabrics project, in partnership with companies, institutions, and research centers, identifies fabrics and materials developed from social and environmental criteria.

In 2011, Osklen was named “emerging luxury brand of the year” in London, and Metsavaht was included by Fast Company magazine among the 100 most creative people in the business world. BusinessofFashion.com has included him in its BoF 500—people who shape the global fashion industry—every year since 2013.

critic-dushane-nobleDushane Noble, Knitwear

Born in Jamaica, Dushane Noble came to New York as young boy with his mother, a hairstylist. Growing up in Brooklyn on a tight budget and in search of stylish clothes, Noble eventually found a local tailor to mentor him in the art of making and altering clothes. What started as a solution to fitting in at school developed into a love and passion for creativity and aesthetics.

An FIT graduate, Noble worked for Oscar de la Renta, Peter Som, and Donna Karan before joining TSE in 2008. He was one of the brand’s lead designers until 2011. He later went on to become the senior knitwear designer at Helmut Lang from 2011 to 2014. In late 2014, Noble was asked to join the design team at Narciso Rodriguez, where he is currently the lead knit sweater designer.

critic-maggie-norrisMaggie Norris, Special Occasion

Maggie Norris moved to New York City from her home state of Louisiana to attend Parsons The New School of Design and the Art Students League. During her studies, she was recruited by Ralph Lauren as a creative designer and quickly ascended the corporate ladder to become senior design director. In 2000, she founded Maggie Norris Couture.

A member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America, Norris has been featured in many leading magazines and periodicals, such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, W, People, Elle, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Her designs have been worn by Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Aniston, Amy Adams, First Lady Michelle Obama, Audrey Hepburn, Halle Berry, Diane Keaton, Andie MacDowell, and Beyoncé.

critic-jennifer-zuccariniJennifer Zuccarini, Intimate Apparel

Jennifer Zuccarini founded Fleur du Mal in 2012 as a luxury lingerie, swim, and ready-to-wear brand that inspires both dressing up and undressing. The collection is sold online through the brand’s engaging e-commerce site, as well as through top retailers such as Barneys, Net-a-Porter, Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Selfridges.

Fleur du Mal has been featured in publications such as Vogue, The New York Times, W, Vanity Fair, WWD, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Zuccarini is a fine arts graduate of Montreal’s Concordia University and she later studied Fashion Design at FIT. In 2005, she co-founded and was the creative director of the luxury lingerie brand Kiki de Montparnasse. She has also worked at Victoria’s Secret as the design director of intimates.

critic-sachin-and-babiSachin and Babi, Sportswear

For the past 20 years, Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia have made their mark in the luxury fashion and lifestyle worlds. The husband-and-wife team is sought after by the most exclusive couture designer houses as a creative resource for unique embroideries.

In 2004, the high demand for their unique aesthetic led them to launch a luxury home brand, Ankasa. The fashion-forward home collection was an instant hit and their products can be seen in the most exclusive design centers around the world.

In 2009, the designers launched their eponymous women’s collection, Sachin & Babi. The line is true to their luxury roots, yet is available to a broader spectrum of women than a typical designer collection, with a more accessible price point. The brand subscribes to the mindset that this is the wave of the future of fashion: to make clothing all women want.

Continuing to design a collection that is truly defined by their clientele, the Ahluwalias opened a flagship boutique in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood of New York City, a place where women with sophisticated taste and appreciation for classic style and exquisite fit are completely at home.



threeASFOUR was founded in 2005 by the designers Gabriel Asfour, Angela Donhauser, and Adi Gil. Over the last decade, the collective has built a legacy of fusing cutting-edge technology with traditional craftsmanship to create garments that ride the edge between skin, intellect, and spirit. Each project is approached as a constellation of forms and patterns, and the trio’s signature techniques of spiral seaming, curvilinear construction, and intricate 3D-printed pieces work together to reinvent classic tailoring.

Recipients of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s 2015 National Design Award, threeASFOUR has collaborated with numerous artists and musicians, including Björk, Yoko Ono, and Matthew Barney. Their designs are in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt, and the Musée de la Mode in Paris. Performances and installations with their work have taken place at Deitch Gallery (2002), Arnheim Biennial (2006), Green Naftali Gallery (2009), and Performa 13 (2014), and their work has been the subject of multimedia exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in New York (2013), and the Mint Museum in North Carolina (2014).

As artists whose work unfolds at the intersection of fashion, sculpture, and mysticism, threeASFOUR’s oeuvre seeks to ask questions about the relationship of objects to ideas, bodies to space, and form to language, all while advancing a spiritual and cultural message of unity in diversity.

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