Critics

Yigal Azrouël

Yigal Azrouël
Sportswear

Of French-Moroccan descent, Yigal Azrouël was born and raised in Israel, and moved to the U.S. to explore fashion design and the arts. Self-taught with an intuitive draping method, Azrouël sold his first collection to Barney’s and his brand soon grew into an international luxury business.

An avid surfer, Azrouël draws inspiration from his travels, nature, art, photography, culture, architecture, and above all, his hometown, New York City.
The Yigal Azrouël signature 
is minimal and fresh, with expert draping and defined construction, and a precise attention to detail. Architectural influence is found throughout each collection in the thoughtful consideration of seam placement, patchwork, cut-outs, shape, and form.

Yigal built his brand in the heart of New York City, where he manufactures 90 percent of his collections, benefiting the local community and economy, and allowing control of high-quality production.

Brand fans include Kendall Jenner, Alicia Vikander, Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Natalie Portman, Madonna, Beyonce, Anne Hathaway, Rooney Mara, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Bosworth, Emma Watson, Sandra Bullock, Sofia Sanchez- Barrenechea and more.

Flora Backer

Flora Backer
Intimate Apparel

Flora Backer is one of America’s most celebrated and successful lingerie designers. She co-founded Flora Nikrooz Lingerie with her husband in 1983. The boutique collection pioneered the concept of bridal lingerie. It rapidly gained worldwide notoriety with its romantic pleats, sumptuous fabrics, and eye-catching detail.

Backer left Flora Nikrooz after more than 30 years with her namesake brand. What followed was the birth of Rya Collection, influenced by a new generation of passionate, independent, and ambitious women. Rya Collection was inspired by her daughter, who personifies each of those attributes.

Phyllis Chan

Phyllis Chan
Knitwear Critic

Phyllis Chan fell in love with fashion when her dad started working for Esprit in the 90’s. She began interning at a local fashion company in Hong Kong in high school and then moved to the U.S. to study apparel design at RISD. Upon graduating in 2008, she started her first position at Rag & Bone as a technical designer. In this role she worked on a range of categories including wovens, cut-and-sew, sweaters, and even children’s wear. In 2009, she started working as a design assistant and began her career in sweaters at Rag and Bone. In 2016, she became a design director, where she oversaw design and development for men’s and women’s sweaters. As a designer, she believes workmanship, fit, and most importantly the emotional connection of the product should inspire imagination, fantasy, and adventures. She’s excited to share her experience and love of knitwear and see what’s to come from the next generation of designers.

Amanda Hsiao

Amanda Hsiao
Children’s Wear

Amanda Hsiao has been working in the apparel industry for almost 20 years, with retail brands including Ralph Lauren and Gap Inc. Graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, she realized her heart was always in design. She started taking hand-knitting lessons and from one knit, two purl became a career in knit and sweater design, and also an obsession.

After years in menswear, she is currently the design director of babyGap. After having two of her own children, she knew that children’s wear was the most special and magical area of apparel design. She has been with Gap Inc. for over 11 years.

Bibhu Mohapatra
Special Occasion

Bibhu Mohapatra grew up on India’s East Coast, developing an appreciation for sumptuous Indian fabrics and vibrant colors at an early age. This exposure to textiles and garment construction still inspires his designs and permeates his collections. He moved to America in 1996, and after earning a master’s in economics from Utah State University, enrolled at FIT in 1999, also working as an assistant designer at Halston.

He won FIT’s prestigious Critic’s Award for evening wear, and after graduating, was hired by the French furrier J. Mendel. He served as design director for nine years, creating cutting-edge designs for glamorous gowns and opulent furs. Mohapatra then moved out on his own, designing custom couture gowns, cocktail dresses, and furs for private clients in New York, Europe, and India.

His label is currently sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and specialty boutiques across North America, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. To date, celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank, Glenn Close, Janelle Monae, Lupita Nyong’o, Jennifer Lopez, and Taraji P. Henson have worn Bibhu’s designs, and he has had the honor to dress former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

Josie Cruz Natori

Josie Cruz Natori
Sportswear

Josie Natori is the founder and CEO of The Natori Company, a fashion brand that includes 
the Josie Natori ready-to-wear collection and lingerie collections under the labels Josie
Natori, Natori, Josie, and N Natori. She also produces home, bedding, fragrance, and legwear collections. Born in the Philippines, Natori left Manila at 17 to attend Manhattanville College, where she studied economics. After graduation, she joined the corporate world, and eventually became the first female vice president of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. Ultimately, she knew she wanted to have her own business and a connection to her native Philippines. By chance, she happened on the idea of importing embroidered tops, which, when shown to a department store buyer, became the catalyst for a sleepwear business that 40 years later has grown into a fashion empire. Celebrating Asian aesthetic principles with the spirit of her adopted home in America, Natori effortlessly melds the visual best of both East and West.

Dushane Noble

Dushane Noble
Knitwear

Born in Jamaica, Dushane Noble came to New York as a 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.

Zac Posen

Zac Posen
Sportswear

Zac Posen launched his eponymous collection in 2001, with a vision for modern American glamour that married couture technique with striking innovation. Raised in New York, Posen attended London’s Central Saint Martins in the womenswear program. In 2004, he was awarded the CFDA’s prestigious Swarovski Perry Ellis Award. In 2015, he was named Designer of the Year by WWD and Variety.

Today, Posen is known globally for artisanal craftsmanship, anatomical construction, and textile manipulation. His daywear, suiting, and red carpet evening wear are infused with bold sophistication, sexy femininity, and distinctive glamour.

Zac Posen was named creative director for Brooks Brothers’ women’s collection and accessories in 2014. He serves as a judge with Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia on Lifetime’s Project Runway, now in its 16th season. Posen partnered with Delta Air Lines to redesign the iconic uniforms. His designs will be launched in May 2018.
Worn by leading women, including Uma Thurman, First Lady Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts, Claire Danes, and Rihanna, his designs are a staple on the red carpet. His collections have grown to include Zac Posen, ZAC Zac Posen, and Truly Zac Posen, offering handbags, accessories, bridal, eyewear, footwear, and fine jewelry.

Philanthropy is an integral part of the Zac Posen brand. Along with support of St. Jude’s, the LGBTQIA community, and City Harvest, among others, Posen is also a board member of the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.

House of Z, a documentary on his career, premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival. His cookbook, “Cooking with Zac,” was published in 2017.

Sharon Tal

Sharon Tal
Sportswear

Sharon Tal was born and raised in Tel Aviv. She is currently the head designer for the Israeli fashion house Maskit. With a bachelor’s degree in fashion design from Shenkar College, Israel’s leading design school, Tal started her career with an internship at Lanvin in Paris under the former chief designer, Alber Elbaz. She was then appointed head of embroidery at Alexander McQueen in London. Working under the late Lee McQueen, she created the embroideries for the celebrated spring/summer 2010 “Plato’s Atlantis” collection, among others.

Since returning to Israel, Tal has successfully revived Maskit, the country’s first fashion house, founded in 1954 by Ruth Dayan as a way to help immigrants to find work using their unique craftsmanship. With Ruth’s blessing, Tal has infused the brand’s rich heritage with modern fashion and exclusive designs.

Maskit has three stores in Israel and a significant international presence, holding many events around the United States, Canada, and Europe. The fashion house has opened for Tel Aviv Fashion Week and also showed at Moscow Fashion Week, as well as holding shows and presentations around the world.

Karolina Zmarlak

Karolina Zmarlak
Sportswear

Karolina Zmarlak develops modern feminine silhouettes through innovative technical fabrics and structured variability, with an aesthetic driven by her Polish heritage: European minimalism.

Her European sensibility and immigrant spirit inspired her understated design aesthetic, personal style, and dedicated technical training. She studied apparel design, specializing in fine tailoring, at FIT, graduating with high honors.

Named a Gen Art Styles winner in 2005, Zmarlak honed her skills at Carolina Herrera and Theory. In 2009, with her partner Jesse Keyes, she founded her eponymous designer ready-to-wear line, launching her debut collection at Takashimaya.

Karolina creates modernist designs, with clean, bold forms that permit personalization to the body and the self. Her focus on precision tailoring, fabric fusions, and the feminine silhouette highlights each woman’s unique style and voice. Her collection is designed and produced in New York’s Garment District under the designer’s hands-on exacting standards.

Karolina and her collections have been covered in Style.com, WWD, The New York Times, Refinery29, Interview, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Lucky, Crain’s, InStyle, and Fashionista among others.

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