Photo: Brian Doben

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Maria Cornejo
"A woman shouldn't be a sandwich board for the designer," says Chilean-born Cornejo, whose first New York store (there are now two) dates from 1998. "My clothes have a cool edge, but they don't overwhelm the wearer." There's an artistry and intelligence to her geometric pieces that make them come alive on the body: "It's the way the fabric falls."

Why You'll Like Her Look
There's nothing stiff or tight Many pieces don't have shoulder or side seams, which eliminates extra bulk and follows the natural line of the body. While this isn't baggy stuff, it never restricts you.

It has staying power "My clothes aren't obsolete after the season is over," Cornejo says. "I hate waste." The museum-quality timelessness of her designs is underlined by her 2006 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award.

...and layering power Cornejo wouldn't wear a miniskirt alone, but she would wear one over pants. Her 16-year-old daughter, Bibi, came to the photo shoot with Cornejo's poodle-texture coat over her school uniform.

It's adaptable "I'm big into multifunctional clothing," says Wangechi Mutu. "Often I have to go from the studio to something more formal. Maria understands the city, the speed of life, women's different roles."


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