Michelle Smith interned in Europe with luxury-goods heavyweights Hermès, Vuitton, and Dior—one reason her collection, which debuted in 2000, has such superior quality and workmanship. Unlike those houses, however, she doesn't charge prices only the superrich can afford, and she isn't caught up in attention-getting, over-the-top runway stuff. "'Wearable,' to me, is the ultimate compliment," she says.
Why You'll Like Her Look
There are options for different bodies "I make a sleeveless dress but also one with sleeves," says Smith. "A few years ago, my skirts got pretty short, and customers complained. Now I build in a bigger hem so people can let it down if they want."
Its fun spirit Her happy palette and whimsical shapes are inspired partly by Michelle's mother, "a child of the '60s. I loved her bright minis, fantastic coats, and go-go boots."
The built-in accessories Notice-me prints, lively colors, and fanciful details (beading, dramatic buttons, gold chains) mean that you don't need additional embellishment, which simplifies life. "I'm superbusy. I can't be overdressed or schlumpy," Haddon says, "and I must be comfortable."
It's youthful but not silly The clothes are adorable enough to appeal to 29-year-old LaToya McLean, while also discreet enough for people in their 50s and 60s. Now 35, Michelle says, "As I get older, my collection is maturing, too."
Carrying on in the spirit of Calvin Klein for the label's bridge collection is behind-the-scenes powerhouse Kevin Carrigan, who sees himself more as a problem-solver—with all the nuts-and-bolts fashion savvy that implies—than a flamboyant creator. "I spend a lot of time on fabric and fit," he says. "It's all about lines. The simpler, the more effective."
Why You'll Like His Look
The slenderizing threads A sleek, minimalist cut does make women look leaner. But, says Carrigan, "although the perception of the Calvin Klein style is a very slim body type, in actuality we do the whole range, including petites and plus sizes."
It goes beyond black-and-white Nothing comes between Calvin and his neutrals, but Carrigan also introduces strong, lively colors.
It's not too frilly Calvin Klein's famous pared-down aesthetic is not only attractive but also wonderfully practical. "I like something simple and chic that I can wear during the day and go out in at night," says Crystal Renn.
Ease of movement There's room to live. "I'm not a size 0, and I like to eat when I go out!" says Crystal McCrary Anthony. "His evening clothes allow me to have dessert." Zani Gugelmann adds, "I love the flowy skirt of this dress because I have a Latin body—there's more on the bottom than the top."
Lim was just 31 (hence the company name) when his label launched in 2005, and success has been swift—last year he won a Council of Fashion Designers of America's Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent. There's a lovely restraint to his clothes that appeals to many women. "I never think in terms of age, class, or race. My line is more about kindred spirits," he says.
Why You'll Like His Look
The thoughtful details "Dresses have functioning pockets," says Wen Zhou. "Trenchcoats have belts that button on so you don't lose them. Jacket linings are silk because they're easier to slip on."
An accommodating fit Lim shapes all of his clothes on "a real woman with hips and breasts," making sure to build in "a little give and take." His pants are considerately high-waisted rather than unforgivingly low-slung, so that you don't have to worry about flashing skin when you move around—no gapping.
Smart cuts "His clothes are very body-conscious but not revealing or overtly sexy," Zhou points out. "The shoulders are higher and narrower so that you look alert and not sloppy."
There's nothing crazy The sophisticated lines of his designs are up-to-date yet not so trendy that they're in danger of being in fashion one day and out the next. Lim once described his style as "classic but twisted."
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