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The Age of Elegance

With rarefied and refined collections, young designers have gained a following—and a sense of style beyond their years

Call them contemporaries of The Row (or the Jason Wu effect): They run tight businesses. Their collections are worn by the very best dressed. And compared to their long-established counterparts, their labels are only in their infancy.

In recent years, the new guards of sophisticated style have been young designers creating polished, mature clothing that belies their years. Among them, Katie Ermilio, granddaughter of Grace Kelly’s clothier, whose refined aesthetic runs through the family bloodline. Isa Arafan designer Serafina Sama is part of this troupe. “When I was younger, I was trying to be cooler than what I was,” she tells DuJour. “And now I am at peace with not being the coolest person in the world.” If youth is wasted on the young, these up-and-coming designers are old souls. More on three standouts in the lineup, below.

 

The Heritage: Katie Ermilio

Aside from her grandfather, Ermilio‘s father owns a men’s bespoke menswear shop, and though this pedigree would ultimately predestine her towards clothing design, it was a career as a fashion editor she aspired to. For a few years, that’s what she did, landing plum roles at Vogue and Teen Vogue. “I started making my own clothes for my internships and jobs, and when I was finished with them, my dad would put them in his storefront,” the 27-year old tells DuJour. “My first commission was when a man walked into the store and wanted to buy a dress for his wife.”

As word of mouth among Ermilio’s fellow editors spread, sewing as a side job turned into full-time designing. Her innate style savvy (and minimalist, ladylike dresses) has since earned her red-carpet customers from Olivia Palermo to Michelle Williams. “My grandfather really designed for the times he was in—it was modern. I take pieces of that with me as I continue the legacy,” the designer says. “I’ve never wavered or had a totally different set of tastes. The collection is very organic and authentically me.”

The International: Misha Nonoo

Bahrain-born, London-bred and Paris-educated, Misha Nonoo is one of New York’s most watched rising designers, whose profile received a bigger boost in July when she became a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. “It’s been an incredible process,” says the 26-year old. “It’s so brilliant to go through it as a designer and to evaluate what you want for your collection and what you want for your brand.”

Her Nonoo label, less than four years old, started out as a line of women’s structured jackets and coats at an affordable price point that eventually expanded to a full collection of feminine tailored uptown essentials. (Pippa Middleton and Princess Beatrice were early adopters of the brand.) “A jacket or coat is the ultimate accessory,” she says. “If you put on a wonderful jacket and it’s a cool cut or color, there’s something about that simplicity and effortlessness.”

The Eccentric: Serafina Sama

Formerly at Marni and Chloé, Sama’s London-based label Isa Arfen line exudes a sophisticated, humorous and relaxed vibe—with a touch of Italian eccentricity thrown in for good measure.

“I feel quite inspired looking at women on the street,” she says. “An elderly woman on the street at the bus stop might have a great coat that falls well and I’ll take a photo of it.” Sama doesn’t design with a particular age or body shape in mind, and everyone from It Girls like Alexa Chung to 75-year old aunties have been spotted in her creations: “I think of a natural, quite real woman, who has a real life, who loves clothes and appreciates beautifully-made clothes.”

 

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