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Fashion's innovators

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Yes, Yes, Armani and Karan are genius, Blahnik makes the most exquisite shoes, Garren creates hair magic, and Avedon’s photos are to die for. But here are the 16 style makers who dare to push the envelope-the innovators who will change the face of fashion. The names, in no particular order, to drop in the ’90s.

1. GIANNI VERSACE Italian, 46. Resume: Flamboyant design impresario for his own roughly $800 million Milan-based label. His recent exhibition at Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology displayed consistently spectacular fashion achievements. He also picked up the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America’s International Award in February. Signature Style: Wildly cheeky, always chic, occasionally controversial (although a huge hit with Hollywood types, Versace’s ’92 ”Miss Bondage” look was deemed exploitative of women by some critics). ”I’m trying to break the border between chic and shock,” Versace has said. The Buzz: Boldly energized Italian fashion. ”He practically pioneered the whole Italian ready-to-wear scene,” says Vogue‘s style editor, Hamish Bowles. But will he last? According to photographer Richard Avedon, right up until doomsday: ”Thanks to Versace, as we head for the apocalypse, at least we’ll be well dressed.”

2. MARC JACOBS American, 29. Resume: Designer picked at age 25 to head Perry Ellis Women’s Sportswear. Radical spring ’93 collection — inspired by Nirvana’s ”Smells Like Teen Spirit” — made scruffy Seattle grunge high style. Will leave Perry Ellis to start his own design label for spring ’94. Signature Style: It’s about freedom, man. ”People tend to think in terms of rules about the way one should look,” he says. ”My design sensibility is, anything goes.” The Buzz: What makes Jacobs interesting, says Patrick McCarthy, executive editor of W and Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), is his ability to bring ”the street and nightclubs into the realm of designer fashion.” But will he last? His youth alone assures he’ll be around long after Calvin and Donna have hung up their pinking shears.

3. EN VOGUE Maxine Jones, Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Cindy Herron. American, 27, 26, 24, and 27, respectively. Resume: Pop’s funkiest multiplatinum divas deliver the most fashionably correct videos (”Free Your Mind,” ”Give It Up, Turn It Loose”) and showcase hip design talent (Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Rifat Ozbeck). Marketable looks have already earned them major ad contracts with Diet Coke, Converse, and Maybelline. Signature Style: Homegirls gone Hollywood. They are the Supremes of the ’90s with slicker packaging. What they wear today you’ll see at Merry-Go-Round next season. The Buzz: ”They’re sort of like a fashion posse on a roll,” says Tommy Boy Music president Monica Lynch. ”They give designer runway fashions a stylistic twist that makes them immediately accessible to the girl on the street.” But will he last? Considering there’s actually substance to go with the style (these girls can sing), yeah.

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