Fashion Forward

SHAHZAD KALIM

When Kalim went to school in the Indian state of Bihar, many in his small town could barely afford proper clothing, let alone worry about being fashionable. But he dreamed of striking patterns and flashy colors, even doctoring his drab school uniform. Despite initial resistance from his orthodox Muslim parents, he attended the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderabad. Last year Kalim, 25, won in a TV reality show called "Lakme Fashion House," created to spot India's top talent, for his elaborate designs in green, gold and turquoise brocade. He won praise from judge Donatella Versace, as well as a six-month internship at her house in Milan. With his clothes already on sale in Dubai and India, Kalim now has his sights set on London and New York. "I am sure my outfits will be very popular overseas, since they have a nice blend of Indian and Western styles," he says.

DENIS SIMACHEV

The look is prerevolutionary St. Petersburg rake crossed with young Moscow millionaire: big furry hats paired with snappy double-breasted tweed jackets and riding boots--or even high-heeled red patent-leather boots. And yes, the fur is real--the very best Siberia can produce. Simachev, 31, says his vision is to bring "the most expensive components of the luxury lifestyle" to a market of aggressively hip young Russians eager to flaunt their cool. His iconic T shirt last summer featured a portrait of Vladimir Putin surrounded by a halo of flowers. Already the darling of wealthy Russians in expensive capitals around the world, Simachev will open a Moscow boutique later this month. It promises to be a temple of New Russian eclecticism, with giant chandeliers and furniture that once belonged to Catherine the Great's lover Grigori Potemkin. And suits that can cost more than $3,000.

GU LIN

A former costume designer, Gu, 39, spent four years studying the intricate embroidery for which classical Chinese gowns are famous. Inspired by the elaborate needlework produced by minority craftswomen in the remote provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan, she first opened her boutique, Red Phoenix, in Beijing 10 years ago. Her designs, which also feature sumptuous silks, light-as-air organza and traditional mandarin collars, are renowned for their hand-stitched dragons and imperial motifs. But the styles are East-West contemporary, splashed with modern colors like chartreuse and tangerine. Gu has since dressed celebrities from Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang to Hillary Clinton, and her intricately stitched outfits can go for as much as five figures--well worth it for the chance to dress like a modern empress.

ISABELA CAPETO

She's an unlikely ambassador for Brazilian fashion: she comes from Rio, not São Paulo, has just one store and steers clear of the big shows in Milan, Paris and New York ("too expensive!" she insists). But don't be fooled; Capeto, 36, takes her craft very seriously. She began making clothes "because I couldn't find what I liked in the shops." After designing for big Brazilian labels, she quit her job in 2003 and struck out on her own. Her pieces are a surprising balance of the elegant and the outright goofy, owing as much to Walt Disney as to beaux-arts . Even her soberest prints are leavened by a Brazilian splash of humor: a basic black blouse, for instance, is festooned with miniature metallic crosses. A single dress may feature as many as 20 different accessories, from colored ribbons to glass teardrops. Her eponymous label is starting to show up in some of the world's toniest boutiques, including Barneys Japan, in Tokyo, Colette of Paris and Nordstrom. Stay tuned.

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