After honing her skills at Ralph Rucci and Ohne Titel, Jean-Pierre decided to launch her own namesake line in 2012, which is clean and sleek yet far from minimal. "It's for the very discerning fashion-conscious: a woman who likes to stand out but in a quiet way," says Jean-Pierre. The vision behind her brand is quite evident in the discreet, intricate and unique details of her fall collection, which was inspired by the anatomy of a beetle.
Sister design duo Lizzy and Darlene Okpo from Queens, New York, named their collection after their Nigerian father, who highly influenced the line. "We started the brand because we were motivated by our dad's experiences coming to New York as an immigrant from Nigeria," say Darlene and Lizzy. This foundation created a distinct look for the brand, which was started in 2010. "The William Okpo aesthetic is primarily based on playing with simple things and exaggerating them to make it fun," say the sisters. "We want our brand to illustrate the unique aesthetic that results from the juxtaposition of the immigrant's sense of style against the American cultural sensibilities, offering modern feminine designs with touches of masculine elements."
This Project Runway finalist designs for the confident and versatile woman. According to Goldson, who's been in business since 2011, her customer "accentuates her curves instead of hiding them, achieves success in her career but doesn't let it define her, listens to both Jay-Z and Adele, and loves to travel but her home is well-appointed and warm." It's no wonder her fall collection was triggered by the ultimate dynamic woman: FLOTUS. "I was inspired by our First Lady Michelle Obama," says Goldson. "I drew from what I thought she would wear and stepped it up a notch with luxurious textiles." Goldson's design motives extend beyond her clothes: "I'd like the Kimberly Goldson brand to be known as vehemently empowering, refined and covertly sexy. I did not make it here on my own strength, so I want my legacy to be about my dedication to giving back and transforming lives."
Stella Jean's multicultural, Hatian-Italian roots have been the primary source of inspiration for her namesake ready-to-wear line. Her eclectic blend of vibrant wax batik textiles fused with high-fashion design is hard to miss. Since winning the 2011 talent contest 'Who Is On Next,' Jean has debuted her collection at Milan Fashion Week and garnered international attention. The designer now collaborates with the International Trade Center, a joint agency of the WTO and UN with an agenda to produce luxury handmade pieces ethically with Africa.
Courtney Allegra has an established clothing line worn by celebrities, has been featured on NBC's Today show and gets one-on-one advice from designer Rachel Roy—and she's only in high school. It's tough to believe she's managed to create her own successful brand while balancing the ups and downs of teenage life, but this driven 16-year-old turned a fun hobby into a lucrative way to express herself: "It allows me to have a creative outlet. At first I was designing for a few friends but it snowballed from there." In an industry where dreams are big and chances are slim, Courtney Allegra is not only one to watch out for but one to be motivated by.
Skirt, Courtney Allegra, $380, courtneyallegra.com.
Varsity Jacket, Courtney Allegra, $500, courtneyallegra.com.
Dress, Courtney Allegra, $250, courtneyallegra.com.