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Three Brooklyn fashion designers offer insights into their current collections & the fashion world

for The Brooklyn Paper

Watch out Seventh Avenue.
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Manhattan isn’t the only place where fashion’s creative juices flow these days. Some of the most creative designing minds have roots - or homes - in Brooklyn. Some say it’s the special feeling of community that keeps them inspired, others believe it’s the sense of tranquility you feel when you leave the bustle of Manhattan behind. So here’s a look at three designers’ most recent collections and what inspires them.

Paul Carroll emerged on the design scene two years ago, with his first ready-to-wear collection. When he told his partner’s sister, a New York City police officer, that he was thinking of moving to Brooklyn, she suggested Brooklyn Heights as it is reminiscent of his former Victorian neighborhood in Boston.

"My apartment was the first one I looked at and when I pulled up in my car, I knew I would take it," says the designer. "It had that real neighborhood feeling I love, away from the fray of Manhattan. And the people are friendlier here than in my neighborhood in Boston. I know the dry cleaner, the laundry guys, the newspaperman and the people at the video store.

"I take my sketchbook to the promenade. That’s my favorite place to go and hang out and sketch. It’s a wonderful place and so relaxing. Lots of people have lunch there and bring kids to the playground."

In between design seasons, Carroll also finds time to enjoy some of the other amusements Brooklyn has to offer. "I go to the Brooklyn Museum as often as possible and to the Botanic Garden, which is incredibly inspirational to me," said Carroll. "It’s like stepping into a another world, like a lush, beautiful countryside. You can’t believe you’re in Brooklyn."

Carroll is currently in the throes of designing his fall 2002 collection. "It’s going to be tailored with lots of very pared down luxury," said Carroll. "I’m using a lot of really cuddly, warm fabrics since, especially in times like these, people want to feel cocooned and warm. I’m working on some fuller, romantic skirts. I like the idea of a romantic skirt that moves when you walk, and I am designing more day clothes and sportswear."

This designer must be doing something right. Actress Kate Capshaw and CNN morning anchor Paula Zahn have expressed interest in his designs, and he’s dressed daytime drama TV personalities like Laura Wright and Victoria Platt of "The Guiding Light." His fall collection will be completed by February, but if you want a sneak preview, head over to Noodle Pudding, an Italian restaurant on Henry Street at Cranberry Street.

"I’m famous for going down there and drawing on the tablecloth," Carroll says. "It’s a very comfortable, homey kind of place. I’m known for saying, ’I have an idea. Get me a napkin!’"

Like many New Yorkers, Mathew Nowomlynski [NO-MA-LIN-SKEE], designer of his own line called Polish, moved to Brooklyn for more practical reasons. "The rent was cheaper and the spaces were bigger," he says. "Besides, it was nice to get out of Manhattan for a change."

Born and raised on Long Island, Nowomlynski first considered becoming a designer when his mom bought him an issue of Vogue at age 12.

"It just clicked," he says.

He lived in Chelsea while attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, then moved to Park Slope, which is now home base for his design studio. It’s here that he creates Polish, a line whose name is meant as a humorous take on his heritage.

His first runway show, held last February, showcased his fall 2001 collection, during the esteemed "7th on Sixth" shows that make up New York’s fashion week. Called "Like a Virgin Suicide," it took place in a school in Chelsea and was all about the destruction of a young high school girl’s life.

"There was a lot of ’80s influence, from short skirts to lots of lace and leather, different wools in colors like navy blue, black and red," he says. "The show was about a teenage socialite - debutante - and everyone’s jealous of her and these fabulous outfits, and she’s very suicidal. My favorite piece is the ’Suicide Dress.’ It’s a sweatshirt dress, and I decided to paint her suicide note - a note to the world on how depressed she is - around the dress in red, to look gorey or bloody."

Nowomlynski won’t talk much about his fall 2002 collection but promises a "very bluesy, jazzy theme."

Though he admits to staying close to home most of the time, Nowomlynski has visited the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park and plenty of local flea markets from which he gets some of his ideas.

"Park Slope is becoming a very trendy area," says the designer, who has considered selling his clothes in some of his favorite stores, such as Bird on Seventh Avenue and Butter on Jay Street.

One of Nowomlynski’s most creative works includes a patriotic bra he designed for Sandra Bernhardt to wear when she performed at a concert in New York. How did he come up with the idea?

"Everyone has their own flair," he says. "I get inspired wherever I am."

Shoe virtuoso Clint Alan really knows what women want. That’s because he’s spent the past 11 years listening to every need and desire women have when it comes to their shoes. This year, with his first-ever retail line and a brand new luxury shoe salon in Tuscon, Ariz. and another to open on Madison Avenue, The Park Slope native is giving Choo and Blahnik fans a run for their money.

In business for more than a decade, Alan’s work has been limited to designing custom-made shoes, a craft he perfected under the guidance of a cobbler in Hong Kong, where he was sent by his father after high school for a dose of discipline after consistently acting up.

After falling in love with the craft, Alan returned to the States where he met Martine Gomez, an Argentine from a family of seasoned cobblers, and perfected his skills while quickly developing his own signature look.

Alan’s designs were recognized by fellow fashion designers Chanpaul and Geova Rodrigues who asked him to design shoes for their Fall 2001 runway shows. And recently, Alan was honored in Sportswear International’s "Who’s Who 2002" issue. But his claim to fame to this day is making every woman’s dream come true - designing one-of-a-kind shoes just for her.

"The only way for women to show their own identity - instead of the identity of the designer - is to wear custom shoes," he says. "It’s a way to add your input to what you want to wear and show your own individual style.

"In addition, women get to work along with me," says Alan. "They choose the fabric and the detailing, and I provide my expertise. If they want to add a gold buckle, I let them know if it will work with the design. If they want artwork done on the shoes, I find the artist to do it."

His new retail line is a logo-driven leather collection with patriotic style in red, blue and cream colors with his own signature heel.

"I use Italian leathers and perforated leathers with my initials in patterns developed overseas in the same factories that produce Gucci and Prada shoes," says the designer. "There are slip-on mules, mid-calf boots, classic sling backs and strappy sandals."

With a style all his own, it’s often difficult to determine what will appeal to his clients. "My mistakes have been my blessings," says Alan. "What I thought wasn’t going to work ended up being the one style that did. I never thought the camouflage leather stiletto boot would be a hit, but it was. I wasn’t sure about the beige-and-black perforated boot or the Cleopatra shoe [a thong], but editors call me for them all day long.

"In fashion, you just never know. What you least expect is what people want - you just go with what you feel at the time. It’s just like a hit record - sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don’t."

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