02/13/13 6:44am

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There have been a multitude of things for designers to panic about this fashion week — the weather, the unintentional photobombs, the prospect of their shows turning into platforms for Twitter trolls.

At least one man seems impervious to it all. A week before his New York Fashion Week show, Yigal Azrouel was the picture of zen. In his bamboo and slate adorned midtown Manhattan studio, he prepared models being photographed for his fall 2013 lookbook, patting down a pony hair blazer, pulling at the peplum of a form-fititng white shift, tucking hair behind ears and lifting it out of shirt backs.

Happy lounge music bounced off the walls. After adjusting a model to his liking, Azrouel, casually rumpled in slim jeans and a navy blue henley, would stride over to a trio of women from his marketing and sales team, who cooed over details like the flounce of an eggplant-colored dress and resumed chatting about their weekend plans when he ducked away to prep the next look.

The most stressed out people in the room appeared to be the photographers shooting the lookbook, and even they reigned in their anxiety to arched eyebrows and hard glares.

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“That’s not my personality,” Azrouel said about pre-show anxiety. “If I’m not ready by now, I should’ve …” he laughed and shook his head. “It’s my life. I live this. I work this 24/7. And I have an amazing team that works with me.”

The “Project Runway” style of panic has never resonated with Azrouel, an Israeli-American designer who launched his first collection more than ten years ago with no formal training. His clothes have courted celebrities like Rihanna, Kristen Stewart, and Scarlett Johansson, along with a slew of women who are attracted not just to his clean lines and body-conscious silhouettes but also to his scruffy good looks and lilting French-Moroccan voice.

In 2009, he was rumored to have played a part in the breakup of Billy Joel and Katie Lee Joel. His admirers include a number of Manhattan socialites. If you’re wondering about his type, perhaps it’s the kind of woman he envisions in his clothes.

“She’s not trying very hard, she’s not a showy girl, she’s somebody who — she is who she is,” he said. “She wears the clothes and it elevates her, it gives her a platform to extend her personality.”

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His latest collection was inspired by “the idea of mystery — something that you want to have but you can’t get.” Mystery manifests itself edge-of-indecent mesh panels, unexpected zippers and lots of leather. “Who don’t want to look like that, right?” he quipped, slipping a model into blazer with pony hair sleeves.

He told a story about an encounter with Gwyneth Paltrow. “I had lunch with Gwyneth last year because she’s a friend of a friend,” he said. “I went to see her casually and I introduced myself and she said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe it, I have so many things of your stuff and I buy,’ and she turned red.”

Azrouel laughed again. “I really appreciate fashion. My woman can be anybody that has style. It’s not about a famous celebrity, but of course it helps.”

Bold-faced names descended on his Feb. 8 show at Chelsea’s Highline Stages despite the wind-swept flurries that were working their way into a full blown blizzard. Half an hour before showtime, Azrouel talked with the models backstage, smiling while he wrung his hands and ran them frequently through his hair. Uninvited, nerves had shown up anyway.

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His team dressed the three dozen models fast and furiously. The scene was its own kind of performance art: Limbs twisting, bobby pins flying, cell phone flashes strobing. Azrouel stepped quickly around each woman, tamping down flyaways and flattening lapels. One model smiled as he smoothed her hair. (Hair, his own and others, is something his hands often find their way to.)

Azrouel stepped to the back as his army paraded out, directed by a woman with a headset and a man who urged the models to “walk strong.” He burst out for the finale, bounding down the runway to cheers from backstage, coming back to embrace everyone he could get his hands on.

“It worked out, everything was fine, the girls, the casting, the snow,” he said. In place of nerves shone a sheen of sweat (blame glee, or maybe the lights). “You do what you have to do. You have to trust. We did the best that we can.”

02/12/13 1:17pm

With all the negative press surrounding Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week this year (designers not showing, the commercialization of the experience, the questionable return on investment for labels, the over-saturation of events), off-site fashion shows can still offer a glimpse of an earlier era. They can also provide designers with greater creative license on the show environment, which can be more difficult to come by in the standardized tents at Lincoln Center. This option provides a middle-ground, with shows transforming from an industry event for buyers and media to celebrity-studded, commercial events.

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Before the 3.1 Phillip Lim Fashion Week Show inside Moynihan Station

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09/27/12 12:28pm

Alexander McQueen was one of my favorite designers. I even saw his Savage Beauty exhibit at the  Metropolitan  Museum of Art in 2011. And although he is no longer with us, his vision lives on through his clothing line.

The Alexander McQueen ad in the September issue of Vogue really caught my eye. The ground the model is standing on looks like a piece of unfolded origami. Using these shapes as starting points for my doodle I was really able to go outside my comfort zone and try something new with my doodles. Instead of swirls I stuck with triangles and lines, that’s it.

Get in touch with the Downtown Doodler on  Twitter  and  Facebook. Check out more from the  Downtown Doodler on Untapped.  You can buy this print on  The Untapped Shop.

Have a great week!

09/21/12 10:37am

New York Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is might be over, and same with London fashion week, but Milan Fashion Week just started, and then Paris Fashion starts right after. Four weeks of new fashion, four weeks to gather new inspiration for projects or a new direction to take my art. But the September issue of Vogue is forever.

I found this Miu Miu ad fascinating. The print on the suit is loud but the curves  are soft. Chloe Sevigny is posing in such a way to create dramatic angles with her legs and shoulders. I decided to play of the harsh angles her body makes with more harsh angles and triangles.  During the process of drawing I was afraid my pattern was too much and took away form the ad. But in the end I feel like it all blends together to be one pattern so it isn’t so harsh anymore, much like the pattern of the suit.

Get in touch with the Downtown Doodler on  Twitter  and  Facebook. Check out more from the  Downtown Doodler on Untapped.

You an buy this print on  The Untapped Shop.

Have a great week!

09/11/12 11:00am

It is that time of year again, the September issue of Vogue and  Mercedes  Benz Fall Fashion Week! Although I can’t name a designer just by looking at a gown, I look forward to this time of year. Each look that walks down the runway is a work of art, carefully designed and sewn. The looks all together tell a story, much like traditional works of art tell a story.

As I flipped through the inch and a quarter stack of papers that is the September issue of Vogue a dozen high fashion spreads jumped out at me, just waiting to be doodled on. But I couldn’t treat these elegant spreads like other ads and photos I doodled on. I had to be meticulous to create something just as elegant that worked with the clothes, not against them. I wanted the star of the doodle to remain the clothes.

What is your favorite part of Fashion Week?

Get in touch with the Downtown Doodler on  Twitter  and  Facebook. Check out more from the  Downtown Doodler on Untapped.

You an buy this print on  The Untapped Shop.

Have a great week!

10/05/11 5:52am

Alexander McQueen at Paris Spring 2012 RTW

With fashion week at a close in Paris, I couldn’t help but notice the large amount of tourists trying desperately to look the part this week. You might be tempted on your visit to the city of chic style and design to dress up more than usual. This would be your first “tell,” as they say in poker. Parisian girls are known for their chic but more importantly, their blasé. As an American and fashion buyer for Calvin Klein, J.Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch, I’ve become well-versed in this look after living in Paris and dating a Parisian.

1. Don’t overdress.  Especially avoid what you might dress for an evening party during the daytime (or even the night time). Skinny jeans, a blazer and flats make a good outfit choice for any situation.
2. Don’t wear too much jewelry. Wearing none is in fact, a great accessory too. Instead, add a scarf and a great handbag.
3. Don’t wear high heels. Instead opt for ballet flats, sandals or boots (the low kind with a heel or flat to the calf). Avoid kitten heels, unless you want to look like an elderly lady from the 16th Arrondisement.
4. Don’t wear leggings.  Audrey Hepburn might have left her mark on Paris but instead choose a pair of (ultra) skinny black jeans.
5. Do wear stripes! They are always in vogue.
6. Opt for casual bags.  Louis Vuitton is for the Asian tourists. Longchamp is a great French choice. I use it to transport my groceries, for work and for a night out.
7. Leave your hair a bit tussled and messy.
8. Never carry a backpack or wear sneakers. Apparently they scream, American, to the French.
9. Speak softly. There’s an incredible quiet hum in the Paris subway because nobody is really above the other.
10. And never take out your map!

Do you agree? What have we missed?

Stay tuned for a behind the scenes Paris Fashion Week recap by Untapped correspondent and photographer Nina Westervelt.