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New York City has long been known as the place where worldwide trends are born. And as Fashion Week descended upon us last month, we learned that, according to data research and trend tracking, our city had been ranked the most fashionable in the world—beating out both London and Paris for the 2014 Top Global Fashion Capital spot. With that well-earned honor in mind, we bring you four visionaries who exemplify the kind of talent that’s put NYC at the vanguard of international fashion and design.

“It all boils down to the same thing,” says photographer Inez van Lamsweerde, about her and husband Vinoodh Matadin’s move to jewelry design, “creating something beautiful.”

Photo by © Inez and Vinoodh – New York 2013

Vinoodh Matadin and Inez van Lamsweerde

Whether it’s their high-gloss ad campaigns or their daring celebrity portraiture, fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin always aim high when shooting.

“Number one is to show the human being at his or her most heroic,” says van Lamsweerde, 50, speaking from a town car as she exits Phillip Lim’s Fall 2014 NYFW show. “There’s a sense of going to the most essential part of someone, whether that’s strength, vulnerability, humor or sadness. We’re always hoping to catch a glimpse of the real human being inside the clothes.”

During their career, the team has worked with some of the boldest of boldface names, and no one has had a more daring vision than repeat visitor Lady Gaga, whose “Applause” music video the pair recently directed. Says van Lamsweerde, “The motivation behind her style choices is so interesting. Literally everything she wears on the outside is a metaphor for experiences in her life or ideas she has and wants to express. And she has about 400 billion ideas a minute. It’s coming from almost a theatrical sense of expressionism.”

The artists’ creative collaboration over the years—“this beautiful exchange of inspiration and trust,” van Lamsweerde calls it—has given rise to new forms of both expression and commerce for the Dutch-born duo. In the past year they’ve debuted a jewelry line, Inez & Vinoodh, as well as a signature scent, 1996, a blend of dark amber and light juniper inspired by a photograph they took the year they set down roots in New York.

“There’s a darkness to the picture and, of course, a very, very sweet side,” says van Lamsweerde of the tightly cropped photo of an 8-year-old with half-closed eyes and shiny red lips that adorns the box. “There’s this dualistic thing going on that’s prominent in all our work.”

The same goes for the stackable rings in their jewelry line’s spring collection, which reflect the mix of dark woods and “crazy, popping colors” in the downtown loft the couple shares with their 11-year-old son, Charles.

And while the pair is having fun playing with new elements, “it all boils down to the same thing,” van Lamsweerde says. “Creating something beautiful. The jewelry is almost like making still lifes.”

Sophie Theallet

Chic, sexy and twisted: That’s the sort of woman Sophie Theallet had in mind when designing her new collection, a sleek yet rambunctious body of work with a rock ’n’ roll edge. The prime inspiration, says Theallet with a twinkle in her eye, was the eccentric but supersensuous protagonist in Louis Malle’s 1958 film noir classic Elevator to the Gallows.

“That woman—very twisted mind!—has a wealthy husband and she’s waiting in the streets of Paris for him to disappear so she can run away with the money with her lover.” She lets out a low, naughty laugh. “Okay, I love my husband—I say that immediately. But I love when things are a little bit complicated. I love the psyche of the woman. It’s very French!”

Theallet sought out “really expensive, complicated fabrics,” and then gave them a twist. “I come from a couture background, but I didn’t want the clothes to look stiff; I wanted them to have a rock attitude.”

Music and fashion have always been one for the designer, whose early exposure to punk Britannia while visiting cousins in 1977 London set off her own style revolution. “I’m in fashion because of music, really,” she says, “because I discovered Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and fell in love with the English punk scene when I was 13 years old.”

An early apprenticeship with Jean Paul Gaultier (Martin Margiela was also an assistant then), followed by a rigorous decade working with Azzedine Alaïa, set the course for Theallet’s own American invasion. She wowed critics and high-profile devotees (like Michelle Obama) from the start with her own elegant line, and even took home the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2009.

But there’s no rest for the wickedly chic: The day after her Fall 2014 NYFW show, while the reviews of the current collection were just starting to pour in, Theallet was already back at her West 37th Street atelier, dreaming up her next collection. The epitome of chic for Theallet? “High heels, red lipstick and... je ne sais quoi.”

Susan Feldman

Home is where the art is for the co-founder of One Kings Lane, Susan Feldman, who turned a passion for interior design and shopping into an online retail business currently valued at nearly $1 billion.

The aha moment came when the then-53-year-old apartment-dwelling Manhattanite, a veteran of Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne, headed west in 2009 and purchased a spacious 1936 Hollywood Hills house. “All I could think about was finding unique and interesting things for my home,” says the mother of three, but “back then the online experience was lacking.” One Kings Lane, which she formed with NYC-based business partner Alison Pincus, 38, quickly filled the void: In less than five years the e-tailer has amassed some 10 million users drawn to its upscale storytelling and artfully curated daily flash sales.

A self-described “retail brat” (her dad was in the business, so “it’s in my blood,” she says), Feldman ping-ponged through eight different cities while growing up—and each new home brought a new bedroom to decorate. “I always had art on the walls, whether it was posters or photographs I took and framed,” she recalls. “I was into DIY at a young age, so I painted the outside of my footed tub hot pink and hung beads as a curtain—very hippy-chic.”

Today, Feldman’s aesthetic is more eclectic-chic, but still with a playful streak (like the good-luck elephants with upturned trunks—the hallmarks of the One Kings Lane logo—that populate her office and home). “I believe in investing in significant pieces that build a foundation, then having fun mixing and adding all kinds of elements, from ethnic to vintage,” she says. “I think you create your look by adding layers. At One Kings Lane we say, ‘Design is never done.’”

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