Trendsetters

Four young stylemakers offer a glimpse of where food, fashion, floral design and furnishings are going next.

January 09, 2000|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

Call them generation X or Y or simply Next. Their tastes in fashion, food, home furnishings and floral design are starting to influence all of us. The youngest of them think "retro" means early '90s, and they are comfortable with global culture and the latest technology in a way the baby boom generation can never be.

You probably don't recognize their names, but these young stylemakers may someday be Baltimore's next Rita St. Clair or Ruth Shaw. We caught up with four of them -- which wasn't easy, they're moving fast -- and got a glimpse of the future.

A fashionable business sense

Before the Internet, it would have been hard for someone straight out of college to set up her own design company and make it an almost instant success. But with a pair of jeans, some gorgeous trim and a little computer savvy, Baltimorean Molly Dougherty created a thriving fashion business.

Dougherty, now 23, was back from a summer in Europe after college and wouldn't be starting her new job as assistant fashion editor at Girl's Life magazine for another three weeks. She spent the time sewing decorative trim on the bottom of jeans and jeans skirts and creating one-of-a-kind purses. Then she set up her company, Freda and Maude, at www.fredaandmaude.com. (The name came from a friend's grandmother and a nickname Dougherty herself had been given in Europe.)

Customers can pick out their trim and send her their own jeans to be decorated, or have a pair custom-made. "Vintage with flair," is how Dougherty describes her sprightly line, which has expanded to include floral skirts for spring. "My own style is fairly conservative," she says, "But I like color. I get stuck in the black pants thing. And I wear a lot of vintage clothes."

Recently, Dougherty was promoted to fashion editor of Girl's Life, a local magazine with an international circulation of 350,000. Its audience, girls 10 to 15 years old, is even more trend and label conscious than older generations, she says. Fashion shoots on location take her from her Towson rowhouse to as far away as Nevada and Hawaii.

So where does Dougherty think fashion is heading in 2000? "Scarily enough," she says with a laugh, "Back to the '80s. Leg warmers are coming back."

Retro will continue to be popular, Dougherty thinks, "But in three or four years, fashion will be fresher and more forward-looking."

Other fearless predictions:

* Look for less material in clothing: shorter pants, tops with no backs.

* Hemlines will continue to be wherever you want them.

* We'll be seeing darker colors for summer -- olive, navy, dark red.

* Glamour and glitz will dominate evening wear.

* Shoes will be getting simplified and sleek.

"I hope eclecticism continues," she adds. "It gives everyone a chance to be fashionable."

A foodie's forecast

At age 30, Steven Hill has spent half his life in the restaurant business. "From every chef you work under," he says, "you learn something."

He started as a dishwasher at Chi-Chi's in Catonsville, then became a line chef. In the early '90s, he was working at Brick Oven Pizza in Mount Vernon when Donna's bought the space. "I sort of came with the building," he says.

Eventually, Hill moved on from Donna's to the kitchen of the City Cafe and then helped open Brewer's Art. In 1996, he left for New Orleans, where he first got a job at a vegetarian restaurant. "Although I'm very much a meat eater," he laughs. "I kept that hush hush."

Before he returned to Baltimore as Joy America's executive chef, he worked as a pastry chef at New Orlean's famous Commander's Palace. He's now daytime kitchen supervisor at the Atlantic, one of the area's trendiest new restaurants. "Baltimore doesn't get enough credit for the diversity of its restaurants," Hill says. "We're not necessarily trendsetters, but you can find trends."

And speaking of trends, Hill has seen a few. "It moves in cycles," he says. "After crab houses, everything was Italian -- Tuscan. Then the big thing was fusion. Whenever the fusion thing appears, it's in between, transitional."

The next wave will be Japanese, he predicts. "It has the benefit of not being fatty and not obviously unhealthy. It's hard to fuse Japanese, so everyone's adding a sushi bar."

Other fast-approaching trends:

Attempts to reconfigure "American value meals" to fit today's healthier lifestyles.

Northern African and southern Indian spices. "No one's quite sure how to use them yet."

South American cuisines, which he feels are untapped.

Hill's favorite restaurant is in New Orleans, not Baltimore -- the Metro Bistro, whose food he describes as "neo-cosmopolitan fusion." "I had a dish there, duck shaved thin. My mouth was happy back to front."

Taking a chance on design

Susan Sunderland, 35, has her own successful interior design business and more clients than she can handle. But the interior of her Pikesville home, she says, "just happened."

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