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One to watch: Christina Makowsky design

Fashion designer Christina Makowsky sits for a portrait

Fashion designer Christina Makowsky sits for a portrait in her studio and show room in Manhasset. (Jan. 18, 2012) Credit: Agaton Strom

A couple of weeks before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Christina Makowsky of Lattingtown is obsessing about her collection.

But unlike the hundreds of other designers who will showcase creations for next fall starting Thursday morning all over Manhattan, she is not anguishing over casting models and producing full-scale runway shows. Makowsky is focusing her 3-year-old company on Hollywood red carpets, celebrity appearances and Long Island special events.

A H-U-G-E country singer wearing one of Makowsky's sparkly designs at the Grammys would do wonders. Likewise, a stunning, up-and-coming young thing donning her body-conscious column at the Academy Awards. Both are possibilities as the awards season unfolds. A high-profile Long Islander making a statement in a Makowsky gown at her daughter's wedding could do even more.

Paula Abdul, who met Makowsky on a yacht in the Mediterranean years ago, says "When I put on her clothes, I feel like a lady but still like a fun flirty girl." And adds the former "X Factor" judge, "she doesn't stop at the clothes." She helps with shoes, jewelry and, says Abdul, "she's always exactly right."

With celebrities like Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, Cheryl Burke and Kelly Rowland wearing her clothing on national television, and some of L.I.'s most glamorous women relying on her stand-out style and impeccable fit, Makowsky seems on the brink of something big.

For almost 30 years, the chic 50-ish mother of five owned the Georgina boutiques in Hewlett, Manhasset and East Hampton, where One Percenters flocked for dresses by the most important designers. Three years ago Makowsky shuttered her stores, explaining that mass distribution made "it not luxury any more. I lost my heart for the business."

Turning back to the roots she planted while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Makowsky sidesteps the traditional retail channels. She travels the country, running trunk shows for private clients, and plans to hold a show at the Plaza Hotel during Fashion Week for some of her top fans.

On a sunny January day at Makowsky's bare-bones studio in an unremarkable building in Woodbury, two ardent clients ogle a rack filled with new, colorful duds. "I love her clothes," says Jodi Genatt, 49, of Brookville, modeling crisp summer white pieces. "She knows what I need to disguise," she says, pointing to her not-ample hips. "It's like you have your own private tailor. I feel beautiful when I put her things on."

Adds Michele Semel, 47, of Woodbury, who tries on a slither of a tangerine jersey dress, "She has a different point of view. Her clothes fit perfectly to my body and you don't see them all over the place. And we don't want to dress like our daughters."

Makowsky's small staff includes seamstress Maria Prousalis, who worked at Georgina for 10 years, and now makes Makowsky's samples. The finished clothing is produced by an atelier in New York. ("I'm all about American made," says the designer.) There's clear affection and respect between the two women, although Makowsky says, "We fight all the time."

Says "Real Housewife of Beverly Hills" Lisa Vanderpump, who wore Makowsky's collection on air all season and even has a dress -- "The Lisa" -- named for her: "She's ridiculously well-priced compared to other couture. The quality is incredible and I love that nobody else has got her. . . . Her clothes are pretty but still sexy. She's truly one of the great ones."

She's known for her dresses. Feminine designs get a shot of attitude with exposed seams, some embellished with gold chain or waistbands of Swarovski crystal set in stringy net. But women also swear by her jeans ($550 per), which are torn and then backed with frayed chiffon so as not to show skin. A jersey tee shirt runs $450. And a sparkling gown can run upward of $15,000.

Makowsky's bicoastal appeal underscores the power of her brand. (That she's hired a publicist and a brand manager in California doesn't hurt). But at the center of it, says Makowsky, "I am my client. They are sophisticated, educated women who can afford the lifestyle, travel extensively and I relate to. My clothes don't just sit in my closet -- they all work, whether it's for jeans, a cocktail party, a PTA meeting or a big event."

As for a future Fashion Week show? "It's not on my radar yet, though I'll live-stream every show in my studio," says Makowsky. "I think my next step is to sell in a very limited way to the best stores in the country. Then, we'll see."

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