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Fashion Forward

April 12, 1998|WILLIAM KISSEL

Nikhil Mehra looks very regal in his long gray wool Nehru coat with shiny silver buttons and sleek black trousers, exactly the sort of outfit the student fashion designer might have put on the runway had he been interested in pursuing a career in menswear.

Instead, Mehra, along with 11 other student designers from the Los Angeles-based Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, paraded out an opulent womenswear collection that he says was inspired by the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Taj Mahal.

The collection debuted at the Fashion Institute's annual black-tie fashion show, held recently at the Universal Hilton Hotel.

Mehra, who won a contest to have another of his collections featured in Giorgio Beverly Hills this spring, calls his regal designs "something Indian royalty might have worn in the year 1915 but made for the 21st century."

He wasn't the only one focused on the future.

Alen Haljevac, who fled war-torn Bosnia to study fashion in the U.S. and now prefers to drape himself in crinkled baggy nylon jackets with oversized bone-shaped buttons, calls his collection, including a bodice made of what looked like shredded colored plastic pool toys, "fairy tale fashions for women who want to reach the future."

Jessie Choi says she wants to take fashion to the next millennium with her collection of glittery, asymmetrically cut suits featuring pointed shoulders, a look she says "was inspired by the shapes and figures of bats."

Few of the students, however, dressed in the kinds of clothing they showed on the runway. That's because student shows are meant to show off the height of creative imagination, which is often something quite different than designing for commercial success.

As one student put it, "There will be plenty of time after graduation to concentrate on clothes that someone might actually want to buy."

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