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by Pamela Liou

Here's a thought: Every single designer in the fashion pantheon started out as a precocious newbie bent on mixing things up. With a little moxy and lots of talent, they built ironclad legacies, but established as they may be, they can't keep a stranglehold on the industry forever. Each year there are more and more lines—some good, but most…not—jumping into the ring. And occasionally there comes along that rare tenderfoot who manages to hold his/her own and deliver something new. For 2007, these are our Designers to Watch.

Chris Benz
Take one look at Chris Benz's debut sportswear collection, and it's hard to believe that he has only a few collections under his belt. The line is deceptively simple, often erring on the side of relaxed. His garments keep to a very edited palette: grays and whites, with the intermittent shocks of Pantone. (Pictured at right.)

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Tim Hamilton
Nominated for the CFDA's 2007 Swarovski Award for new talent, Hamilton is well on his way to becoming America's next great menswear guru. Think sweaters with detachable turtlenecks, wool blazers with narrow lapels and a re-invigoration of the iconic long-sleeve thermal with militaristic bullion accents. (Pictured above left.)

Robert Geller
It's hard not to be bowled over by Robert Geller's tailored-within-an-inch-of-its-life oxford shirts, trousers, and jackets. Geller is no stranger to accolades—his partnership with Alexander Plohkov for Cloak won him a CFDA award—and his eponymous line will continue in a tradition of decidedly cool refinement. For his spring '08 collection, Geller looked toward 1970s then-burgeoning skate culture and James Dean, with the occasional nod to Mod. He keeps the palette lively with bright colors in unexepected places, like Chesterfield shorts or chartreuse denim. (Pictured above right.)

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