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Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York is filled with exciting events and Elle Magazine’s Friday cocktail party/runway show was no exception. The coveted fashion mag partnered with one of the most prestigious design schools in the country for the Fashion Next Design Award program at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. Sponsored by Maybelline NY, the event showcased eighteen promising fashion design students from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to have their work showcased before an audience of fashionistas and celebs.

This is the third year that Elle has collaborated with FIT and the line-up of judges couldn’t have been more impressive. Alexis Bittar, Brad Goreski, Wes Gordon, Catherine Malandrino, and Cristina Ricci joined Elle’s creative director Joe Zee and ELLE fashion news director Anne Slowey in order to select the winner.

Ricci wore a stunning Valentino dress paired with Manolo Blahnik shoes, proving she’s more than equipped to choose the next fashion icon. (More below)Each up-and-coming designer contributed about two pieces to the show and competed for $25,000 worth of grants. The show, which was anything but amateur, included a mix of retro garments and chic evening wear. There were gorgeous blue dresses, edgy/rocker chic styles, and flowing dresses with a Caribbean feel. Each look perfectly encapsulated what it means to be a New Yorker.

Personally, I would have liked to see more from each student (a designer’s vision can seldom be expressed in only two looks) but overall, the students did a fantastic job of conveying their style in only a few looks.

Fashion lovers can vote for their favorite designers on Elle’s website. Daniella Gutmann is currently in the lead.

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