Economic woes aside, it's an exciting time for New York fashion, as once-new labels evolve into serious businesses while a promising freshman class moves into its young designer shoes. With the heat of Francisco Costa as a mentor and a standout 15-look debut, Julian Louie is one of the buzziest of the bunch. His second collection comes forth from a stream of references: the discovery of a hefty felt, which led to the idea of riveted clothes, to tectonic plates, to armor, and then to samurai armor. Oh, and then there's the matador thing. In practice, Louie was exploring "austere layering." Every look began with a sleek, almost alien-looking (in a good way) microfiber dress or top that the designer described as a "second skin." Over that went a white shirt with a stiff imperial collar, and tailored jackets, skirts, and dresses that looked like they were crafted from various hammered panels of felt and Swarovski beading. A highly modern and original vision, for sure, but also quite feminine and even sexy, with bold shoulders, flaring hips, nipped waists, and sleek little pants on looks that echoed a torero silhouette. It's also an approach with a potentially tricky runway-to-reality translation. "I'm taking it extremely slow," said Louie of his retail strategy. Good thing. Certainly, any one of those upperclassmen can tell you that success takes time.