Sales of Zero + Maria Cornejo's Spring 2011 collection were up 35 percent over the previous season. "I think our customers are responding to the prints," Cornejo said. So you can bet that there are prints in her focused pre-fall lineup. The designer develops them herself from photos she takes with her iPhone. There's an evocative image of hippie girls dancing at sunset on the beach in the Hamptons this summer, another of blurred New York streetlights at night, and a third of abstracted African fabrics. She's draped them into her best-selling asymmetric Contra shift, along with newer long and narrow silhouettes.
Another fresh direction: a French jacquard fabric with a dry hand that the designer cut into a versatile sundress as well as a shrunken jacket. Cornejo approaches tailoring (which she's doing more and more of lately) as she does dressmaking—thinking about curves. Sleeves are cut with darts at the elbows for a more ergonomic fit, and pants are low-slung and slouchy through the hips, but it only feels like you're wearing your pajamas; the look is cool and street-ready. "I don't have time to think about what I'm going to put on in the morning. It's got to be easy," she said. For "throw-it-on" factor, it's hard to top her take on the summer suit: a vest and cropped pants in a crinkled nylon that looks like hammered satin.