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Band of Brothers

Menswear Designers Toast Their Competition At Style Contest

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GQ's Jim Nelson, Benjamin Bixby's André Benjamin, and Thom Browne   
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Six designers* went head to head Wednesday night at GQ and the CFDA's cocktail-fueled Best New Menswear Designers in America competition, held in a toasty showroom at Rockefeller Plaza. A who's who of the men's fashion biz (Tommy Hilfiger, David Lauren) joined curious onlookers (Katie Lee Joel, Chace Crawford) for an eyeful of the finalists' Fall 2009 collections. After doing a quick scan, bow tie maestro Alexander Olch concluded: "We're seeing trim silhouettes, definitely something old-fashioned, and a fair amount of embellishment, whether in the form of a necktie, a scarf, a hat—a lot of energy in accessories."

The winner will be announced this Friday, chosen by a panel of judges that includes Thom Browne, GQ editor Jim Nelson, and CFDA executive director Steven Kolb. The reward: a sizable cash prize and a capsule collection for Levi's. Despite the high stakes, though, it felt like a brotherly love-in. "I think everybody is focusing on a point of view, as opposed to being competitive," mused Alex Carleton of Rogues Gallery, who'd made the trip down from Maine. Fellow finalist André Benjamin, of Benjamin Bixby, added, "We're all inspired by each other." Granted, this is the collegial world of men's fashion. But didn't anyone want to kick some butt? "You do want to win it," Robert Geller admitted. "But we all get along. It's a very nerve-racking thing, so you become very vulnerable and everyone kind of supports each other."

*The full list of finalists is as follows:

André Benjamin for Benjamin Bixby

Robert Geller

Alex Carleton for Rogues Gallery

David Mullen for Save Khaki

Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos for Shipley & Halmos

Yigal Azrouël

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