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This Line Is What Happens When Iris Apfel Meets Bianca Jagger

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It's time to get to know some of the 50 finalists nominated for Racked Young Guns, our annual search for the country's most promising new fashion talent.

Iris Apfel, Frida Kahlo, Bianca Jagger, Peggy Guggenheim: These are the eclectic muses Tia Cibani is looking to these days.

The New York-based up-and-comer recently unveiled her fall 2014 collection that's punctuated by flowy, easy-to-move-in silhouettes. "It has an East-meets-West spirit. I was thinking of this fashion magpie like Iris Apfel—whirling dervishes came to mind," she explains.

"When I researched Iris, I found she had a strong connection with old-world weavers and loved textiles from North Africa and the Middle East," she continues. "It totally hit home. Then for resort, I wanted to reference Bianca Jagger and a nautical nomad in the same context—it came out sporty and a little sexy. And for spring '15, I'm feeling very Jade Jagger. It's still a '70s mood, but the colors are richer, darker, and more earthen."

In addition to an array of style icons, Tia also draws from her own background for inspiration. Born in Libya and raised in a small town outside of Vancouver, the designer says her past finds its way into her aesthetic both consciously and not.

"I love the traditional, almost costume-like clothing of the region, the hand-woven textiles with a lot of texture and pattern," she says of North Africa. "I love the spice colors that are derived because they use local resources to dye fabrics, and I love to interpret all of that into something modern and applicable to our lifestyle here in New York and other urban places."

Even though Tia didn't grow up in a fashion capital, she's known she wanted to work in the industry from the very start. "My father was an entrepreneur," she says. "He was a retailer of women's and children's clothes, and my mother has great taste and a fabulous closet. I grew up manipulating my own wardrobe and playing with fabrics."

Hightailing it to the Big Apple to study design at Parsons was a natural move for Tia, but before she could complete her studies, she landed a six-month internship with Ports 1961 in China. Those six months turned into ten (yes, ten) years: "Living in China was enriching, not only because I was exposed to the local culture, but also because I met so many different people—expats from all over the world— that taught me about their own cultures and opened my eyes to so much more."

With a decade of experience under her belt, Tia was ready to return to New York, and in 2004, she made the move to assist with the Stateside relaunch of Ports as the brand's creative director: "Working with Ports taught me the functions of womenswear from the inside-out. It was an amazing foundation for me to have, but after seven years, I knew it was time for me to take a step back and focus on the personal pursuit of building a family," says the mom of now two-year-old Castine.

But it didn't take long after giving birth for Tia to realize she missed designing. "I liked being busy," she says. "I loved fashion and wanted to be exposed to it—I missed it deeply. I wanted to see what my own strength and vision could create, and I felt like if I didn't do it at this point in my life, I would have always thought, 'What if?'"

In September 2012, taking inspiration from Marguerite Duras's novel The Lover, she launched her namesake line. Since then, Tia has been anointed a designer to watch by Style.com, Vogue Italia, and WWD; joined Joseph Altuzarra and Jason Wu as a winner of the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award; and expanded her distribution in the U.S. and internationally.

Nowadays, you can find Tia and her staff of three researching, sketching, fitting, and overseeing production in their 700-square-foot Meatpacking studio. "Every one of us is a quarter of the company," she says of the team who helps bring her memorable designs to life season after season. It's their dedication, along with Tia's unique vision, that's been the key to her brand's success.

"It's about not being afraid of color, texture, and pattern," she continues. "It's also about marrying things from one culture to another—taking something that's South American and putting it with something that might feel Moroccan, using a tile print against a woven stripe from India. This mish-mash is what works harmoniously in the end."
· Tia Cibani [Official Site]
· Why Jennie Kwon Ditched Corporate Law to Make Jewelry [Racked]
· All 2014 Young Guns coverage [Racked]