Local designers take the stage at the Independent Designer Runway Show — Seattle's answer to "Project Runway."

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Independent design is exciting, as any fan of “Project Runway” — or the many other upstart design shows on TV — can attest.

Local designers get into the action each year at the Independent Designer Runway Show (IDRS), taking place Sept. 23 as part of Bellevue Fashion Week. One part show, one part contest, the IDRS is the culmination of a six-month mentorship program for eight local designers. The winner gets a $5,000 cash prize.

You can attend the show (tickets are $50–$75 at fashionweekbellevue.com) and pick out your favorites, or go shopping for many of these designers’ duds now. Here are the finalists and where to find their wares.

Cute Like Mad

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A contemporary line of perfect-for-layering women’s pants, tops, skirts, dresses and jackets, Cute Like Mad reflects designer Jeanette Svensk Li’s Swedish roots with its beautiful simplicity.

Li uses clean lines, natural materials and solid colors to portray a not-trying-too-hard vibe of sophisticated edginess. Case in point: The Olivia Leather Jacket ($1,000 at cutelikemad.com), a sleek and feminine take on a tough classic.

Dream Dresses by P.M.N.

If you’re a bride-to-be who’s frustrated by the lack of affordable, customizable options, Kirkland designer Phuong Minh Nguyen feels your pain. In fact, that’s precisely what inspired her to launch her line of glamorous custom gowns, Dream Dresses by P.M.N.

Inspired by old Hollywood, Nguyen’s dresses are wonderfully romantic, with beautiful details such as lace, crystal beading and open backs.

To see a selection of Nguyen’s dresses in person, head to The Tux Shop in Redmond, or contact her for a free consultation appointment at dreamdressesbypmn.com. There you will also find several styles for sale as well as sample-sale dresses starting at $600.

Varsha

Dressing for work without losing your personality can be a challenge, which is why Redmond-based Varsha Agarwal started designing contemporary work wear after graduating with a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, Agarwal combines vivid color and floral details with fine fabrics. Her signature look is a tailored sheath dress with just the right amount of creative style to be fun and work-appropriate. Check out The Marigold ($297 at varshaagarwal.com), a delicious lemon yellow sheath with an asymmetric cutout at the neckline.

Varsha Agarwal The Marigold dress, $297, and a design by Victoria Postolit
Varsha Agarwal The Marigold dress, $297, and a design by Victoria Postolit

Victoria Postolit

Russian native Victoria Postolit is no newbie designer: She’s been designing since she was a teenager and owned a fashion company in St. Petersburg in the ’90s. After moving to the U.S. in 2001 and working for Nordstrom, she decided to bring her fashion line the States.

“I focused on structured garments with elegant design,” she says of the latest collection from her namesake line. It features fine materials, masterful craftsmanship and style that transitions from the office to a night out. Get acquainted with the line at The Finerie and The Finerie CoLAB (both downtown) or at victoriapostolit.com.

Dawson & Deveraux

Headed up by CEO Matt Alexander and creative director/lead designer Sophie Karen, Dawson & Deveraux is poised for success — and not just locally. The duo has major clients in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles picking up their edgy yet timeless dresses and jackets.

The pieces include a mix of interesting fabrics, textures, colors and shapes, like on the Whelan Wool Jacket ($200 at dawson-deveraux.com), featuring lace, wool, silk and boucle.

A design by Dawson & Deveraux and a design by Dream Dresses by P.M.N.
A design by Dawson & Deveraux and a design by Dream Dresses by P.M.N.

Iris Klein 

Growing up in her grandmother’s tailoring shop in Mongolia, Iris Klein had design on her mind from a young age. Now her culture can be seen in her modern designs.

“The unique aesthetics of Mongolian traditional shapes and prints are expressed in my work,” she says.

Look for the colorful textiles and varied textures representative of her culture combined with a streamlined style for the modern woman. Visit her Belltown showroom by appointment; 206-612-1259.

A design by Iris Klein and a design by RO2
A design by Iris Klein and a design by RO2

RO2

This may be Rana Ottaviani’s debut collection, but you’d never know it judging by the expert craftsmanship, stunning quality and fine materials she has incorporated into the line.

The Istanbul native, who now lives in Bellevue, has created a refined collection of world-inspired separates that’s elegant and modern. Purchase limited-edition pieces starting Sept. 24 at ro2designstudio.com.

Daniel Ressa

He was awarded best editorial collection and designer of the year at the Art Institute of Seattle’s fashion show earlier this year, and now Daniel Ressa is making a run for the top prize at the IDRS.

His edgy yet timeless designs marry tough textures such as leather with softer feels such as knits, and pair sharp silhouettes with a muddied grunge appeal. See his latest collection online at danielressa.com.