What's so special about Daryl Kerrigan? She's a funky young Irish exile who's the darling of New York's hipper-than-hip set, that's what. Her new line in affordable streetwear is the ultimate in urban cool for winter, and it's over here now, says Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs: Francesca Sorrenti
Until now, Daryl Kerrigan, an Irish expat living in New York, has been a name known only to the hip downtown set in New York. She has just launched a cheaper sports line for her younger customers and her label, Daryl K, is one to look out for, available for the first time this season in London's Browns.

Welcome to the designer world of Daryl K, the Dublin-born, New York- based, East Village designer who has become the darling of the downtown, hipper-than-hip set. This is her small East Sixth Street shop that has recently expanded and moved a little further west on to the fringes of chic SoHo. Last month she won a fashion Oscar, the Council of Fashion Designers of America Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear. The Perry Ellis award is given to new, up-and-coming talent. The designer who won the grown-up award for Womenswear Designer of the Year is Donna Karan. The two women share the same initials, but their design philosophies could not be further apart. The K in Daryl's name stands for Kerrigan and her Irish roots give her work a certain European aesthetic.

At the Daryl K shop, Lori, the fast-talking, bleached-haired, tattooed shop assistant is humming along to a Sixties girl group on the CD player. The phone rings incessantly. A customer makes a beeline for the trouser rail. "The shape and fit of these is so cool," she drawls, trying on three pairs of hipster stretch jeans, gently flared from the calf. She should know - she already owns five pairs of them. Like so many funky young European designers, Daryl K has a strong following in Japan. By the end of the year, there will be three Daryl K shops in Tokyo and Osaka, as well as Barney's Bergdorf and Bergdorf Goodman in America. Daryl Kerrigan began her own line five years ago with an eye firmly on the streets of the East Village. Prices are low enough for young hip kids like Lori to afford, even if it means saving up for a few weeks. Daryl K has often been linked with X-Girl, the fiercely cool streetwear label designed by Daisy von Furth and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. Both labels bridge the gap between the fashion and music scenes. Their clothes are as likely to be worn out for a night at Heebegeebe's as at an East Village cocktail bar.

When Kerrigan arrived in New York at the age of 22, she worked on costumes for the film industry, and early examples of her work can be spotted in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train. She also worked on the clothes for I Shot Andy Warhol. Since opening her own shop in 1992, demand for her clothes has grown. This winter she launches a diffusion line, K-189, with functional, utility urban clothes. "K-189 is where I've come from. Daryl K is where I'm going," she says in her soft Irish-American lilt. And the Daryl K collection, shown in a cavernous warehouse space in SoHo, was a highlight of New York's fashion week in early November. The collection featured Country and Western cowgirl styling, with the inevitable Seventies twist of flicked-out hair and shiny lips. The collection ranged from dresses that looked like they were inspired by diner uniforms, to glittery tailoring, A-line skirts and cleverly cut elegant jersey evening dresses. And for one night, Lori, the shop assistant and lead singer, became a model as well, swaggering her way around the catwalk, with all the strength and essence of Daryl K herselfn

Nude jersey shimmer dress with organza triangles at shoulder and hem, pounds 235, by Daryl K, to order from Browns, as before; tapestry shoes, pounds 35, from Cornucopia, 12 Upper Tachbrook Street, London SW1, inquiries 0171-828 5752

Asymmetric jersey long-sleeve top, pounds 65; navy wool pedal-pushers, pounds 140, both by Daryl K, to order from Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, WC2, inquiries 0171-491 7833; stone mules, by Manolo Blahnik for Antonio Bernadi, to order from Antonio Bernadi 0973-429 983; American tan socks, pounds 2.50, by Jonathan Aston, from department stores nationwide, inquiries 0116 286 2388

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