We're in SoHo, New York City, the photographer and me, balancing on an upturned dustbin ready to see clothes. 'That's my trash can. I dragged it from across town,' says Donovan Leitch. But the 26-year-old son of Mellow Yellow Donovan is smiling: 'I was going to compere the show from it, but I could just squat on that sill.'

This is the alternative face of New York fashion, far removed from the catwalk shows uptown.

In New York parlance, X Girl, the clothing line featured in today's street show, is 'happening'. And so is the 'in crowd' involved in showing us the label's skimpy T-shirts, hot pink mini-skirts and jeans.

Sophia Coppola, 22, daughter of the film director Francis Ford Coppola, is producing the show. Zoe Cassavetes, 24, daughter of the actor and director John Cassavetes, and Ione Skye, 23, a sibling to Donovan Leitch, are modelling.

'So here's my sister, Ione, wearing a T-shirt and she's looking good,' shouts Donovan over the boogie-boxed music. 'Here's Zoe and she's wearing, um, another T-shirt and, um, a five-pocket jean.'

When he's not shouting into a megaphone, Donovan is singing through a microphone, in a band called Nancy Boy. For to be hot these days, you have to be in a band.

But Nancy Boy has, as yet, got nothing on a band called Sonic Youth, headed by Kim Gordon, who, with her friend Daisy von Furth, has designed the X Girl line.

So what is special about the clothes?

'It's T-shirts, jeans and stuff,' Pumpkin Wentzel, another of today's models explains. 'It's like a girl's version of X Large, which is cool for hip-hop guys.'

And why are the 'in crowd' here?

'We're all best friends, helping each other, doing creative and positive things,' Donovan says. 'We're kind of like Warhol's Factory.'

Indeed, they are. Vanity Fair has already featured the female contingent in its pages; and this group now gets the front-row seats at those fashion shows that are still bourgeois enough to have seats. This week they turned up to see Calvin Klein's youthful CK line.

The X Girl clothes aren't much, just a bit of fun in bright colours. But that doesn't stop Linda Evangelista, in a dollars 2,000 golden taffeta coat by Jil Sander, turning up with her beau, Kyle MacLachlan, and Steven Meisel just to take a look.

New York is always searching for what's hot. Like us, it will stand on an upturned trash can or someone else's car to find it. Even the established diffusion lines, once slightly cheaper versions of designer clothes, have metamorphosed into youth labels. The American mega-designers are learning first-hand what the kids of today want to wear.

DKNY, Donna Karan's diffusion line, is no longer aimed at the designer's forty-something friends, but at Gaby, her 20-year-old daughter. At 27, Calvin Klein's daughter Marci is at the upper end of the CK spectrum. Ralph Lauren's teenage daughter Dylan is just the right age to buy his new young line, Ralph.

'People growing up without heroes,' is how the actress Winona Ryder, 22, describes kids today. She is starring in the film Reality Bites, something of a celluloid touchstone, showing where white, affluent American youth is at today. Much of it was filmed in a Gap store.

For DKNY, Donna Karan did 'designs by numbers', with a huge collection; this was, however, wide of the mark. Tartan mini skating dresses with net petticoats had little to do with young girls running around New York.

The CK collection was right on target, though. Plaid overshirts with micro-minis, corduroy donkey jackets, black polo necks and leather jackets weren't new - but were pure Winona.

What is missing from both CK and X Girl is evening wear - because it's for grown-ups. While Donna Karan searched for after-dark dressing for the young - and became horribly lost with neoprene Day-glo ball gowns - Calvin Klein ignored it. His theory: the young don't buy it. Winona Ryder went to the Oscars last month in a dress she found in a second-hand store.

(Photographs omitted)