Fashion, like the Lord, moves in mysterious ways. Women cry out for "basic" clothes they can wear in "real" life. You know, blazers and skirts -- nothing faddish or trendy, please. After all, at today's prices, clothes have to be long-lived investments. Then along comes a 21-year-old designer who makes kiddie-colored dresses -- expensive dresses -- based on the Crayolas of our youth, and the ladies line up, waving their charge cards. Did we say "basic"? We didn't mean it! Honest!

The fashion game is a dicey one, to be sure. The hot young designer of one season may be the spectacular bankruptcy of the next. But year after year, the newcomers pop up like spring bulbs, all shiny and bright, all hoping that their style message will turn them into a Donna Karan or a Calvin Klein.

The three young talents featured here -- 21-year-old Christian Francis Roth, 28-year-old Malaysia-born Zang Toi and 35-year-old Gemma Kahng, from Korea -- are among the latest crop. If their ideas and garments catch on, their names will soon be seen in department stores, they will spin off less-expensive lines of clothing, and, maybe later, they will have their own line of fragrance or sunglasses.

But for right now, their bold, fashion-forward clothing is produced in small quantities and carried only in upscale, leading-edge boutiques. The front-runners in the fashion pack, in Washington and New York, are in hot pursuit of their sophisticated styles. For the rest of us, it's just fantasy and entertainment -- and maybe a glimpse of the future.

Fashion Associate: Jayne Mountford

Hair and Makeup: Dawn Jacobson for Bumble & Bumble, New

York Models: Angel Slay, Anna Maria Uhlich-Trevborn