Up-and-coming fashion designers often work at least a decade apprenticing in the shadows of someone else’s label before they’re able to set off for themselves. But nevertheless, there she is: 25-year-old Snow Xue Gao, standing in the middle of her debut collection at New York Fashion Week, watching as a sea of influential editors, consultants, and buyers examine the clothing she had just finished making. Ever since Rihanna wore a blazer from Gao’s senior Parson’s collection last year,...

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