Two passions drive Yigal Azrouël—in late June he had just returned from indulging in one of them, and you could see his mood shift to instant relaxation in the middle of his New York studio as he discussed his latest adventure. “There’s this beautiful spot between Playa Avellana and Playa Negra in an area called Guanacaste, where the surf is absolutely beautiful, perfect beach breaks,” he says. “One of my closest friends built a house there about 10 years ago, and I fell in love with it.”

An avid shortboard surfer since the age of 6, Azrouël is currently building a home in this secluded section of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, situated along the Pacific coast and showcased in that ode to surfdom, The Endless Summer II. “I have visited a lot of beaches all over the world, but this is the only place that reminds me of my childhood and how I used to surf as a kid,” says this 36-year-old designer, who was raised by a French mother and Moroccan father in the Israeli port town of Ashdod, located south of Tel Aviv. “My parents still have their house on the beach there. I used to run away from school and go surfing.” He pauses and smiles: “I was a bad kid.”

Of course, it’s the second passion in Azrouël’s life that enables him to fuel the first. In recent seasons his women’s collection has vaulted to the top of everyone’s must-have list, largely for its accent on draping, which has become the self-trained designer’s signature. “I always start from draping because I like the surprise of it, the sense of the unexpected,” he says. “When you sit down and sketch you have an idea of where a design is going. But when you drape, every fabric reacts differently, it falls in its own unique way. Sometimes I’ll walk away from it, leave a design on the mannequin for a couple hours or maybe a couple of days. When I come back to it, I always see something I didn’t see before.”

There’s a stricter feel about Azrouël’s Fall 2009 collection, which he says was decidedly intentional. “I wanted something a bit more dark and romantic, a little bit more rock ’n’ roll or punk,” he explains. “She’s a little bit more edgy. For me it was this big picture of, How can I take a rock ’n’ roll girl and make her chic and luxurious at the same time?”

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