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(Front Row)

c.2013 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK Maurice Maltz was zooming along West Fourth Street on a skateboard, thinking about the 300 pieces of film he had to scan for a class project at New York University, when he noticed a photographer taking his picture. Also, the photographer was surrounded by what appeared to be a small group of Japanese tourists, all of them staring at him.

So he stopped to pose.

Maltz, 21, wearing an Army jacket with a digital camouflage print, with floppy, dirty-blond hair and hazel eyes that look as if they were colored with a highlighter, is accustomed to people stopping him on the street, asking if he had ever thought of being a model.

''Usually they ask with aggression, or are exploitive," Maltz said. "And I've never been offered any money."

On this occasion, however, the group that stopped him was led by Daisuke Obana, the designer of a niche men's-wear label called N.Hoolywood. For his runway shows, Obana prefers to use guys he finds on the streets, including bartenders, artists, store managers and college students.

''On the runway, they get so nervous, in a good way," Obana said. "It shows on their faces."

On Thursday afternoon he was scouting with a stylist, Tsuyoshi Nimura, and several clipboard-wielding assistants who gathered the men's personal data. Back and forth across Washington Square Park they ran, chasing after guys with a certain image, preferably a little older, with traces of facial hair but not a full beard. The theme of Obana's collection, to be shown Thursday, is Amelia Earhart. So something like the 1920s male.

A few guys scoffed, and a tall man with brown hair tucked into a red knit cap and skinny acid-washed jeans ran off with an expletive. Once, in Tokyo, Obana wound up in a bar fight with a group of American soldiers who thought he wanted something else. The funny thing, though, was that an awful lot of young people in this city are so accustomed to the cults of fashion and street style that they thought nothing of being photographed. In fact, they welcomed it.

''It happens a lot," said Ian RT Colless, the artistic director and chief choreographer of the dance company Untitled Collective, who describes his look as "dandy Beau Brummell with influences of Charles Frederick Worth and '80s pastels." He was wearing a soapy pink V-neck sweater over a white button-down with an aqua necktie, and teal corduroy pants.

Obana scanned the horizon for possible models, many of whom scanned Obana, wanting to be discovered. Few people regarded the sight of this tall man, wearing a North Face parka, New Balance sneakers and two pairs of socks, plus an entourage and cameras, as an oddity.

''Do you have an iPhone?" a woman asked Obana. She had her own crew and was filming people for market research of Apple products.

Obana noticed her cameraman, who had just the distinctive look he was after. Small world. It turns out the man, Christian Doswell, had been discovered by Obana several years earlier, standing outside a pizzeria, and had appeared in two N.Hoolywood shows. One of Obana's assistants asked to take his picture. A big grin lighted up his face.

''Please," she said, "no smile."

Oh, amateurs.