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WHOSE STYLE do today's style-makers admire most? Designers at the recent Men's Fashion Association were pulled aside and asked who they think dresses well.

Culling from such worlds as politics and entertainment, here's who they came up with:

Luciano Franzoni, stylist for Confezioni Riserva: South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

"He's very stately. He's a man who has been in a prison uniform for almost 28 years. He looks very natural in his clothes . . . as if he never stepped out of them.

"The clothes he wears are not fashionable, but they are appropriate. He portrays the type of image I would expect him to project," Franzoni said.

James B. Winship, director of menswear design for Ruff Hewn: Eric Clapton.

"He's like a god for someone in my age group (35)," he said. "His style has a forward European feel. It has real ease, real comfort."

Ron Chereskin, designer: Actor Michael Douglas.

"He wears good clothes. It's real. And it's not pushed to a point where it looks trendy."

Theo Damen, director of design for Members Only: Late night talk show host Arsenio Hall.

"He has created an image that is both dressed-down and dressed up. One night he might come out in torn jeans and the next day he's wearing a double-breasted suit," Damen said.

"He really shows that you can wear different clothes, depending on your mood. . . . It's lifestyle dressing -- being comfortable in different outfits."

Jhane Barnes, designer: "L.A. Law's" Michael Tucker (who wears her designs).

"He's a nice guy. I like dressing nice guys," she shrugged.

Richard Mishaan, designer: James Bond.

"While designing, I sometimes think of James Bond -- give him an outfit, and he always looks right, whether he's in a cave or playing baccarat at a casino," writes Mishaan, in the introduction to his menswear collection.

"I want my clothes to do the same thing," he said.