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Zac Posen: Life isn’t all a great big glam fest. But a girl can dream, and if she finds a designing soul mate along the way, all the better. Zac Posen’s her guy. For him there is no more enchanting a muse than a serious party girl.

On Thursday night Posen showed a collection for just such a girl. It made for his best collection yet, as he seemed to work through — and for the most part throw away — the campier elements characteristic of his past efforts. And that’s no small feat, since like his muse, Zac barely endured the banality of clothes for day. Sure he showed a cursory jacket or two, little puff-sleeve blouses and a quite good wool lace coat. But for the most part, if the occasion calls for something more buttoned-up than a high flirt-factor dress, he really isn’t interested. Unless, of course, you’re talking skintight separates with a Forties attitude and major snake embroidery. Otherwise, he was more than happy to focus on evening, which he did with considerable range and increasing maturity. Make no mistake, these were still done-up, high-impact clothes, but most will transition easily beyond runway theater to real-life soirée. He went short with pleated gray charmeuse or gold voile finished with a flurry of ruffles, and long with a range from major flou to hot canary construction. Among the best: the Grecian-inspired, pleated goddess dresses, waistlines wrapped in thick golden coils. And if once or twice he lapsed into the stuff of clunky furs or a bridesmaid’s surfeit of pastel chiffon, who cares? For the most part, Posen’s dresses looked plenty alluring, delivered as they were with a certain restraint while retaining that sense of risky exuberance that feels right from the twentysomething set.

Derek Lam: It’s possible that Sean Combs, who had requested an invitation to Derek Lam’s two o’clock show on Friday, enjoyed himself too much at Zac Posen’s after party the night before, since he was a no-show. Nevertheless, the empty seat with his name on it triggered inevitable speculation that he might be looking for another fashion investment.

Certainly, anyone looking to invest in a fledgling house would be well advised to give Lam a look. His fall collection played like a dream, and while at times it felt a tad Chloé-ish, it indicated savvy movement from the vintage-y look that had dominated his previous work. In its place was a mood that was fresh, relaxed and oh-so-pretty. It’s summery feel was intentional, inspired by stylish young things Sienna Miller and Kate Moss, as well as by more practical concerns. Lam noted that keeping the attitude and the fabrics light made the collection better suited to a range of climates.

This story first appeared in the February 14, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer achieved his goal of prettiness minus preciousness over and over again. Full silk dresses and skirts were cut with pockets, judiciously embellished and worn with flats. Pants were pleated and loose and worn casually with embroidered or beaded tops and jackets. For evening, who can deny the easy glamour of a gorgeous pleated gown dragging gently over Grecian sandals? Of course, Lam did not ignore the reality of winter completely. Mostly, he chased the chills with luxury, topping numerous dresses with fur vests, scarves and even a mink sweatshirt. Elsewhere, he showed  herringbone wool coats, a chic peacoat or a chunky cashmere scarf looped round the neck of a white Swiss dot chiffon dress. And a girl in possession of his striped cashmere blanket embellished with a huge, cathedral-worthy cross will surely wish for a drop in the mercury. Whatever the weather report, this is a collection to love all year round. And Lam is a designer that New York should be happy to have.

Peter Som: “Modern-day ease meets turn-of-the-century constraint,” read the first line of Peter Som’s show notes. Hmm…we’ve all heard that opposites attract, but matchmaking is an awkward thing. Sure, you can get them to meet, but the real question is, “Will they get along?” In the case of Som’s fall show, the answer is sometimes, but not always.

The designer has found his niche in creating luxurious, uncomplicated clothes that breathe fresh air into the vast walk-in wardrobes of his uptown clientele. Those ladies will find no shortage of looks to love, particularly when it comes to stepping out after eight. The collection was heavily populated with a rich array of velvet, black point d’esprit and metallic radzimir silks. He worked the velvet in a variety of forms and colors  — the best of these being a full skirt in bright apple green along with slouchy tuxedo pants and high-waisted skirts in a deep plum. Those pants paired with either a white silk coat in a neat military silhouette or a champagne mink trench are the essence of what the designer’s fans adore. The same can be said of an elegant, slim evening skirt in a burnished silver with a simple, ruched dusty pink top. A tweed coat dappled with gold and trimmed lightly in mink was another great standout.

Nevertheless, making 1900 new again is a tough task. The designer made the occasional misstep by either pushing his theme too much, or not enough. So, while a simple red velvet dress felt unfinished, a black velvet Little Lord Fauntleroy suit needed a bit of loosening up.

Chado Ralph Rucci: Season after season, one is reminded that Ralph Rucci is attempting to create art. This fall proved no different, with looks he called the “Franz Kline dress,” and “Cy Twombly tube gown.” But most women want to wear real clothes that make them look and feel terrific, rather than be secondary to a designer’s canvas. Therein lay the problem with much of this collection, even more so than in past efforts. However intellectually intriguing their architectural riffs, most of these clothes lacked the important element of seduction. Consider looks made from purple or black alligator and a feathered tulle coat and pajamas — they don’t exactly signal “Come hither.”

Nevertheless, there were some beauties to be found, such as the suede-backed golden sable coat over a cashmere sweater and camelhair pants and the fluid black matte jersey dress with long sheer sleeves. To raise the pitch a notch higher, he also unveiled 15 looks from his couture collection that he decided not to show in Paris. Oddly enough, these contained his most accessible offerings: a white pleated silk chiffon dress; the beige suede macramé coat over a suede dress with a gold bullion bodice. And that’s what we love: clothes that — besides stimulating the mind and pleasing the eye — can keep a fashionista’s heart beating.

Diesel: While Diesel’s inspiration for fall — Russia meets the American West — was clear Thursday night, it still begged the question, does it make any sense? The answer was a firm no, and the over-the-top fringed, tutued and spangled premium-priced wares served as proof. Diesel is one of the most rock-solid denim-based companies in the world, and owner Renzo Rosso and creative director Wilber Das are far from novices when it comes to knowing their customers. On that note, there were undoubtedly pieces that will serve the everyday circumstances of cool gals and guys, such as the lush, fur-lined leather bombers that were cropped and wrapped around the body, daring denim minis and short shorts with embroidered back pockets.

It’s a fashion show after all, and excess is expected, but next time, offer the people who are getting the clothes into their pages and stores better than third-row or — gasp! — standing-room seats. Surely, the masses of hangers-on perched beside Missy Elliott, Michelle Rodriguez, Vincent Gallo and Tara Subkoff would understand.

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