Tracy Reese: This season, Tracy Reese aimed to please her girly girls with vintage-inspired looks that had fresh, feminine twists.There were lots of the charming dresses she’s known for — like the ones turning up in “Sex and the City” at the moment. Reese also knows a thing or two about cutting coats and jackets, and there were some appealing new ones for spring, such as a tomato red leather jacket with a retro feeling and stylish silk twill trenchcoats. Other key pieces in the collection included flirtatious, black-and-white flowered skirts; a playful yellow floral silk chiffon camisole; terrific knits in an assortment of colors, and a hand-embroidered, strapless turquoise dress. All the bead-encrusted numbers were well-executed. Despite a few minor missteps — the matronly leaf-print dresses and the oddly colored iridescent pieces — it was a beautiful collection.



As Four: Much like beauty, kooky is as kooky does. And this season marked a breakthrough for New York’s As Four quartet, likely the entire industry’s biggest fashion kooks — and that’s meant in the nicest possible way. Billing themselves on their invite as “The New As Four,” Adi, Ange, Gabi and K.A.I. dispensed with their usual antics that, while entertaining, did distract attention from the clothes.

Despite these changes, however, the team wasn’t exactly channeling Calvin Klein. Instead, they merely refined their oeuvre of metallic fabrics and distinctive silhouettes, adding an element of Ancient Greece. The result was dreamy and beautiful, and at times even sexy. Dresses like a matte gold-sequined number or another pieced together from flaps of filmy fabric wouldn’t be out of place on the red carpet. But their originality of vision is best seen in pieces like a sleeveless jumpsuit cut in an austere cream canvas that resembled an Italian Futurist sculpture.

For retailers who carry the line, the professional nature of the show wasn’t so surprising. “People who work with As Four know that they are organized and can run a business,” said Julie Gilhart, Barneys vice president of merchandising, who gave the show a good rating.

And while the quartet is certainly hoping to bring their work to a wider audience and expand their business, it’s not the only reason they decided to change direction. “We got bored of doing it the same way,” Gabi explains. And what clothes they were! Fashion folk looking for originality would do well to head for As Four’s Lower East Side studio.

Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons: It’s no secret that a runway show is often just that — a show. And everyone knows that the fashion world loves a spectacle — even if sometimes it seems that the clothes were an afterthought, or given no thought at all. Enter Baby Phat’s Kimora Lee Simmons, who, for three years, has supplied some of New York’s most extravagant theatrics.

This time, Simmons, who in the past has celebrated icons from Bahama mamas to disco divas, chose history’s greatest showgirl and a fashion provocateur to boot, Josephine Baker, as her muse. That meant piles of marabou, crystal festoons, bondage strips, oh-so-suggestive peacock feathers — and often very little else, aside from the occasional beaded micromini and slippery swimsuit. Over the top and underdressed (at least for events this side of the Folies Bergere)? Absolutely, a fact for which Simmons makes no apologies. “It’s fantasy, not reality,” she said after the show.

Which is fine — up to a point. Everyone knows that an element of fantasy is essential to fashion. But so is a larger element of reality. And the reality is that Simmons has worked hard to develop an identity and a following for Baby Phat — an appealing junior line that infuses young sexiness with hip-hop attitude. It’s a shame that she passed on the chance to flaunt the merch in a meaningful way.



Luella Bartley:It looks like Luella Bartley’s girls will be shedding fall’s tomboy trappings in favor of much girlier fare. Luella likes to play with extremes, mixing slouchy silhouettes with the barely there, and this season is no exception. Inspired by the tribes of Africa and voodoo style, Bartley opened with a group of awkward burlap pieces with white leather piping. Though interesting, what girl wants a burlap circle skirt with a paper bag waist?

However, things started to heat up when that heaviness gave way to delicate, smocked cotton tops and dresses, floaty silk tanks and tops in tangerine or heathered gray paired with tiny minis in sweatshirt jersey and slouchy backless overalls. And Bartley went all-out for color, closing the show with a series of tops and dresses in a dizzying array of abstract prints, perfect for a tropical holiday or afternoons tooling around the city. Surely, everything a Luella girl will want, including the fluorescent strappy sandals and bags.

Rosa Cha:Lights, camera, satisfaction. If sex appeal has anything to do with swimwear, the models on designer Amir Slama’s catwalk will indeed need sponsor Ortho Evra’s birth control patches, which they sported. The Brazilian designer’s latest collection was nothing if not pure sex. Even the crowd was hot. Current It bombshell Beyoncé was there, as were her hush-hush boyfriend Jay-Z, her “Fighting Temptations” co-star Cuba Gooding Jr., Neptune über-producer Pharrell Williams and tennis champ Venus Williams.

But flashy front row and mirrored runway aside, this was a terrific, beautifully made collection. Inspired by a mythological tale of a falling star that alters the order of the universe — which explained the giant Lucite star sculpture on the stage — Slama incorporated whimsical prints, such as a fairy-tale forest scene, and leopard prints with cutouts galore. String bikini bottoms were layered under high-cut maillots; pink and gold pailletes were cut to look like fish scales, and a sunburst of gold Lurex strips burst from a D-ring centered on one suit. The racy fare went on and on — through 80 looks to be exact. While some pushed too far — too sheer in the wrong places —this was Slama’s best and most cohesive effort yet.

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