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Pretty, Witty and Flirty – Zang Toi, Ellen Tracy, Christopher Deane, Richard Chai and Doo.Ri

Zang Toi showed plenty of his curvy little suits, Ellen Tracy's looks showcased high-interest fabrics and intriguing details, Christopher Deane mixed quirkiness and charm, Richard Chai riffed on Space-Age style and the Doo.Ri collection featured...

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Zang Toi showed plenty of his curvy little suits, Ellen Tracy’s looks showcased high-interest fabrics and intriguing details, Christopher Deane mixed quirkiness and charm, Richard Chai riffed on Space-Age style and the Doo.Ri collection featured stunning variations on Grecian draping.

Zang Toi: Zang Toi’s signature looks were in evidence Saturday night with plenty of his sexy little suits; richly embroidered cashmere sweaters; classic tailored jackets, and pants. But Toi’s excesses robbed the collection of its strongest possibilities. Consider miniskirts with mink edging on slits, cut to the sky; hair teased to the same heights; mink seaming on A-line taffeta skirts. There was, in fact, fur-trimming on almost everything as well as beading everywhere, including a beaded peacock feathered minidress. Nothing here against fur or beading, one just longed for some relief.

Ellen Tracy: “We were so happy with the collection that we decided that it should be seen up close,” explained Ellen Tracy president Glenn McMahon. So the firm decided to shun the runway in favor of appointments, better to show off those subtle details. Just as for spring, the design team kept silhouettes clean and sharp for fall, putting the focus on high-interest fabrics. A bronze suit in basket-weave silk, for example, looked plenty sophisticated, while cashmere was either knit to resemble tweed into the cosiest of slipdresses or delicately crocheted into lacy tops. Suits cut from toile, lush floral jacquard or textured paisley were surprisingly chic and those shot with midnight blue Lurex gleamed with an antique patina. For those with a need for tweed, a fresh salt-and-pepper jacket, seamed and finished in organza, was the perfect fix. While McMahon explained that Lurex was used for the sake of “illuminating” rather than to simply be “shiny,” it was quite clear that the collection as a whole did indeed shine.

Christopher Deane: Designers Christopher Crawford and Angela Deane drew upon their travels in France as inspiration for their fall collection, That was fortuitous, since a bit of gamine bon chic is exactly what was needed after a couple of so-so seasons in which the daywear lacked the wow factor. This promising young duo has always delivered flirty party frocks that maintain a certain quirkiness. Fall’s versions were charmers, such as a nude chiffon Empire number with gold pinstripes and an evergreen cummerbund. But this season the designers also went that extra mile for day, infusing their designs with more than a soupçon of French flavor. Burgundy and green mini-houndstooth wool was cut into a hyper-chic sleek trench and bracelet-sleeved jacket, while cornflower and ivory chiffon blouses were made trés jolie with black charmeuse bows. In another sign that these designers have matured, their spring collection will soon hit the floor at Bergdorf Goodman.

Richard Chai: Futuristic romance — and wearable, too. In the collection he showed for fall, Ecco Domani winner Richard Chai built on the notion of Space-Age elegance he started for spring. While that combo could easily inhabit the Planet of Tricks, Chai worked it with a restraint equal to his ambitions, and the results were mostly delightful. Many of his intricately tailored skirts and jackets looked subtly Mod defined by graphic insets, satin quilting or piping, while exaggerated proportions — a sharp shoulder or flaring coat — orbited the chic side of Jetson style. Although a few looks, particularly the boiled wool military jackets and skirts, succumbed to weighty awkwardness, Chai is quietly forging a place among the most promising young talents in New York.

Doo.Ri: One might think that the languid flow of Grès-inspired drapery and the artificial environs of a big metropolis have nothing in common. But this season Doori Chung has delightfully shown that they do.

Before her presentation, Chung said that she was inspired by “the movement and stillness of the city — steely grids and illuminated bridges.” She did send out garments with an architectural bent: sculptural high-collared coats and big-buttoned boleros steeped in Parisian chic. But for the most part, she translated her metropolitan theme with subtlety in the citified palette of grays, blacks and icy steel blues and such details as the sparkling skyline at the hem of a sleeve. The collection was dominated by beautifully fluid separates, cocktail dresses and evening columns, such as the  heather jersey top, worn with a blue top and navy pleated skirt, the pale blue, off-the-shoulder dress detailed with Swarovski crystals and a midnight blue gown with beaded fringe at the back.

While Chung may be a relatively new player on the fashion field, screen goddesses should take note: Her glamorous evening ensembles with just enough subtle glitz deserve to make the rounds come red-carpet season.

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