By  on February 5, 2008

Pretty, polished and a little bit punky. That was a favorite runway recipe, resulting in a batch of self-assured looks for fall.

Tuleh: Barack Obama, fashion muse? Before his show, designer Bryan Bradley said he was inspired by Obama's optimistic "Yes, we can" speech, and it's an attitude he repackaged for fashion. And indeed, his collection flaunted a cool, confident woman who's not going to let anything keep her down. She's still ladylike to the core — this is Tuleh, after all — but vamped up with shots of Seventies Bianca Jagger glamour. Thus, there were plenty of lush coats and prim cardi-and-skirt combos, but also slinky dressing robes done as eveningwear, and even a Studio 54-ready violet jacket, shirt and velvet trouser getup. The finishings came courtesy of candy-colored boots and fabulous giant snakeskin handbags. Here's hoping that rosy outlook proves infectious because who wouldn't welcome a chic, anything's-possible vibe?

Peter Som: His new post at Bill Blass clearly hasn't infringed on Peter Som's ability to design the refined separates at which he's so adept — in this case, skewed skirts in tweed and plaid, slim merino cardigans and lovely printed silk cowlneck tops. The Som polish was evident all over, here in a narrow black pencil skirt embellished with feathers, and there in a pair of slouchy trousers, made fall-appropriate in Donegal tweed. Then, a vagabond Cinderella theme slowly emerged — with full-skirted dresses in layers of gauze, tulle and taffeta — revealing a glamorous-grunge effect that had definite shades of Marc Jacobs, a look several other designers have adopted this season, too.

Thakoon: By now Thakoon Panichgul has developed his own signature look, delving into the land of geek versus chic and always coming out on the right side. This season was no exception as he worked ombré mohair into blazers, coats and dresses, paired with a colorful floral print similar to those found on old mattresses. It was no easy feat making the two look glamorous, but he did so to perfection. Panichgul was liberal with plaid, as in subtle gray-and-black schemes, as well as a multicolor one resembling a lumberjack shirt. He kept it pretty by adding a softly draped, swingy scarf tie or peekaboo yoke and shoulder on a blouse. Although he is still sharpening his craft when it comes to evening, this collection is sure to be a hit, maybe even all the way to Omaha.

Betsey Johnson: No one does kicky, fun fashion better than Betsey Johnson. This time around, she anchored her offerings with a beatnik theme, complete with a trio of bongo-playing hipsters at the runway entrance and copies of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" for the front row. So goodbye prom-girl puffery and hello, black catsuit and jaunty beret. "It's lean, mean, rock 'n' roll and edgy," the designer said pre-show. Silhouettes came sleekly close to the body, as in a taut sequined zip-up LBD. In addition to her signature flirty dresses, Johnson also flexed a certain separates savvy, delivering on terrific cardigans, blouses, shorts and jumpers. But it's the finale that had people talking; Johnson closed with a rousing retrospective in celebration of her 30th anniversary this year.

Luca Luca: Luca Orlandi seems to be a changed man who's finally heeding his most common criticism: lack of brand identity. Whereas he has been known to skew from flashy to trashy, this season, he continued in the subdued, ladylike vein of his past two collections. Silk jersey dresses and gabardine trousers were embellished with the subtle origami-like folds he introduced for pre-fall. Elsewhere, he focused on a luxe factor via furs, like a swingy sheared mink jacket and an embroidered broadtail sheath dress. For evening, Orlandi presented elegant black gowns, as in one decorated with peacock feathers. This collection, while not groundbreaking, was pretty and polished. Perhaps Orlandi has finally found his footing. 

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