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Matthew Williamson, fashion’s eternal optimist, opted for Neapolitan cheer…Zang Toi dramatized his signature silhouettes…Zaldy danced with boho (and Goth) spirit…and Alexandre Herchcovitch stormed the New York runway with artsy charm.

Matthew Williamson: Matthew Williamson is fashion’s eternal optimist, constantly turning out one brilliantly colored collection after another. Understandably, he has much to be cheery about — his clothes have been flying out of the store he opened last spring in London. So it may be with this commercial success in mind that Williamson showed one of his most approachable collections to date. For spring, he toned down his usual neon palette in favor of the rosy hues of a beach sunset. A pretty ivory smocked dress and blouse were printed with butterfly tattoos, the sort a Forties sailor might have sported on his forearm. Neapolitan striped knits in strawberry, vanilla and chocolate made appealing combinations with well-constructed khaki cotton twill pants and shorts. The few brighter hues that the designer used really popped. Electric blue and tangerine looked fresh in ruffled chiffon blouses and a handkerchief-hemmed dress that was boho-goddess-meets-Tinkerbell.

Zang Toi: Season after season, the loveable Zang Toi proudly does his own thing. He’s got a formula for success, as demonstrated by a strong performance at retail, so he rarely strays from his signature silhouettes. And why should he? His customers love him, and he has a loyal, highly social following, which includes Ivana Trump, who was front and center at the presentation. He always gives his ladies what they want, well-made, tailored looks with a dramatic and glamorous bent, and, for spring, he once again delivered exactly that. Toi opened his show with a small capsule collection called Toi House, which featured cute, playful, black sequined soccer sweaters and a little hot pink baby-doll dress more suited for a campy bedroom scenario than a stroll down Madison Avenue. His signature collection included some beautiful pieces, such as the lineup of black or white fringed dresses and cropped pants, a beautiful, summery, white linen halter gown lined with Chantilly lace and a group of gauzy, fine linen shirts featuring intricate embroideries and little fringes. Toi also showed plenty of sophisticated suits with slim jackets and high-waisted pants. Sometimes, however, the drama got the better of him, as with the big, poufy sleeves on several evening looks.

This story first appeared in the September 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Christopher Deane: With all the buzz about designers Christopher Crawford and Angela Deane, the pressure was on to deliver the goods. And, while there were certainly plenty of pretty looks, the collection lacked a consistent point of view. The blousy silk dresses with contrasting waist sashes, for example, were clean and even sexy on occasion, and the design duo showed spunk with a black satin skirt paired with layered white and pale pink tops, while a handful of simple, gauzy shirts, skirts and jersey camisoles with braided straps had potential. But Crawford and Deane seemed intent on playing it safe this time. They clearly have the ability to create a lineup with greater polish and verve, however, and with more experience, will probably do just that.

Zaldy: If ever there was an appropriate candidate for “Behind the Music,” it’s Zaldy. While he isn’t well known for his ready-to-wear, which debuted in 2001, he has quietly built an impressive music clientele — Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Melissa Auf der Maur. Zaldy also has been working with Gwen Stefani on her L.A.M.B. collection for three seasons, and he just teamed up with gym dandy David Barton and wife Suzanne Bartsch on their line, Look Better Naked.

But all those extracurricular activities didn’t seem to sap any inspiration from his spring effort, his first runway presentation since fall 2003. True, his brief 17-look lineup could be split into two distinct collections, one with a boho spirit, the other, strict Goth, but he did both well. His gypsy girl danced through in fluid silk gowns, wrapped, twisted and braided, only to be bound up in an all-black mood — great, skinny, structured shorts or a beautiful long, cotton batiste dress. Only the cutout details on a few tailored looks seemed, well, weird and out of context, even next to the supersized white men’s shirts worn as sweeping capes.

Alexandre Herchcovitch: Welcome to New York, Alexandre. Hope you like it, because you’re exactly what this town needs. Herchcovitch, a Brazilian who shows in Rio and in Paris, has a sense of whimsy that always has appealed to editors in the know. Even the sight of his runway, with its spiraling garden path packed with fresh roses and calla lilies and charming rose nosegays on the seats made his audience smile. He followed up this good impression with fun clothes with artsy elements, the kind only brave girls would dare to wear. A stone cotton onesie with puffy shorts was straight-up Chloë Sevigny. Brightly colored chiffon patchwork trapeze dresses and crinolined baby-doll tops sure looked cute, but it’ll be the striped skirts, jackets and stovepipe pants that will fly off the shelves at downtown’s cool emporium, Opening Ceremony.

Benjamin Cho: Benjamin Cho’s show promised so much. For seasons, he has been hinting at a creative talent that mixes smart clothes with an artistic edge. And fall’s sophisticated, thought-provoking lineup also implied a breakthrough in the offing. Similarly, the designer’s spring setting alone — a sunbathed rooftop with a late summer breeze — set the stage for something good.

But good, or even interesting, never came. Instead, most of his ideas were a rehash of last season’s, but less smart and not as well executed. Cho took the paneled satin dresses, which looked so elegant for fall, and simply chopped them into minis and changed the hardware details. Even less impressive were the spiderwebbed suspender effects and burnout trims. And, as punch lines go, his finale, a bearskin coat that trailed into an actual bearskin rug, wasn’t so funny. Let’s hope that this collection is just the result of growing pains, and that Cho will eventually earn back his New Guard status.

Thakoon: En route to Miguel Adrover, a crowd of editors and retailers stopped off at Drive-In Studios to take in the collection of former Harper’s Bazaar staffer Thakoon Panichgul. Ten models dressed in his light-as-a-feather clothes sat in a charming tableaux vivant. Rendered in a washed palette of moss green, dove gray and pearly peach and pink, Panichgul’s collection stayed with the trend of transforming ladylike silhouettes into covetable looks for today’s girl. But the designer managed to avoid the pitfall of an overwrought vintage redux by stripping shapes down to the barest essentials and then spicing up lightly with subtle details and interesting fabrics. Is it possible to make a T-shirt and skirt feel fresh? Certainly, if said T is cut in a gorgeous, whisper-weight cotton with lightly belled sleeves and a slim strip of lace trimming the neckline, and most certainly, if quilting turns peach taffeta into a techy skirt. Elsewhere, removable jeweled collars by Erickson Beamon and unfinished frayed edges added unexpected charm.