View Slideshow

NEW YORK — Don’t overreach. That seemed to be the mantra this week, as the more successful collections stayed focused — and pretty — while those that didn’t work were overwrought and overthought.

Carlos Miele, for example, didn’t reinvent the wheel with his lovely printed and hand-painted silk chiffon and satin evening dresses that were sexy and snug. Some of the standout looks included the golden lace patchwork top with floaty sleeves. Rachel Comey also stripped away the fuss for spring, and sent out a pure, crisp lineup of summery cotton frocks with a sporty bent. There were even gymnastics chalk marks on the models’ arms and legs. She rarely strayed from her bright white palette with splashes of gray prints. Everything, certainly, was pretty and wearable — especially the mesh and cutout bodysuits — but it wasn’t Comey’s most interesting effort.

While Patrik Rzepski may have a penchant to provoke — he showed on Sept. 11, and presented a collection inspired by the Baader-Meinhof gang, a Seventies German terrorist group — his spring line was rather retail-friendly. He sent out African batik-print jumpsuits, full skirts and sashes, along with breezy cotton dresses and jersey jumpers. Brazilian designer Geová Rodriguez, for his part, opened his Geová show with a moment of silence to commemorate September 11th. But after that, the mood quickly changed as he sent out lively dresses, such as a burnt gold-copper number and the beautiful frocks in black and white prints. It’s too bad that the over-accessorizing with fake flowers and huge hats stole the attention away from what we actually came to see — the clothes.

Newcomer Cat Swanson showed promise with her sleek bolero jackets and fun party frocks made from a patchwork of rainbow-bright chiffons, but her overuse of color sometimes created dizzying looks that were better suited to a Brazilian Carneval. At the other end of the spectrum, the slow and broody soundtrack at Donald Deal set an almost somber mood for his show as the models walked at an adagio pace and looked as sad as can be. This staging certainly didn’t help Deal’s evening gowns, which were average fare. One noteworthy dress, though, was the sunflower-dotted chiffon draped halter gown. David Rodriguez also faltered a bit for spring with his Italy-inspired collection that lacked the sophistication of his muse, Sophia Loren. The evening coats had unflattering silhouettes, and some of the day looks were compromised by such details as a tacky black organza bow fastened from the back of the shoulders that billowed like a short train. There were pretty suits in tweed and leather, however.

This story first appeared in the September 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Elsewhere, Rosita Hurtado and Carmine DiSarno debuted their line, Rosita & DiSarno, with Victoria Gotti-style gowns in a palette of turquoise, yellow and fuchsia. Gotti herself, in fact, appeared on the runway in a crocheted tube dress, while her sons, Carmine, John and Frank, sat in the front row. A few words of advice: Leave the ruffled tweeds where they belong — in last season’s lineup. And there were plenty of stars at Fusha, where Damon Dash, Ja Rule, Casey Johnson, Janice Combs, Nicole Richie, Tyson Beckford and Vivica A. Fox showed up. Of course, it helped that designer Marie Claudinette Jean is married to Wyclef Jean. But, unfortunately, the designer couldn’t deliver on the clothes. Marie Claudinette went with a nature theme for spring — deserts, oceans, coral and floral — and took the idea too literally, showing sweeping gowns and dresses heavy with foliage-shaped appliqués.

And Alfred Fiandaca returned to New York with his Fiandaca line, delivering more of his commercial eveningwear that this time had a certain Asian whimsy complete with butterfly and hydrangea prints on chiffon. But altogether, the looks were essentially conventional.