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Newcomer Sari Gueron showed an assured hand with her collection of clean-lined dresses, while Ruffian’s high-collared fare played up to expectations and Imitation of Christ staged theater of the absurd.

Imitation of Christ: Wednesday’s showing of Tara Subkoff’s two lines, Imitation and Imitation of Christ, raised some questions. But these are not of the deep political and philosophical bent that the designer seems to think her work provokes. Rather, they’re more in the vein of, “Why do we keep coming to this show?”

This season’s schtick waxed political with flags hung above the runway and a slide show of images from Iraq and Afghanistan, accompanied by a violinist and a schmaltzy piano player crooning stupid lyrics while a George W. Bush impersonator sat in the first row. Ensconced within this heavy-handed bit of theater were Subkoff’s clothes. For Imitation, these ranged from basic cotton T-shirts, baggy shorts and pants to several versions of the Grecian-inspired tunic that Subkoff shows and wears often, all paired with the gladiator sandals she designed for Easy Spirit.

In fairness, some of these pieces — a beachy, bobble-trimmed Chloé-inspired cotton dress and jersey dresses flocked with gold and silver paillettes — were chic, covetable even. Oh, but that was not the case with 10 or so Imitation of Christ dresses that looked as if they were fashioned from colored mops. And none of it made any sense against the backdrop. The time may have come when Subkoff has squandered her cachet with the fashion industry. Or, to pose another question, do we really want in on this joke anymore?

Ruffian: With Babe Paley and Jane Birkin as their two muses this season, design duo Brian Wolk and Claude Morais created a lineup of uptown looks for the Ladies Who Lunch — but with an edge. As they did in their first ready-to-wear collection last season, Wolk and Morais showcased their signature neck and collar pieces. This time, many of them were built into the clothes, as in a charmeuse blouse with Swarovski pearls inset along its collar. But most are still available as accessories. The message for spring was color: pastel pink, green and blue with touches of navy and white. The strength of the collection was its dresses, such as a long chiffon gown with a crystal-detailed neck for evening or a sweet blue-and-white, rose-printed dress for day. The designers also delved into separates, and in some cases, such as the metallic lace pants, the fabrics didn’t quite match the silhouettes.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Sari Gueron: Who says that you have to be covered in frills and bows to be the very portrait of a lady? Certainly not Sari Gueron. In her first solo presentation, at the St. Regis Hotel, Gueron proved the maxim that less is more. Showing only a baker’s dozen of party frocks in the Louis XVI room, she successfully played clean-lined dresses off the room’s baroque interior. Crepe chiffons in celery or pumpkin shades were cut into a sexy little kimono or floor-sweeping goddess gown. Black silk cocktail dresses sported a draped front or kicky capelet. And tiered dresses came in delicate silver lace or a psychedelic floral for the girl who wants a little more frou from time to time.