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Vivienne Tam was inspired by China’s Miao people…Reem Acra tried her hand at ruching and draping…Miho Aoki and Thuy Pham evoked Seventies California for United Bamboo…and Lisa Kulson featured bohemian ikat patterns.

Vivienne Tam: This season, Vivienne Tam found inspiration in the Miao people of southern China, a highly traditional group known for their striking embroidered clothes. However, while Tam usually favors vivid prints, she went surprisingly Zen and polished for spring. Unlike the Miao themselves, who celebrate color, Tam’s shades were mostly muted. The designer played with her theme throughout the show in the form of rich embroideries and boxy, mandarin-collared jackets with skirts or pants, some of them too literal for the mainstream. She served up plenty of very pretty cotton or silk tops with exquisite embroideries and beading in ivory, navy and jade. When these were paired with her slim or cropped pants, it made the perfect East-meets-West balance. And a lovely, simple white coat with silver border details had just the right amount of Miao influence.

Reem Acra: Last season’s beautiful breakthrough collection was a tough act to follow, and Reem Acra’s spring lineup, unfortunately, proved it. Her polished, exquisitely beaded tea-length dresses for fall were replaced by too many dresses and gowns with pleated skirts, while a couple of frocks from previous collections also were reworked in new colors, and a lovely pale yellow tulle number was overwhelmed by giant rosettes. Acra did show some delightful, short tulle dresses in sorbet hues, some of them lightly sprinkled with beading, the best looks of the collection. And the designer also deserves credit for trying to move beyond her signature crystal embroideries. She explored new methods of detailing for spring, including ruching and draping on short jewel-toned satin dresses and ruffled tulle embroideries on dress bodices or pretty and delicate little shrugs.

United Bamboo: Dressing the über-cool downtown It Girl is what United Bamboo designers Miho Aoki and Thuy Pham do best. And Monday’s show got off to a good start with easy poet’s blouses, short-shorts, tunic tops and rhumba dresses in floral-print chiffons and crinkle gauzes, all of it evoking a Seventies California boho spirit with a touch of modern cool. But then the music for the show hit a glitch, and so did the clothes. Out came a group in hard-to-wear fabrics, flesh-toned chiffon and satin, culottes, harem pants and a braid-detailed off-the-shoulder dress, which looked a tad frumpy. The soundtrack returned, however, and the collection ended on a positive note with braided-strap tank dresses and a black gauze poet’s blouse with a prairie skirt. The high points of the styling were the accessories: woven wedges, chain-strap snakeskin bags and vintage jewelry.

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

Kulson: Editors visiting Lisa Kulson’s showroom must certainly have felt the slightest sense of déjà vu. But it was just serendipitous coincidence that her mix of bohemian ikat prints, fresh hand-crocheted knits and smart suits echoed Oscar de la Renta’s fabulous collection, showing right before hers. In her own way, she translated a luxe look into affordable, well-made and chic clothes, knowing what her customer wants to wear for every day of the week. Come spring, Kulson girls will be set for the office in crisp, tailored jackets and skirts with just enough detail to transcend basic. That said, they’ll likely be a touch happier getting dressed on the weekend in Kulson’s peasant blouses detailed with lace insets, printed with the aforementioned ikat, and the printed and tiered breezy dresses and skirts that are just the things girls hunt for as the weather turns warm.

Twinkle by Wenlan: Wenlan Chia whipped up a charming collection for spring with pretty girly looks. She focused on great combinations, whether it was of color — watermelon with cocoa, citron yellow with teal — or of pieces, such as her signature hand knits paired with silk chiffon dresses or skirts. A hand-knit camisole, for example, was the perfect complement to a triple-layered silk skirt, and a bolero worked well with a silk Empire-waisted dress. Chia further reinforced the line’s girly and sophisticated tone with charming accessories such as wonderful necklaces and adorable pins. Her only real misstep was with the black-and-white organic printed dresses that dampened the feminine mood.

Y & Kei: This week has seen an abundance of pretty and feminine collections, but what separated designers Hanii Y and Gene Kei’s from the pack was their artsy and romantic feel. In the past, they’ve been known to show overly layered styles peppered with design tricks, but they avoided those pitfalls for spring, showing a no-fuss, straightforward collection. Soft chiffon tops and dresses featured crafty knotted fringes that swayed with each movement, evoking an ethereal quality that resonated throughout the lineup. Comely loose jackets with scalloped edges were paired with long flowing skirts or relaxed pants and an empire-waisted dress in black-on-black floral chiffon looked magical. But with all of these delicate touches, there was simply no need for the handful of heavily beaded dresses towards the end of the show.

Nom*D: What’s a sporty girl to do when spring fashion of late has been sugar and spice and everything nice? Turn to New Zealander Margarita Robertson’s Nom*D. Robertson continued the androgynous noir look she started last season, but softened it up a bit with relaxed silhouettes and hints of green mixed into her standard palette of black, white and gray. She sent out layered ensembles, placing hoodie over hoodie without overwhelming the body, hugging the contours just right (and comfortably, to boot). These are the pieces you wear season after season — the white singlet dress, the viscose poncho — when you simply can’t ruffle it up anymore.

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