A metamorphosis has taken place at Zoran for fall, but the change is in the designer himself, not those wonderfully predictable comfort clothes. Zoran’s designer’s perennially scruffy beard and hair have been shaved to a fare-thee-well, and not a moment too soon. His fans, including Gloria Vanderbilt, packed into Zoran’s new Chambers Street digs for his show. After all the schoolgirls and tarts on the runways, Zoran proves that there is still a place for simple, beautiful clothes. What said it all: An alpaca jacket layered over an easy short-sleeved cashmere pullover and a long-sleeved chiffon T-shirt paired with charmeuse pants — all in shades of gray.


Why not do a man-tailored shirt out of striped tie silk or mix fisherman knits with charmeuse or polar fleece with chiffon? Russell Bennett, a former Moschino assistant, does it with a hip grace. And what better way to appreciate his smart blend of sexiness, elegance and quality than with a clever, well-executed still-life presentation — dress forms set into cardboard boxes in a raw space that was swathed in brown packing paper and yards of bubble-wrap?

Everybody welcomed the informal venue — a chance to view, each at his own pace, feather-trimmed sweater numbers, silk faille mini-bustle skirts and superbly cut jackets, minis and pebble crepe little dresses, all in rich browns, champagnes, taupes and black. And it’s all relatively affordable — from $95 for a mohair sweater to $450 for a wool coat.


Each season, Han Feng takes her signature pleated silks a few steps further — and adds other pieces. While most of the silks still look terrific, the news for fall is in her cropped cashmere boleros over white shirts, silk minis and cashmere pajama pants. It was the wonderful mixture of textures — matte and shine — and colors that gave the show its vitality. But the long, awkward genie skirts and the last few tied-and-wrapped numbers seemed to suggest that Feng had run out of steam.


Tracy Feith seems to have solved his quality problems of last season. And this time he delivered his offbeat message with a happier mood. Sure, some of those fabric mixes were hard to take, but piece by piece, there were some great items — white PVC jeans, mohairs in pale blue, and pink and white jackets trimmed in fake shearling.


The Supper Club was the perfect setting for Roland Nivelais’s sophisticated evening dresses and suits. The designer’s continental origins emerged in the sexy shapes, plunging necklines or backs and the most flirtatious details. It was the details, in fact, that made a look work or flounder, since the silhouettes themselves weren’t newsmaking. What worked: the black silk coatdress with a ruby pleated accent at the hemline and a long black satin dress, romantically collared and cuffed in black feathers. What didn’t: too much draping and feathers encircling the hips of an already too-tight number.


Maria Snyder assembled her high-profile friends — Diane Von Furstenberg and daughter Tatiana, Mort Zuckerman and Margaux Hemingway among them — to witness her first trip to the tents in a show sponsored by DuPont Lycra. Snyder, a designer smitten with the Sixties and Seventies, stuck with many of her signature ideas — handpainted pieces and draped silk crepe gowns, and when she ventured into unchartered waters, things sometimes got murky. The neon embossed leather jackets and the Sergeant Pepper-ish velvet military pantsuits looked new again, but the crochet flower-power dresses looked like something that Goldie Hawn would have sported on “Laugh-In.” With the show three-quarters over, the heavens opened up and Josephine sprang a leak, sending Suzy Menkes of The International Tribune and Roy Campbell of The Philadelphia Inquirer running for cover. Unfortunately for Snyder, the audience’s attention escaped as well.

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