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NEW YORK — How do the fashion winds blow? Every which way. New York’s designers followed them everywhere — from Russia to Malaysia. Meanwhile, several eager newbies landed in Manhattan for the first time, hoping to make their mark.

Among them was Eric Way, the London-based designer who originally built his reputation on one-of-a-kind pieces. But three years ago Way decided that ready-to-wear was the way to go.

“Doing one-of-a-kind dresses is my passion,” he said, “but seeing six to eight clients a day, I started to feel more like a therapist than a designer. Now my clothes are more accessible.”

Bravo Eric, but these frocks are not for the faint of heart. Inspired by the bright colors of Malaysia, he did cocktail and evening looks in crystal splattered chiffon, poison greens and shocking purples. The prettiest were a series of batik silks with swirling, hand-painted flora and fauna.

Meanwhile, design team Lynda Cohen Kinne and Daniel Kinne took the historical corsetry course they teach at Parsons a little too literally in their first A La Disposition offering. Wool corsets worn over blouses, high-waisted palazzo pants and seamed, straight skirts made for a retro Thirties romp. But things went awry with pleated balloon pants, unflattering coatdresses and such tricky touches as a stole with a faux dragon head and exaggerated, fan-like collars. Also falling just shy of its intended mark — Grace Kelly elegance — was Thailand-born Spencer Sujjaporamest’s debut Sirichai lineup. While a few of the skinny pants and sheer blouse combos were certainly charming, most of the looks were ill-fitting and dominated by either a drab color or a black Lurex and wool blend that looked too itchy for comfort.

Frank Ford and Stefan Loy brought their commercially thriving Loyandford from L.A. Great quality and fit at a great price are their aim. And with their utterly wearable selection of tailored wool pieces and tops and dresses in jersey, lace and silk, it’s easy to see why they’re a favorite at Barneys New York, Scoop and Neiman Marcus, to name a few.

Several relatively new New York-based lines, including Sandoval, Harmon and Mary Ping improved upon their past. At their second presentation, Sandoval designers Michael Carbaugh and Francisco Chaydez cemented their fledgling reputation as master cutters. Their thirteen mostly black looks brought to mind both the drama of Alexander McQueen and clever sportif of Jil Sander. With luxe fabrics and high production quality, the references were forgivable — welcome, even. Andrew Harmon’s Harmon also had beautiful finish, with well-cut, sharp suits, especially of the androgynous sort. Inspired by Diane Keaton in “Reds”, the line had a Russian slant with silk cossack tops and slouchy trousers. Other standouts: a navy riff on le smoking and a surprisingly feminine chocolate tiered top and skirt with a scallop-hemmed shearling.

This story first appeared in the February 7, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Similarly, with both talent and skill, it’s evident why Mary Ping received this year’s Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation grant. There was a fabulous leather-sleeved, canvas trench and great knits such as a pearl wool sweaterdress. However, with just 22 exits, many of them men’s wear, it might have been more prudent of Ping to have had a showroom presentation rather than book Avery Fisher Hall’s balcony.

And rounding out fashion week’s early shows, Tamsen’s Sue Firestone and Mimi Wolfe channeled a hippie meets Eighties Punk. The dresses, skirts and cropped pants were dominated by bright colors and a bold — at times overused — print of a nighttime cityscape.

Also inspired by the night sky, but eschewing the landlubber look, Laura Poretzky took Abaeté to the high seas with a nautical theme. Unlike others this season, she didn’t sink in too literal an interpretation. Yes, she did sea captain-worthy coats, breezy knit tops and dresses meant for on-the-deck-strolls, but she balanced it all with gentle goddess dresses, silk column gowns and casual separates.