Star Attractions at Fashion Week

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The New York Sun

To judge by the front rows during this and recent seasons, young designers are not succeeding unless a B-list actress or reality television star is in the front row. This season, the cast of “Gossip Girl” has been seated all around town. And the stunning Joy Bryant has attended Thakoon and Matthew Williamson.

But while the association with fashion helps new starlets get a boost in the press, does it really help these already well-received, growing labels? Designers like Mr. Williamson, Thakoon Panichgul, Derek Lam, and Brian Reyes are hard at work carving out a niche for themselves. And the presence of one-season stars doesn’t always help define that niche. If you want to know a designer, get to know his clothes.

Brian Reyes kicked off with strong whites — super-cropped separates, including minis, tiny shorts, and petal-sleeved tops — before fading to black, golden olive, tangerine, and a batch of tribal stripes and safari prints. Crocodile belts pulled together the basic plunging V-neck sweaters that were tucked into pouf skirts and pencil-cut versions in silk organzas.

If the Brian Reyes girl projects an air of flirtation where her wardrobe is concerned, the Derek Lam girl is decidedly more clear about when she does and doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. Mr. Lam showed a collection of high-end, sport-inspired pieces with drawstring dresses in sleek matte jersey and utility trench coats of chiffon. A subdued palette of blush and nude tones made an otherwise memorable piece, such as a mesh-knit dress, recede to the background. But a series of satin faille one-shoulder “trouser growns,” as the jumpsuits were called, were some of the most fluid one-pieces shown this season. And when Mr. Lam went for sexy, in the form of sequined dresses with high necks and open backs, he did so with restraint, which was arguably sexier.

The Matthew Williamson collection for spring/summer 2009 is for the girl who embraces color and has the jet-setting itinerary to make the most of it. Sharply tailored suits with ultra-skinny trousers and shrunken blazers were cast in sunburst shades of fucshia and orange. As is his signature, Mr. Williamson made ample use of India-inspired embroidery, showing to-die-for jackets, boleros, and pocketed dresses trimmed in exquisite jewelled beading. Soft leather vests and calf-length pants brought a glam-rock edge to the flowing floral tops and tanks with which they were paired. This was bohemian chic at its most inventive.

At Thakoon on Monday, there was a similar drive to balance the dark with feminine touches, as the designer tempered his edgiest frocks with roses, oleanders, and winking prints. Still, the bondage-inspired collection could have been dubbed “In the Bedroom,” what with black dresses that had the illusion of coming apart in straps at the bodice and pieces that played with lingerie such as billowy harem pants in sheer fabrics. While the bold floral motifs had a brightening effect, any doubt the Thakoon good girl had gone a little bit bad for spring was underscored by the cagelike leather stilettos the models slinked down the runway in.

The New York Sun

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