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New York Fashion Week: Zac Posen, Thakoon tire out while Peter Som gets his second wind

February 15, 2010 |  2:17 pm
With lackluster collections from Jason Wu, Thakoon Panichgul and Zac Posen, I was beginning to worry that New York Fashion Week was experiencing a young designer burnout.

It's easy to see how it could happen, with the pressure to make headlines and reinvent season after season -- and now in the pre-seasons, too.

But not every designer has the boundless imagination to be an Alexander McQueen. (It's possible even McQueen was having trouble keeping up, and that it led to his death.) And not every designer should try.
Which is why it's been frustrating to see so many people straying from their bread and butter. First there was Wu's rocky detour into menswear styling and ball gowns. Then Panichgul traded his signature floral femininity for wild n' wooly fierce, starting with a bulky, gray cable matelasse parka worn over wool leggings.

These were clothes for hiding out in the woods -- a crocheted scarf dress trimmed in pompoms, ruffled chiffon shorts -- and not in a good way. The bright spots were the familiar draped dresses for which Thakoon is best known, in pixelated animal prints or spotted chiffon mixed with crochet wool. Why not more of that?

Posen has been struggling in his business, shedding staff and adding a bridge line exclusively for Saks. And his fall collection didn't do much to inspire confidence.

He showed one minidress after another in silk brocade and stretch satin, tricked out with cutesy pleats and flounces at the shoulders and hips that could only appeal to a very small (very young) demographic.

Magenta velvet high-waist pants were striking, paired with a matching silk blouse. But they were so very retro Hollywood screen star. 

It was all the kind of thing that might have appealed before the financial crash forced the fashion world into a reality check, but not now.

Peter Som was the happy exception to the young designer cooldown. He's been trying get his career back on track after his Bill Blass deal fizzled, and this is the first time in a few seasons that he's showed on the runway.

While he doesn't make clothes that are going to change the world, that could be the best thing right now. He knows his customer and he serves her well, always with a color, print and the feminine wardrobe staples of the pencil skirt and cardigan variety.

This season, he gave things a 1960s-70s spin, mixing florals, checks and geometric prints with abandon, while staying grounded in classic shapes and silhouettes.

It was refreshing to see a long skirt in a "trippy rose" crepe, worn with a ribbed knit sweater. High-waist, full-leg trousers looked good, too, as an alternative to the ubiquitous leggings, worn with a tie-front blouse and a purple fur chubby.

And how could you not smile upon seeing a tie-dye mink coat? It was the perfect mix of function and frivolity.

-- Booth Moore in New York

More runway photos: Thakoon Panichgul | Zac Posen | Peter Som

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Left to right: Photos from the Thakoon Panichgul, Zac Posen and Peter Som fall 2010 runways in New York. Credits: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times