How hot a ticket was Zac Posen's first independent show? Hot enough to get major models to walk the runway, Manolo Blahnik to do the shoes and first daughter Barbara Bush to sit in the front row. Even more impressively, the 21-year-old New Yorker lived up to the hype, delivering a strong, if not terribly commercial, message.

But then Posen is not aiming to be the next Ralph Lauren. His inspiration is '30s fashion—the sort of outfits Jean Harlow might have sported at a cocktail party. Pushing that notion of glamour to the extreme, Posen built his collection around dresses, mostly bias-cut with provocative necklines, which declared a fierce devotion to the female form. The designer incorporated '30s design elements like contrasting insets, fitted bodices, fluttering ruffles and fishtail trains, and used movie-star fabrics like satin and crepe, but also worked with cotton, leather and mesh. (While many of the looks were entrance-makers, there were also some quietly wearable pieces, like a blush mesh top and a long, mitred tweed coat.) And in a week of muted, monochrome palettes, Posen's 32 looks were a riot of color: orange, purple, blue and yellow, along with the occasional black and white.

The models, including Karen Elson, Eleonora Bose, Liberty Ross, Teresa Lourenco and the actress Paz de la Huerta, were clearly given a mandate to act up, and they did, vamping for the cameras like seasoned starlets.