So long, Claire McCardell. The American sportswear pioneer who was the inspiration behind Derek Lam's fine Spring collection has been replaced by something altogether sexier—a change of direction that seemed to interfere with the designer's better instincts. The first clue was a pair of black leather-and-suede riding pants—leggings, really—that trotted down the runway with a boxy, asymmetrical boiled-felt coat. Other exhibits included a bustier dress, a clingy bolero worn with a flippy tweed skirt, and an otherwise office-ready gray flannel sheath with corsetry seaming on the bodice. The clothes' exaggerated shoulders, high nipped waists, and abbreviated hemlines looked like a wink and nod in the direction of Azzedine Alaïa and Hervé Léger. The trouble being, these designers were big news last season, which made Lam's show, for all its sexy wearability, look derivative.

But if there were shades of other collections in his day looks, evening was pure Derek. The goddess gowns he did for Spring were reinterpreted as flirty cocktail numbers, one in gold silk lamé. And the trio of graceful double-crepe columns in black, royal, and white that closed the show were, simply put, drop-dead gorgeous.