For her second show in New York, New Zealander Karen Walker chose as her muse a thirties comic-book superheroine, one who leads a double life. Such a whimsical starting point could have translated into runway disaster, but Walker knows how to finesse a slightly off-kilter theme. Pretty caped sleeves on printed blouses and dresses subtly echoed standard-issue superhero fare. The designer likes to pair masculine with feminine, and here she cut menswear wools into Depression-era silhouettes of the sort that once populated Katharine Hepburn's closet. These were layered with Lycra pieces in a graphic lightning-bolt print, adding a fresh pop of humor to the serious tailoring.

Along the way, Walker managed to weave in several disparate elements—from bright nylon anoraks to a covetable but relatively plain-Jane black day dress—without producing the jarring feeling of a phone-booth quick-change. A year in, this designer is already establishing herself as another exciting part of the city's growing fashion expat contingent.