Their fifth year in business has been a banner one for Project Alabama's Natalie Chanin and Enrico Marone-Cinzano. They were nominated for the 2005 Fashion Design Award from New York's Cooper-Hewitt museum and were named finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award. With all of this attention comes increased scrutiny. And now that UPS has sponsored the label's first-ever runway show, a bevy of editorial and retail heavy hitters have turned up to find out what the buzz is about.

To meet the challenge, Chanin's Florence, Ala.-based quilters kicked things up a notch, adding a high-tech material with a sexy drape to the mostly cotton jersey lineup, and incorporating elaborate beadwork and airbrushing into their repertoire. Some pieces—a saffron coat reverse-appliquéd in a deeper shade and heavily embroidered with golden beads comes to mind—would make the finest petits mains in Paris vert with envy. But this was Project Alabama's New York fashion week debut, and the moment seems to belong to minimalism, so there were also fitted cardigans devoid of handiwork and full skirts decorated only with narrow vertical bands of contrasting cross-stitching. A few of the colors appeared too "country" from the bleachers of the Bryant Park tents, but Chanin's navy-and-black combinations looked great and, trend-wise, were spot on.