"They made me wear a jacket," said Chris Benz at his presentation at the New York Yacht Club. He was explaining his outfit: a proper navy blazer, white shirt, and tie, teamed with not-so-proper frayed khakis cropped to the ankle, well-worn Chuck Taylors, and his multifarious wrist wrappings. As it turned out, he brought the same kind of engaging eclecticism to a sophomore effort that confirmed this young designer as a talent to watch.

This season's muse was a restless thirties starlet, stuck at her house in the Hollywood Hills and apparently amusing herself by trying on a closet brimming with clothes, hats, glasses, and jewelry.

The designer has a confident hand with color and it was shown to good effect in three chromatically arranged tableaux vivants. Though they ran the gamut from little ladylike silk jacquard suits to a denim jacket and striped V-neck pullover, most looks achieved what Benz calls "the casual moment." Tuxedo shirts were recast in chiffon with dropped shoulders and worn with soft wide-legged pants; a linen shirtdress had a similarly floppy ease. Wide-brimmed straw hats and beaded bracelets that mirrored Benz's own look cut through any leftover seriousness, as did terrific patent-and-mesh penny loafers from Christian Louboutin. Though the designer has heretofore been "anti-gown," he added bright, bias-cut versions, including one in cotton jersey. His muse couldn't very well not have something to wear on the red carpet, could she?