Fashion Week Report Card: Debutante Edition

From left, Phillip Lim, Ashleigh Verrier, Karen Walker. Photo: Photographs by FirstView

A number of new designers took their first bow on the runway this season. Which ones became instant stars? Did Phillip Lim live up to the hype? We round up the critics' reviews of the important young shows so far. Thakoon is an early leader, while Marchesa and Verrier are tied as the biggest losers.

Phillip Lim
The most anticipated show of the season (after Marc, of course). Editors were breathlessly mouthing Lim's name as if he were the second coming of fashion. Did he come through? Although the show itself — unorganized and ill planned — nearly cost him, Lim's collection was still well received. In a word, it was "pretty" (Suzy Menkes). Lim's palette was pale, with white being the dominant color, and the critics fell for it. WWD even called his dresses "angelic." If the color scheme seemed gimmicky, Lim made up for it with his expert tailoring and complex designs ( He may not have matched the hype, but he certainly came close.

You can almost hear the shouts of "Rosebud!" Not because Thakoon is influenced by Citizen Kane — he's built a following on layering techniques that mimic petals. The floral look was "impressive" (Eric Wilson) and "clever" (WWD), but the show had little range ( Other critics fell in line. When an entire collection is summed up by the same two words, is it a success? For Thakoon, yes. The little feminine touches he added (bows and ribbons) and soft colors (pinks and whites) make his clothes very wearable for spring. As British Vogue put it, he's "on the cusp of hitting the big time."

When your name is always mentioned in the same sentence as Proenza Schouler, the bar is set fairly high. This was the second collection and first runway show for Ashleigh Verrier, a former intern for Jack and Lazaro. Her previous collection got raves, but her luck didn't quite hold this time around. Fashion Wire Daily called it a "sophomore slump." Verrier's clothes are ladylike and sweet, but the ruffles and crystals were overkill (Cathy Horyn). Add to that some poor tailoring and Verrier, much like her former employers, is one of the week's biggest disappointments.

L.A.-based designers Georgina Chapman and Karen Craig have a huge following with the starlet set. But is that enough to win over New York's fashion editors? The duo took a page out of Thakoon's book and had a floral-themed collection. But the execution was flawed, as noted. Unfinished hems and loose threads detracted from the clothes, giving the entire line an "amateurish" vibe (WWD). The reviews are still coming in, but it seems few consider the label a major fashion force.

Karen Walker
New Zealand designer Karen Walker, who usually shows in London, debuted at Fashion Week with a collection that was both charming ( and interesting. Walker mixed gender roles, making boys clothes for girls (British Vogue): mannish trousers, shorts, vests, and tees, which all managed to be "more cool than cutesy" (FWD). The designer's flair for androgyny has won over critics, making her a big winner of this year's newbies.