Zang Toi, Reem Acra pour on the glamor at NY fashion week

Models walk the runway at the Reem Acra Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Stage at Lincoln Center in New York City. (AFP)

Malaysia's Zang Toi and Lebanon's Reem Acra won strong applause for their red-carpet looks at New York fashion week Monday while Carlos Miele drew inspiration from the pampas of his native Brazil.

With Grammy-winner Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" as his soundtrack, Toi kicked off his fall-winter collection with white mini coats and black trouser suits, before making an abrupt shift to bright red silk.

His fans - more mature, ethnically diverse and outgoing than the usual jaded New York fashion crowd - lapped it up, breaking into applause for elegant gowns in fetching scarlet hues and then honoring him with a standing ovation.

Backstage, the 50-year-old designer with an unbridled sense of fun said he wanted to see women make "a real effort to look really beautiful for themselves, their husbands, their boyfriends, their lovers."

"I wanted the clothes to be very, very glamorous," he added. "It's about glamor and gorgeous clothes for gorgeous girls."

Front-row guests included Saudi entrepreneur and film producer Mohammed Al Turki, US reality TV star Alex McCord and towering Czech model Petra Nemcova, with whom the diminutive Toi hammed it up for the cameras.

Acra, who in January dressed Madonna in an pewter gown for the Golden Globes awards, similarly poured on the glamor with a finely-balanced collection of crisp daytime suits, glittering cocktail mini-dresses and fluid chiffon gowns.

Her looks ranged effortlessly from a leather sheath dress in hunter green and a cable-knit sweater over a leather pencil skirt to a metallic tweed skirt and jacket combination and a embroidered one-shoulder gown in silk crepe and tulle.

Hot on the heels of Nicholas K's urban cowboys on day one of fashion week, Miele put a cosmopolitan spin on the traditional outfits of the "gauchas" of the Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil.

While the silhouettes were most definitely urban, there was no mistaking the rustic rural origins of Miele's colorful ponchos with gold tassels, which he matched with authentic broad-rim hats and sashes.

Backstage, Miele, who is based in Sao Paulo and sells in 38 countries, said he felt that after frequent visits to a friend's farm in southern Brazil, it was time to introduce that region's unique style to an international audience.

"They are natural girls," he said, referring to the "gauchas" of the wide-open pampas. "There is freedom... I thought this was time to bring this part of the culture of Brazil, of the pampas and the gauchas, to the catwalk."

In other shows Monday, Olivier Theyskens took over the Park Avenue Armory to send out the latest city-savvy basics from his growing Theyskens' Theory collection, including a dark boxy overcoat and supple leather jumpsuit.

"I was looking to complete the wardrobe on which I've been working for the past year and a half," the Brussels-born designer, formerly at Rochas and now happily settled in New York, told AFP backstage.

Several looks featured short shorts. Odd perhaps in a fall-winter collection, but Theyskens, 35, said they fit right into his vision of a contemporary tomboy. "It's something cute that goes with the overall look."

Earlier, with Hollywood star Renee Zellweger in the front row, Carolina Herrera delivered a classical feminine collection that ran the gamut of colors from indigo to purple to pink, with wool and silk her favored fabrics.

Many of the 40 looks - seen on as many top models with severely backcombed hairstyles - were paired with black wedge shoes designed for Herrera by Manolo Blahnik.

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