Last week I took a break from the Portland fashion scene and went on vacation to New York. All right, so maybe it was no accident that my trip coincided with New York Fashion Week—the original impetus for going was an invitation from former Portlander and current New Yorker Leanne Marshall to attend the debut of her new spring/summer 2010 line.

With Maiden Rapture Vintage's Desiree Marsau as my front-row companion and frequent Mercury contributor Minh Tran on shutter duty, it felt just like home! Well, except for the impenetrable phalanx of video interviewers surrounding Marshall backstage, and the evidence on the runway of her development as a designer. (A couple other familiar faces included fellow Project Runway contestants Suede and Korto, but—disappointingly—Tim Gunn was nowhere to be seen.)

As Marshall's pieces began to come out I was immediately struck by a new, sexier direction for her. Hemlines were higher than ever, and pants tapered like second skin. The signature pleated embellishments were still there, but had evolved away from floral shapes to create sharp shoulders and origami-like architectural studs. The softer, looser pieces had similarly taken a turn for toughness with exaggerated zippers that offset the pastel pinks and greens in the palette, which was otherwise dominated by black and white, the only print a simple, faded stripe that helped add visual texture to the layered folds at the hips and shoulders as well as cut the hardness of a suit with a work-wear approachability.

The sophistication on display was a stark reminder of the fact that the designs of Marshall's that were most widely broadcast over the course of Project Runway were made in great haste and under great stress. They may have gotten her name out, but it's what she's done since that's worth seeing. Hit for complete photos of the show.