Day two of FashioNXT featured the Up/NXT Emerging Designers Contest, one of my favorite parts of any fashion event. It's not only exciting to be introduced to new talents on the scene, but it was also the most locally focused day in the series. I go back and forth about the competition aspect; I'm always one of the judges, and when it comes time to make a decision, it's near impossible. Each of these designers has their strengths, and they are all very different—this year perhaps more than any other. So do you go for the one whose ideas are most innovative? The one whose collection is the most saleable? What finally (ahem) emerged from our backstage judge huddle was Amy Sim, though I need to give a shout-out to my original vote, for Bobby Bonaparte's LiFT Label, which is already taking off, with or without a contest win. In the end, though, it's great exposure for all of these designers, and having executed collections is in and of itself impressive. Nobody lost, and everybody won.

But first! Things kicked off with Becky Ross, a former emerging designer competitor herself, as well as having taken a turn on the ubiquitous Project Runway. Her spring collection showed a softer side, stepping away from the rougher military elements she's played with in previous years. Instead she paired popping blue ikat patterns with painterly strokes in wearable dresses and separates lent a scholarly edge by the techy glasses they were paired with. The finale piece took a sharp left turn, though, in the form of a white, architectural look that was cool in an experimental way, if perplexing in the contrasting context of the collection as a whole.

The international label Yane Mode is something of an activist endeavor, and part of its identity is wrapped around "supporting animal welfare awareness." That's certainly a cause I can rally behind, although how this translates into the sexy LBDs and miniskirts with shots of red and gold on the runway is unclear. The silhouettes are pretty standard, and widely appealing. These clothes aren't game changers, but especially when pulled apart from the sometimes old-feeling full-look styling, they'd be easy to keep on frequent rotation.

Portland/Japan line Atelier by Kathryn Matsuura opened with a coat dress, followed by a shirt dress in navy with a soft gray bird print. I was listening, on the fence. Unfortunately, what followed veered in too many directions, with some unfavorable fabric selections and awkward silhouettes. Some gems could be plucked from this—that shirt dress, a nubby pair of pants—but it was too scattered and out of synch to stand as a collection.

Okay, so: Michael Costello. He swept me off my feet last year with the collection that closed out the whole series of shows. This year he showed two collections, his own (more on that later) and MTCostello, a collaboration with his cousin Stephanie Costello. Word was this was meant to be ready-to-wear, but... the guy can't help it (and apparently Stephanie either can't stop him or doesn't want to); he designs full drama runway, award-accepting attire. There's nothing at all wrong with that, other than finding an excuse to wear his clothes. I would like to see some honest-to-god daytime threads from him at some point. I love his designs but there are few occasions for them if you're not a movie star. Oh! And there was menswear! Just a little bit, including zippered pants and some very nicely done coats.

And then—dun-dun-dun—the emerging designers emerged:

Taylor Trapnell:

Amy Sim (winner!):

LiFT Label:


Jackie Lipshutz:

Cathy Rae: