09/06/2012 04:44 EDT | Updated 11/06/2012 05:12 EST

Tadashi Shoji's fashion show takes journey from Venice to China - and lands on the red carpet

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Lace, patchwork, crystal. That could have made for an overwrought, overdone runway at New York Fashion Week on Thursday, but Tadashi Shoji mostly filled his collection with dresses that captured a modern, clean femininity.

Some of the gowns seem likely candidates for the red carpet, especially the one-shoulder, wheat-colored tulle and embellished gown with floral appliques and lace that closed the show. It had a little bit of pageantry to it, but that's OK for those big moments.

Shoji alternated between those feminine sand colours and brighter hues of blue, "paprika" red and green. The blue dresses, including the boatneck sheath dressed up in lace and the chiffon-and-lace blousoned gown with pleats that created a Venetian-blind effect, were reminiscent of lovely vases from the Ming Dynasty.

Shoji, in his notes, said he aimed to take the audience at the Lincoln Center tents on a journey along the "modern Silk Road" from Venice cutwork, to Kazakhstan ikat and onward through the Gobi Desert and the ancient city of Xi'an in China.

Many of the eveningwear pieces had a looseness and unexpected ease while maintaining the grandeur of a black-tie gown, but perhaps more interesting were the more daytime friendly dresses with bands of different colours of lace and floral fabrics. Shoji seemed to know that a sliver of blue lace or red flowers would go a long way.

He might have reminded himself of that when it came to the lace trapeze tops paired with lace shorts.

Shoji was among the designers to show on an abbreviated day of catwalks on the first day of spring previews for retailers, editors and stylists. Most of the eight evenings at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week go well into the night, but this crowd was largely expected to spend its evening at the fourth annual Fashion's Night Out, a shopping event created by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour aimed at spurring excitement — and sales — by bringing celebrities, champagne and offbeat activities into stores.