09/11/2012 08:13 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST

A cardigan with your organza skirt? Sophie Theallet finds beauty in unusual mixes

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Designer Sophie Theallet recently won a big knitwear award. So it shouldn't be a surprise that she incorporates knitwear into so many of her new designs.

What was striking about the French-born designer's Spring 2013 collection was what she did with that knitwear — pairing brightly colored, fitted little cardigans with filmy organza skirts and dresses.

"Why not?" she said with a smile backstage at Tuesday's show. "For the kind of woman I am designing for, it's totally normal."

There were lots of pretty dresses at Theallet's show, and many bore an unmistakable image: A dragonfly. Why?

"The dragonfly is viewed in different ways in different cultures," Theallet explained backstage. "Sometimes evil, sometimes spiritual. I wanted to show how the woman I am dressing can be anything at any time — she can be what she wants. She is dressing for herself."

Theallet, whose designs Michelle Obama has worn a number of times, has had a good year. In July, she won the U.S. division of the International Woolmark Prize, and the $100,000 that goes with it. The contest promotes excellence in knitwear, especially using merino wool. Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent won in the 1950s.

Theallet is from France but lives now in New York. She set up her own studio here in 2007 after working for both Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzedine Alaia.

Another hallmark of Tuesday's show was the exposed zipper, including on organza.

"I just love zippers," Theallet said backstage. "I love showing them. They look beautiful on cloth. On organza too — they give it strength. On anything."