When I e-mailed my Record colleagues that I would be leaving the office early to attend a fashion show, the response was a universal "Huh?" Although they tried to be polite, my fellow editors basically reacted as if their pet iguana had casually said he would be going to Barnes & Noble to pick up Jonathan Franzen's new book. Since my notion of sartorial variety involves picking one of five pairs of black jeans from my closet each morning, I can't blame them for being perplexed.

 But Yeohlee Teng had invited me to her Fashion Week show, which was being held at an undisclosed couple's penthouse on Central Park South. I had met Yeohlee many years ago, through architect Ken Yeang, who grew up with her in Malaysia. As my wardrobe attests, I don't spend much time thinking about fashion, but I've always liked Yeohlee's clothes. She thinks like an architect, constructing outfits in which structure, material, and form all work together. Her intellectual approach has endeared her to other designers (and won her a National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in 2004), but hasn't made her a household name or earned her a spot on reality TV.

The venue for the show turned out to be Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's "country house," one block from their office. (The architects had long talked about getting a weekend retreat, but hated the idea of fighting traffic on the way to the Hamptons or upstate. So a couple of years ago, they built a tiny penthouse on a building about 250 feet east of their workplace, creating a manageable commute of approximately two minutes.) As I arrived for the event, I saw Billie wearing a simple but gorgeous black outfit that Yeohlee designed several seasons ago. "You can wear her clothes forever," said Billie. Like me, Tod wore a no-brand outfit that will never make it into the Style section of The New York Times.

Better dressed were architects Calvin Tsao (in a vibrant green shirt and summer-weight jacket) and Zack McKown (white shirt and seersucker jacket), who have been fans and friends of Yeohlee for years. So here I was, expecting to play hooky, but surrounded by architects, as usual.

 Standing in the back of the one-room apartment in the open kitchen set a foot below the main space, architect Joerg Schwartz surveyed the scene as people found their seats. He had designed the show with small blocks of fold-up chairs inside the apartment and out on the wrap-around terrace overlooking Central Park. Models would walk from one side of the terrace to the other, then turn and sashay down an aisle between the indoor seats. "We have to put the important players in the front row," explained Joerg, "but really there aren't any bad seats here."

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Rehearsing the show before the audience arrives. (Photo courtesy of Yeohlee.)  

 As I got ready to watch the show, I snatched the chocolate bar resting on my chair--a much welcome fashion accessory to the eye candy to come. I also picked up the program, which explained that the clothes I was about to see--Yeohlee's Spring 2011 line--were inspired by cutter ants and the drawings of Lebbeus Woods. As it turns out, I couldn't find much evidence of Lebbeus's conflict-riddled work in the gorgeous clothes, but I loved the combination of angular shapes and soft draping in some of the outfits, the layered look in others, and the use of colors like indigo, red, and marigold in a few pieces. But, really, what the hell do I know about this stuff?

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Showing off one piece of the collection. (Photo by Dan Lecca)

For the past year, Joerg and Yeohlee have been working on a project with a very different scale than clothes or apartments. Using a grant from the Design Trust for Public Space, they developed a study of Manhattan's Garment District that shows how it functions as an integral part of the city's economy and identity. Called Made In Midtown, the report refutes the perception of the district as a vestige of a disappearing industry and paints a picture of it as a critical hub for designers, craftsmen, wholesalers, and retailers. The report and its website (madeinmidtown.org) have been credited with convincing local planners to shelve plans to rezone the district, which would have threatened its quirky character with an influx of generic development. And now Yeohlee is set to open her first store on the same block as her Garment District design studio, hoping to put a more public face to an industry that is too often tucked away in spaces on the upper floors of buildings scattered along many different streets.