Bold looks at NY Fashion Week turn up the volume

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — The designers previewing spring collections at New York Fashion Week may not have had a single voice, but they all spoke loudly.

"Bold" was the word that buzzed around the tents at Lincoln Center after eight days of previews came to an end on Thursday. Between saturated color, sexy cutouts, statement-making stripes and mixed-up prints, the clothes had something to say.

"It feels like a statement season," said Brandon Holley, editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine. "It feels like everyone is tired of shopping their closet, and they're ready to make a new statement."

Retailers are happy to see newness and bright colors, said Ken Downing, fashion director for Neiman Marcus.

"There were some have-to-have things," said Downing, who ticked off a sleeveless jacket, a full skirt that's either swingy and short, or cut on the bias and falling below the knee, and colored leather — maybe laser cut? — as items that will be on the top of the list for shoppers.

Nearly 200 designers preview their spring collections in New York before the fashion crowd heads to London, Milan and Paris. In seasons past, it was as if they all agreed on a message ahead of time. After the recession started, a hard-edged chick was the obvious muse. A few seasons later, everything was bohemian.

This time, there were certainly clear trends — among them skirt suits, big colors, below-the-knee coats, leather, cutouts, corsets and banding, stripes and black-and-white. But there were many muses instead of one It Girl.

There were hints of India and other exotic locales. And the prints were edgier than what are usually offered in spring — instead of "pretty" florals, there were digital renderings, X-ray patterns, skulls. "If it is a floral, then it's photo realism floral, and that seems very different," Holley said.

Even uptown staples Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta had an edge, with the latter adding leather and latex to his society girl.

It's as through designers stopped dictating style and are instead providing options. There's your breath of spring air.

RALPH LAUREN

Statement made, Ralph Lauren: Be strong. Be bold. Go on that adventure.

The first look on Ralph Lauren's runway featured a turquoise suede poet top, with cascading ruffles down the front, and the model wore a beret and carried a studded motorcycle bag. From there, it was a bright red hand-crocheted tank dress and a few looks later was a tomato red suede jacket with rustic brown leather details.

A colorful blanket-style serape was getting buzz from editors and stylists before they even left the downtown show space where Olivia Wilde and Jessica Alba sat in the front row. Lauren offered the same idea — in the same green, brown and yellow colors — in an off-the-shoulder serape wrap top that probably more easily fits into the closets of most customers.

There were beaded bolero jackets and embellished jodhpur pants that evoked a matador to the Spanish-style music, with flat-top hats and colorful scarves around some models' necks. But taking each piece on its own, it wasn't a costume.

CALVIN KLEIN

Francisco Costa, women's creative director at Calvin Klein, got to have final say Thursday at New York Fashion Week as one of the last major designers to preview a spring collection, but he left a purposeful impression of things left undone.

It's what left the crowd wanting more. Edges were left frayed, contrasting linings were revealed, and necklines were bare and exposed, all giving the impression that one was seeing more than they should. A gold hardware frame peeked atop the black sheer-panel dress that closed the show.

Costa has a knack for the "seductive lines," he mentioned in his notes. He certainly drew eyes to the bust and bodice, offering a series of conical bustiers, which were exactly what they sound like. On their own, they were futuristic but also a little harsh; under a sheer silk corset or a mesh silk crepe coat, they were sexy and edgy.

Calvin Klein continued the many layers of fabrics and textures that have dominated the runways: an abstract lace dress goes over a lacquered satin bustier and a bonded mesh skirt, for example. But the fact that almost every outfit featured black here can't be called part of that trend — it's a way of life for this design house.

MARCHESA

It wasn't just like Grand Central at Marchesa's New York Fashion Week show on Wednesday — which drew Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Tyra Banks and all the photographers who trail them. It was in Grand Central.

The preview of the spring collection was staged at the historic train terminal, but it was hardly rush hour on the runway. The looks turned out by designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig were typically embellished and intricate, and required time to study the details. Models also can't walk all that quickly in the gowns that are jingling with beads or have slim hemlines.

Thanks to the Indian inspiration — via the Beatles' 1960s experience with the Maharishi — there were more colorful hues and easier-to-wear silhouettes than in recent Marchesa collections.

"Last season was Baroque and darker, and the season before that was very ornate," Chapman said in a preshow interview. "It's a different mood this season."

What fashion insiders are really looking for from Marchesa is a clue of what will soon come on Hollywood red carpets. After this, it's safe to say the stars may be wearing some high-neck gowns, either covered in tassel fringe or metallic beads — or both — and maybe a peacock-blue, one-shouldered tulle gown worn over a fully embroidered gold-leaf illusion bodysuit that gave the appearance of glittering body art.

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