The story of New York Fashion Week has been told in mostly black and white — making it that much harder to ignore all the unusual prints on the runway, even if they, too, were color-free.
Marc Jacobs put out oversized black-and-white and red stripes on Monday a day after stripe-happy Tommy Hilfiger, whose red stripes were inspired by rope.
Carolina Herrera showed an abstract geometric print on Monday, while Elie Tahari took his prints from Palm Beach, mixing palm leaves, leopard skin and tropical flowers.
In earlier previews, Thakoon Panichgul had playful birds, Suno had a retro cell phone print and Jason Wu had prints reminiscent of an X-Ray. At Rebecca Taylor the print was Hawaiian, with fish scales at Monique Lhuillier and "space clouds" at Nicole Miller.
"Prints are personality, they have emotion, they tell a story," said Stacey Bendet, designer of Alice and Olivia — herself wearing a leopard-print dress on Monday to present a collection that included a variety of florals — from digital prints to painterly and candy-colored.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week continues through Thursday before the fashion crowd heads to London, Milan and Paris.
Let's switch gears: For the past five days, the chatter at New York Fashion Week has been about softening the edges, but Marc Jacobs changed the conversation — as he often does — after going graphic.
Black-and-white stripes followed by red stripes, tan stripes and more black-and-white stripes came rapid fire down the runway.
There was a mod mood to the spring collection, especially the short T-shirt dresses with scalloped hemlines, but not a hint of Jacob's mystical forest theme he had for the current fall season.
"It was so graphic with no frills," said Adam Glassman, creative director of O, The Oprah magazine. Stylist and fashion commentator Mary Alice Stephenson called it "candy-striper cool."
There were other things other than stripes — including some ruffle-front skirt suits (a lot of skirt suits in general, actually) and a midriff-baring Mickey Mouse sweater — but it was everything horizontal and vertical that would leave the lasting impression.
Donna Karan didn't look far for the inspiration of her new top-tier collection: She looked out her office window.
The way the sun dapples on the buildings near her Garment District office is something to see, she said. The designer must keep some long hours, because she nicknamed her New York Fashion Week runway preview "Sunrise, Sunset."
It unfolded with an oyster-colored jersey daytime dress with an open back and full skirt paired with a cropped jacket, and closed with a dusty blue strapless evening gown dusted at the hemline with the print of peach-colored seashells.
Karan hit on multiple textures but often stuck to monochromatic outfits, embracing the pinks you'll see in the dawn or dusk sky, as well as soft seaside blues and greens, but most looks were varying shades of stone. She seemed more interested in mixing multiple textures, from sheer jersey and chiffon to raffia and linen, and twisting some silhouettes on the bias, creating a more asymmetrical silhouette.
With nearly 200 designers showing their wares all over the city, for an entire week, it's virtually impossible to stand out, right?
Not if you're Thom Browne.
"I love to entertain," the designer said in what was, frankly, an understatement.
As the crowd entered the room in the stately New York Public Library, 10 male models stood against a wall in gray seersucker suits, their heads covered with huge silvery orbs — like Coneheads, but rounder at the top. At each end, a man played the xylophone.
Suddenly a flock of female ballet dancers arrived. They wore silvery pointe shoes (these were real ballerinas) and stiff hoop dresses, like the ones you'd imagine under Scarlett O'Hara's gowns. They took their places on small circular platforms and danced in place, en pointe.
Then came the models, in suits and coats and skirts, exaggerated in all sorts of ways, all in gray at first. The men gradually took the women and circled them on the round platforms. As they did, other models entered, this time bearing splashes of color — pinks, greens, oranges.
Browne, whose work was honored this summer at the White House, explained that he'd been inspired by a Bauhaus artist popular in the 1920s, Oskar Schlemmer, a German known for his choreography — "conceptual ballets," Browne called them — as well as his visual art. "This is my homage to him," he said.
When you're Carolina Herrera, there is no reason to stand in your stiletto heels way out on a limb. Herrera tweaked her signature chic look just enough to be in line with some of the emerging trends without straying too far from what her woman likes.
She moved everything a bit away from the body and she played a lot with hemlines. Herrera gave a name to the popular dress length just a tad below mid-calf that's graced many catwalks during these previews for editors, buyers and stylists: the "longuette" dress.
But to go with the vibe of relaxed glamour that also has been pervasive, she trimmed pantsuits into shorts suits, even for evening, turning out black wool cropped jacket with white piping paired with black wool flounce shorts, and a cream-colored distressed organza jacket with pleated shorts, both decorated with gold "lightening" embroidery.
Her usual ballgown evolved into more of a slip-style gown with floral embellishment.
Reem Acra is known for her grand, timeless ballgowns, perfect for the red carpet. But this year she was feeling more artsy and more contemporary, she says.
"It's downtown meets uptown," the Lebanese designer said backstage following her Spring 2013 preview at Lincoln Center. "It's a modern attitude."
The modern looks came early in the show, with a series of casual — for Acra, that is — garments, many with leather cutouts. A navy leather bomber jacket with cutouts, for example, was paired with an ivory stretch trouser. A tailored dress in brilliant green leather was certain to spice up a day at the office.
As the show went on, looks became silkier and more luxurious. Many of the gowns appeared to be showing serious skin, but actually had side panels of nearly sheer material. Acra said her own favorite may have been a relatively unembellished but very striking vermilion gown with the sides cut out. "It's powerful, feminine, and simple," she said.
Elie Tahari turned his preview into a cocktail party, and the dress code was Palm Springs chic.
The female models wore cheerful shifts and sheath dresses in tropical prints and electric shades of pink, orange and green, loose tunics with white jeans, and tasteful sweater tops with second-skin pencil skirts. The men had on Bermudas, linen blazers and woven shirts, and they didn't shy away from a complemetary palette of lime green and lapis blue.
Tahari said he aimed to update some classic, good-time 1950s shapes.
The dominant vibe was the relaxed luxury that has turned up on several runways this round of seasonal previews, but there were the one or two looks that were cut a little slimmer, and had a more plunging neckline or shorter hem than all the rest. That's what makes a party, right?
A different set of rules apply when you're out on the high seas, and that goes for fashion, too. Tommy Hilfiger embraced the sailing life and nautical themes for his spring women's collection, infusing a relaxed attitude into his favorite tailored shapes.
Menswear-inspired pantsuits were done in a playful rope print and swimsuits got waistbands — one even got a shirt-style collar. Time for evening cocktails? The choices are a flowing red trapeze dress with an open back and braided straps, a school-boy navy blazer and slim Bermuda shorts or an oversized varsity cardigan that goes right over a bikini.
"This is the American voyage. She's traveling the world and it's about sea and land. It's about nautical and safari," Hilfiger said Sunday in a backstage interview.
The designer said he could imagine Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lauren Hutton types in this wardrobe. They like luxury but nothing too fancy.
Phillip Lim got the memo on mixed prints, gauzy sheers and bib overalls, but he put his own "cut it up" touch on his 3.1 spring collection, evoking a tension between streetwear and polish.
He colored nubuck overalls and a biker jacket raspberry, pairing them with muscle shirts and T-tops.
Grunge trousers came in a black patchwork and a faded mint pattern combined with a spotted pony print in black, and florals in large and small prints.
"It's about taking what you have in front of you, cutting it up, not throwing anything away and mixing it up again," Lim said after the show.
Lim was influenced by the "altered views" of 1920s Dadaists through their inheritors, including the beat writer William S. Burroughs and David Bowie, Kurt Cobain and Radiohead. "But I don't want it to come off as you're homeless, so we disguised it and veiled it with sheerness, so there's an illusion to the sensuality."
CARMEN MARC VALVO
Carmen Marc Valvo left behind the minimalism and clean lines of fall in favor of flowing glamour in voluminous lace cocktail dresses and red carpet gowns.
Choosing an elegant, all-white venue on Sunday, the spring collection was Asian-inspired in origami folds of organza at the chest and waist, Kimono wrap constructions and yin-yang combinations of Chantilly lace and brocade.
Valvo was inspired by Samurai breast plates when he created panels of glass, square-cut sequins for chest pieces over lace.
"Last fall it was very minimal," Valvo said after the show. "I'm feeling a little more hopeful right now and I think the collection reflects that. I thought it should be a little more grand, more regal. I wanted volume. I didn't want to be afraid."
Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor blow into New York Fashion Week with the Western wind, and they like to stir it up.
Most famous for founding the Juicy Couture brand, the designers are now trying to solidify a following for their more upscale label Skaist Taylor, and they make no excuses for their love of 1970s rock 'n' roll glamour. They embrace it even if it's a look that isn't leading most of the trends this round of seasonal previews.
Sunday's show was staged on a Chelsea rooftop with "Witchy Woman" by the Eagles coming out of the speakers. It was the perfect soundtrack for models with frizzed-out hair, candy-colored feather jackets, loose eyelet looks and a metallic leather dress. A cute orange romper was right for the moment, and lingerie-inspired styles are second nature for the woman who likes to stay up late.
There was a lightness to this collection that seems to have evolved over the months since they debuted this brand in February.
Spring isn't all sweetness and light, says Wes Gordon. Spring needs some bite. It needs some edge.
That's why Gordon, a wunderkind of New York fashion at only 26, has plenty of black in his Spring 2013 collection, along with more springlike colors of ice blue, ivory and bright red.
Want edge? How about a black feathered tank, embroidered with tulle and encrusted with bits of Swarovski crystal? Or some gray metallic cigarette pants, skintight and also crystal-studded?
Gordon also likes a certain ghostlike quality and hence he peppers his collection with lots of transparent garments, as in a sheer black lace blouse, with long sleeves that travel down way past the fingers.
Gordon is also big on corsets — beautifully fitted corset jackets, for example, with laced-up backs evoking the period dress of centuries past. And he doesn't shy away from prints; his favorite bird seems to be a swan, emblazoned on an ink-colored dress or an orange silk blouse.
AP Writers Leanne Italie and Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.
For complete coverage of New York Fashion Week go to Thread NY.
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