Elegant meets casual at Fashion Week

February 8, 2008 6:28:53 PM PST
Day met night on the runway Friday as New York Fashion Week drew to a close. There were evening touches on daywear, such as a metallic sheen on a tweed suit or a turtleneck worn under a strapless dress, and daytime accents for evening, like a chunky knit cardigan or hunting jacket over a silk dress.

At Ralph Lauren, a fisherman vest with all-over pockets was worn over slim cashmere-herringbone skirt suit, and a flannel plaid shirt was paired with a three-tiered embroidered black skirt.

With Fashion Week winding down, the fashion flock will soon turn to London, Paris and Milan, Italy, to confirm next season's trends that first made their debut in New York.

RALPH LAUREN Even with countryside touches, Ralph Lauren presented a fall collection that is still very much for the chic city woman.

There probably aren't many reasons to pack a sexy cowl-neck gown in bright orange velvet for a weekend at the hunting lodge, but there was a high-neck cocktail dress in green plaid that would be a good candidate for holiday parties whether you're here or there.

Lauren also was having a buffalo-check moment, using the bold square pattern in combinations of red and black, green and black and purple and black for all sorts of silhouettes, ranging from short jackets with exaggerated necklines to evening gowns.

The overall look Lauren offered was never costumey, with the exception of some hats that had long - really long - feathers poking out of them, and, even then, the right Ralph Lauren woman could pull them off.

ZAC POSEN Spider-web, lattice and Little Miss Muffett dresses are the kinds of dramatic clothes that designer Zac Posen thrives on - and they were the highlight at Posen's preview of his fall collection Thursday night.

For the ordinary woman - one with a slim figure and a fat wallet - there were schoolgirl (and schoolboy) suits, some beaded tuxedo-inspired looks and a lovely loop embroidery coat in navy duchess satin. But it's the wild stuff that captured the attention of the crowd.

Sitting in one of his strapless "fairy-tale gowns," which likely had a hoop underneath, would be a challenge unable to be met by most mortals, as would wearing a truly nude (as in see-through) chiffon dress with a feathered cape.

The way the fashion business works nowadays is that a designer's success is not rooted solely in his clothes, and, in fact, beauty and accessories licenses might end up paying for the high-end collection that has room for creative experimentation. It's nice that a young designer like Posen has the backing to really stretch his wings.

TOMMY HILFIGER Tommy Hilfiger had Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Helena Christensen in the front row of his fall-collection fashion show Thursday night, but one wonders if he extended an invitation to Faye Dunaway or Ali McGraw?

Hilfiger said in his notes that the line was done with a sexy Dunaway or fresh-faced McGraw from late 1960s and early '70s in his mind.

The clothes certainly had references to that era but they weren't the hippie styles that stylists and editors have gotten used to seeing during New York Fashion Week. Hilfiger's clothes were more for the working woman.

There were jersey tops with wool trousers that were professional with just enough sex appeal, and it was the same story with a red jersey side-button sheath. Hilfiger's collection will be sold exclusively in Macy's stores.

Suze Yalof Schwartz, fashion editor at large for Glamour magazine, said she liked a navy tuxedo blouse with ruffles and a high neck on the front and an open V-neck on the back. "You could wear it to work and vamp it up at night," she said. "Just take off your blazer."

CYNTHIA ROWLEY If you want a sense of Cynthia Rowley's attitude, witness her descriptions of her fall '08 collection: Laissez-faire. One-line story. Free-range.

And while she didn't send the models down the runway on bicycles as she did for spring, Rowley, known to add a little kitsch, presented a loose and flowing collection with a nod toward Victorian times and Impressionist art.

"My inspiration is the art of silhouette making and charm of delicate pop-up books that were most popular during Victorian times," she said. "It's a little bit romantic, a little bit story book."

The collection had a more relaxed silhouette. There was a long navy blue jumpsuit dress with side pockets and a shorter one in plum with a fur collar. One dress had tulle on the top (exposing the model's assets) and satin on the bottom, with a big collar.

Some of the dresses had descriptions like "sleeping shirt" and "pin tucked in for bed nightshirt."

PROJECT RUNWAY For Victoria Beckham, there was a clear winner at the "Project Runway" show. But she wasn't telling who.

Beckham is a guest judge for the two-part finale, which airs Feb. 27 and March 5.

"That one person really made me smile," Beckham said.

"Everything I saw, I would wear myself."

Five remaining contestants presented collections Friday to a celebrity-studded audience at the Bryant Park tents. Only three collections will be televised on Bravo, but producers want to avoid giving a hint of who the finalists are.

Christian Siriano, the contestant fans love to hate, was a tent favorite with an avant-garde collection playing with feathers, oversized ruffles and curvy blazers with wide shoulders and flared hips.

Rami Kashou focused on beautiful dresses, using softly layered draping, ruffles and a checkerboard weave. Jillian Lewis showed standout coats - one with a wide collar in metallic herringbone, and another with cut-outs in the elbows and a ruffled hem showing a peek of red.

Chris March went for high drama with velvet, beading and brocade. And Kathleen "Sweet P" Vaughn had a very wearable collection, playing with trends seen elsewhere this Fashion Week of mustard yellow, purple and exposed zippers.

"It's going to be very, very hard for us to judge them today," said host Heidi Klum.