NEW YORK – Diane von Furstenberg (search) wanted to take New York Fashion Week (search) by storm. The Russian Revolution was the inspiration for her fall collection, called Winter Place, and the designer sent a mix of folkloric embroideries and military details down the runway at her show Sunday night, with Ellen Barkin and Carmen Electra sitting in the audience.
A wool jersey peacoat was paired with a gypsy-style chiffon petticoat as von Furstenberg straddled masculine tailoring with femininity and romance.
"The great heroines of Russian literature inspired this collection; women known for both their fragility and strength," she explained in her notes.
The predominant prints were a graphic circle jacquard and chevron stripes, and red was the contrast color to a mostly neutral palette of winter white, black and olive, though von Furstenberg also embraced an emerging trend: metallic fabrics. A gold pantsuit, worn with a cowl-neck sweater, was a fresh evening look.
Von Furstenberg also offered several new versions of her signature wrap dress. Among the best: a black wool jersey version with satin trim and an open triangle back and one in black sequins.
"Diane had all the right looks," said Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director for Neiman Marcus. "She's moved the collection along and updated it."
For Kaner, the high-waist dresses, a black wool jersey coat with red piping and epaulets, and the gold pantsuit were the standouts.
Reality TV star Paris Hilton and her sister, Nicky, sat in the front row at the Luca Luca show at the Bryant Park tents, where most of the fall previews for buyers and fashion media will take place this week. Other celebrities included Electra, Carol Alt, actress Rebecca Romijn and her boyfriend, Jerry O'Connell.
Designer Luca Orlandi used a beautiful, luxe-looking gold silk brocade for a pleated skirt. A purple embroidered silk velvet tank was the perfect complement.
However, other skirts had a balloon shape, which might prove difficult for many women to wear.
Orlandi also showed an olive silk brocade coat with a portrait collar that was stunning.
Other trends taking shape include soft silhouettes and patchwork prints, and it seems certain that the ubiquitous poncho will be replaced by either a slouchy cardigan or a short, boxy jacket. Tracy Reese used brocade and printed fabrics for her portrait-collar jackets — and they were particularly well done.
"The look so far is a bit vintage, mixed in a modern way," Kaner said.
Reese's collection had a definite art deco edge, with beaded fringe hanging from the front of a camisole paired with a sweater and slim skirt. A gold collar coat with a blouson top and orchid gold film embroidered skirt also evoked the 1930s, as did the gold metallic peep toe shoes with ankle straps.
"I always love Tracy Reese," said Susan Kaufman, style director for People magazine. "She's consistent. She does clothes that are pretty, feminine, and they're always special yet wearable."
Both Esteban Cortazar and Catherine Malandrino (search) relied heavily on patchwork prints: Imagine comfortable quilts draped into tiered skirts and blouson tops.
Cortazar used the print for 1970s-inspired chiffon dresses. Many of the designs had high waists and bell sleeves.
Meanwhile, Malandrino was inspired by the image of a young writer who shared stories over a glass of absinthe with chic artists and poets. The writer's wardrobe, as envisioned by the designer, mixes "equestrian styles with handcrafted cameos, bequeathed pearls and rich jacquards."