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Kenneth Cole Blue Over Fashion Week

Kenneth Cole (search) opened New York Fashion Week with a soft and sophisticated collection anchored in nautical navy blue.

For spring 2006, Cole kicked things up a notch, adding more detail and finer tailoring as he aims to elevate the line to true designer status.

"It was very Armani-like," said Tom Julian, a trend analyst for ad agency Fallon Worldwide (search). "The spectator-style accessories, modernized with leather and fabric, could become a true signature."

Cole's jersey dresses featured shirring on the bust and self-ties at the waist. The waist on the designer's women's pants was much higher than shown on runways in recent years.

If it's possible to do "double-breasted" on pants, Cole did it: A cotton canvas cropped trouser with two vertical rows of buttons below the waist was paired with a pleated jersey top and an eggshell leather belted coat for an outstanding look.

Another standout women's look was a cloud blue silk ruffled wrap dress, a nice update to a silhouette that's become a basic in many wardrobes.

"The ruffled wrap was pretty and dainty, so it was feminine but it also was tailored and would be right for work, too," Julian said.

For men, Cole offered a rich suede shirt with rolled-tab sleeves paired with cotton shorts and crocodile flip-flops.

Dressed-up looks — mostly two-button jackets in linen or cotton knit — were dressed down with looser pants or trouser shorts. A navy nylon suit was too shimmery and slim for the Average Joe to pull off but it looked great on the runway on the trim, tanned model.

Julian said Cole had raised the bar by using softer fabrics, subtle sheen and silhouettes that truly complement the body.

Cole's show Friday at the tents in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan opened Fashion Week, which runs through Sept. 16. Other designers who will present their spring 2006 collections include Oscar de la Renta, Betsey Johnson, Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan.

Young designer Esteban Cortazar picked up on many of the same themes as Cole, but instead of the ivory chain-link necklaces that accented many of Cole's outfits, Cortazar favored braids.

A thin fabric braid delicately outlined the bust and waist of a white silk jersey top that was paired with a silk linen knee-length skirt. A floor-length white gown worthy of a Greek goddess also featured braiding.

Cortazar also used cutouts to show sexy swaths of skin without ever going too bare.

Gottex's new swimwear collection used the same sort of cutouts but the results were quite different. Think Brazilian bombshells: One bathing suit called the "bandage wrap" looked like there was barely enough fabric to cover the body.

Another black one-piece suit with a beaded spider-web back was stunning on a statuesque model, and an all-gold bikini top on a James Bond "Goldfinger" girl was the show's finale.