De la Renta is known to be as much of a perfectionist in his garden as he is at his sketch pad. His collection, which he previewed Monday, included a black ball gown covered with white flowers that looked as if each petal were a unique design.
Another stunning look was a champagne-colored tulle embroidered gown with slightly misshapen paillettes that picked up the light. A feather jacket over a dainty taupe chiffon scarf-neck gown also was a new twist.
Daytime styles included a delicate ivory chiffon blouse with ruffles at the bust, a confetti tweed suit and a brown knit top with a red linen skirt with brown and orange beads around the hips.
A dress made of horizontal rows of navy and white grosgrain ribbon alternating with rows of sheer tulle is for the more daring woman, perhaps a sexy star such as Eva Longoria (search), who sat in the front row of de la Renta's runway show.
Carolina Herrera (search) previewed a collection that was as crisp as the radishes — yes, radishes — featured in many of her embroideries and prints.
Herrera said she used prints, which also included polka dots and oversized dark flowers, to create visual excitement. She got the same result from her palette of coffee brown, flamingo pink, thyme green and sky blue, which is emerging as a hot color for next season.
Other spring trends embraced by Herrera during her runway show on Monday were higher waists and thick belts, especially on long dresses — best illustrated by a graphic black-and-white print chiffon gown with a pink floral raffia belt.
Many of the looks were wearable, a welcome buzzword on the runways this season.
A woman of any age could wear the white cotton shirt and black-and-white floral flat-front pants that sit at the natural waistline, and the same is true of a beige-and-blue wool shift with an appliqué of hand- painted flowers under the bust.
"It's a strong departure for her," said Hal Rubenstein, fashion director of InStyle magazine. "She's always done pretty, but there is a strong element of craft and craftsmanship."
Herrera said her inspiration was the youthful spirit of Vienna, Austria, just before the 1920s. "Pure cotton, printed chiffon and raffia make this collection both contemporary and fresh," she said in her notes.
Cynthia Steffe (search) used modernist art as her references.
The most inventive look in her collection, also presented Monday, was a dress of multiple sheer black layers over a white lining that created a grid at the hemline.
Other noteworthy styles were a white crochet cardigan with tulle around the neck and big white buttons down both sides of the front, a red seersucker baby-doll jacket, and a sleek black lacquered trench coat over a jade green crochet-and-eyelet shift.
Diane von Furstenberg (search)'s spring collection of skirt suits, Bermuda shorts and, of course, wrap dresses is sophisticated yet has the designer's signature touches of flamboyance.
At her runway show Sunday night, von Furstenberg dubbed this new look "La Dolce Diva," which she said takes inspiration from 1960s-era Rome.
An elegant off-white jersey jumpsuit with plunging Vs in both the front and back and full palazzo-style legs was sexy in its simplicity, and a polka-dot chiffon scarf-neck halter dress was delicate while still making a bold statement.
Von Furstenberg's signature wrap dresses, including a standout version in navy cotton eyelet, had fuller skirts and were paired with cork platform shoes by Christian Louboutin.
The designer didn't get a chance to take her customary bow. A bank of lights fell onto the runway and into the audience during the finale, injuring a handful of editors who were in the front row. No one appeared to be seriously hurt.