NEW YORK – It used to be that fur was an almost unattainable luxury, reserved for the wealthiest women, who would then cherish their mink coats for many, many years.
But on the runways of New York Fashion Week, fur has turned into a must-have item for fall, even if it's just a subtle trim on a collar or cuff, or, as seen at Marc Bouwer, really good-looking fake fur.
Michael Kors, at his Wednesday runway show, went so far as to make a mink minidress.
"If the past two falls have been about jewel-encrusted clothing, this fall will be all about fur-enhanced clothing," said trend analyst Tom Julian of ad agency McCann-Erickson. "From outerwear to knitwear, from red-carpet gowns to skirts, fur is becoming the trim that women will have to have as part of their wardrobe -- real or faux."
Fashion previews for next season continue through Friday.
Anna Sui: There's always a familiarity to Anna Sui's designs; you know they'll be bouncy and playful. In this case, reliability is a good thing.
Fashion is so often about the newest, hottest thing, but being able to count on Sui to produce clothes that are both fun and fashionable is actually refreshing.
Her latest take on hippie chic -- 30 years later -- included loose minidresses in kitschy prints, such as one that looked like a newspaper and another one covered in safety pins; a few even had tassels at the hem. Only Sui could get away with that.
She did use the popular palette for fall -- brown, black, gray, purple and metallics.
She opened with a cool pewter parka with bubblelike smocking, and the next few models wore ski-themed outfits, even black ski pants with stirrups. (Sui's pal Marc Jacobs also had stirrups on some of his pants this week, but his were subtle. These were not.)
Models also wore black fur hats that appeared to mimic the hairstyle of rocker Joan Jett, who sat in the front row.
Vivienne Tam: Vivienne Tam paid homage to legendary designer Paul Poiret -- one of the first Europeans to take an interest in Asian fashion -- in her fall collection.
She mixed his passion for detail and his affinity for chemise and column dresses with her signature use of ribbon embroideries and cutouts.
"If you could be inspired by a trip to India, you could be inspired by another designer," observed Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. "It makes more sense, actually."
The opening series of straight-shape dresses featured deliberate slashes in the fabric that created an interesting scroll-like design.
This was, in fact, a show of almost all dresses. A black jersey dress with different shades of purple macrame was very striking, and a plum sheath dress with a navy crochet overlay in a lattice pattern was stunning.
Tam also took a stab at the skull motif that has become so popular: She used skeleton heads instead of dragons in a traditional Chinese print.
Michael Kors: Michael Kors makes clothes that people want to wear. On another bitterly cold winter day, models wrapped themselves in a wraparound cardigan made of caramel-colored cashmere and a super-soft turtleneck sweaterdress topped with a broadtail jacket.
He embraced the yin and yang of fashion, pairing an olive-green plaid coat with sable fur collar and cuffs with cashmere sweatpants, and an elegant champagne-colored tunic with a cozy cashmere pullover.
"Delicious dichotomy," is how the designer described it in a statement.
"This was for a glamorous urban warrior," stylist Mary Alice Stephenson said after the show. "It was stunningly beautiful, one of his best. It was sexy, chic, wearable, glamorous, elegant and edgy."
A lot of that edge came from his accent colors -- a bright orange, new to the runway this season, and electric blue. A fox coat dyed that blue certainly was a statement piece.
And when Kors did metallic, certainly a trend for fall, he did it full force, including a gold fringe dance dress and gold cheetah-pattern brocade dress.
Kors, one of the judges on TV's "Project Runway," offered few red-carpet looks, focusing more on daytime outfits, but there was a champagne-colored chiffon jersey gown with a twisted halter top that was outstanding.
Proenza Schouler: Designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough touched on many of the season's trends -- fur, chunky knits, patchwork, metallics, slim shapes and corsets -- but they put their own edgy spin on them.
Fur coats had casual knit sleeves as did a great olive-colored felt jacket that was worn with black trousers with full legs. A felt varsity jacket, complete with an insignia, had croc-skin sleeves. Many of the coats, however, had short sleeves, which lends itself to the layered look that Proenza Schouler's young hipster fans love to wear.
There were two options for cocktail dresses, either Art Deco-inspired ones with beading or a a strapless corset style with a pleated sash that curved down the bodice. One of the best dresses, though, was a more casual one -- it was a bottle green knit dress with cable stitching on the top half and ribbing on the bottom.
Peter Som: Some of the favorite adjectives being tossed around the Bryant Park tents are "structured," "architectural" and "slim," while there have been very few references to "feminine" and "delicate" -- yet those are the words to describe many of Peter Som's ladylike looks.
The show opened with a high-neck ruffled top and pencil skirt in complementary flower-petal prints, and ended with a white chiffon swirl tank gown. Some of the best outfits in between were a bottle-green chiffon twist dress that skimmed the model's body and a blush-colored dinner dress with strategic layers of sheer organza.
More in line with the trends was a lovely black sweater dress that was a patchwork of different textures.
Ports 1961: "Industrial" is a hard word in fashion. Is it a uniform? Is it metallic? Is it spare or edgy?
Ports 1961 designer Tia Cibani interpreted it as all of the above in a collection she described as rooted in Icelandic architecture and postwar industrial design.
The colors were smoky, even the metallics, and the lines alternated between straight and severe, and quilted and rounded.
Cibani called those rounded details "wadding," which worked best around the collar of a luxurious black coat. She also put necklaces made of tiny pillows, bunched together like charms, around the necks of the models. The key to this wadding is to wear it above the bustline.
Another innovative look was a sheath dress that seemed entwined with a cardigan jacket that tied at the waist.