NEW YORK – After a season of gray, expect spring fashions to pop in technicolor.
The runways at New York Fashion Week were awash with color Thursday, from candy-hued magentas and yellows to muted shades of blush pink, light tan and dusty blue. It's a far cry from the gray that dominated the fall lines.
Sunny yellow and candylike pink and blue created the palette for Miss Sixty (where the skinny jean lives on), while standouts at Bill Blass came in blush-colored silk-satin and gunmetal silk organza. At Cynthia Steffe, sherbet colors provided the pop, and at Nicole Miller late Wednesday, stained-glass prints and earthy colors dominated.
Michael Fink, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said it wasn't yet clear what the big color story will be: candy-colored brights, subdued cosmetics colors or black and white. The only mistake, he said, would be to wear any of them head to toe.
New York Fashion Week lasts eight days, previewing the spring-summer looks of 60 designers for fashion editors, retail buyers and stylists. Highlights this season will include Ralph Lauren celebrating his 40 years in fashion with a black-tie dinner Saturday night.
Badgley Mischka offered a grand mix of town and country.
The upscale label that has been a favorite source of eveningwear for celebrities and socialites has made an effort over the last two years to diversify its offerings, which meant a parade of Badgley Mischka gowns, day dresses, pants, shoes, sunglasses, swimwear, hats and handbags.
"There were glamorous gowns to weekend chic. It really was a modern way of thinking," said Michael Fink, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.
An orange-and-black print tunic with black wool pants -- wide legs were the standard here -- was topped with a brown shantung jacket that had just a bit of sheen. A dark denim jacket with half sleeves and a brown-and-black print camisole were worn with pants made of that same shantung fabric.
A coat covered in a yellow, black and white floral was graphic but not overpowering -- and it looked just right over a simple black gauze dress.
"Desperate Housewives"' Teri Hatcher, who stars in the current Badgley Mischka ad campaign, sat in the front row at the show. Perhaps she was shopping for a gown for the upcoming Emmy awards.
Choices included a pink-and-white stripe chiffon gown with dainty pink beading along the halter neck, a black-and-nude chiffon gown with asymmetrical pleat details that all came together around a crystal belt buckle or a breezy chiffon gown in a violet, white and black print with a delicately beaded waistband that had a panel of fabric trail behind it.
The collection presented by Cynthia Steffe designer Waleed Khairzada on Thursday at New York Fashion Week was called "Sonic." It could have been called sherbet.
The colors were what seemed to jump off the runway. There was a mix of fuschia, green, turquoise, poppy and citrine. "A palette of clear neon brights ... is grounded by mineral colors and earth tones," Khairzada explained in his notes to the press, retailers and stylists at the show.
One of the emerging trends from these spring previews is color-blocking: mixing a handful of colors on a single garment but not in a purposeful print. Instead, it's about having one color around the neck, another for the bodice and another for the hem. Examples from Cynthia Steffe include an asymmetrical knit dress with magenta, black and green, and the "barcode" dress with horizontal stripes in blue and red against a white backdrop.
This was yet another catwalk that was defined by its dresses, but Khairzada did offer a handful of "Montauk" shorts, presumably named for the Long Island, N.Y., vacation community that's considered one of the more casual parts of the Hamptons. The best way to describe the shorts is looser and more relaxed than their Bermuda cousins.
Charles Nolan ditched stick-thin waifs in favor of "civilian models" to present his whimsical spring line.
In an art gallery loft far from the Bryant Park tents, dancers from the American Ballet Theatre twirled down the runway in blocks of blue, pine green, brown and violet. The collection was heavy with pleats and lace; A-line tunics and wide-legged pants were balanced with twill shorts and jersey wrap sweaters.
Nolan, whose other models included a human rights lawyer, students and a "holistic practitioner," said his collection was inspired by children's travel book illustrations, "wonderfully sophisticated and yet so simple."
He showed a sense of humor with pieces like a "twister chemise," a white dress with vivid circles of color like the classic game, and a scarf dress that was sheer and blocky.
Men's pants were either slightly cropped with cuffs or slouchy and loose, like a pinstriped "paper bag" pant. A male dancer pirouetted in a dinner jacket paired with strawberry pink shorts.
Standouts for women were white cotton and indigo sack dresses and an impeccably tailored white faille dinner suit.
Don't declare the skinny jean dead. Although it has made very rare appearances so far during New York Fashion Week, it was a key item at the Miss Sixty show.
The tweak for spring, after a full year of high-waisted, narrow-leg silhouettes, is that the new jeans will have a lower rise and higher hem. Overall, that makes them smaller and sexier.
The first look -- super skinny jeans with chain and zip details paired with a cowl-neck, bare-back sleeveless top -- will be snapped up by the brand's young and cool customer, predicted Gloria Baume, market director for Teen Vogue.
What about the acid wash jeans that were paraded in front of an audience that included Hilary Swank, Demi Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Clive Owen?
"When I saw high-waisted pants last season I thought no one would wear them. This morning I've seen three girls in high-waisted pants. You never know," said Baume.
Miss Sixty creative director Wichy Hassan said the line was aiming for duality of the pop-art era of the 1960s and the glamour of the '70s, but it looked like there were more than a few influences from the '80s, too, especially a silver lame dress and the studded booties on the feet of some of the models.
If you're into trend spotting, don't study the Nicole Miller spring collection too closely.
The designer declared in the notes left for the retail buyers, stylists and editors late Wednesday that her look next season is about timelessness, not obvious trends.
"The silhouette moves closer to the body. It emphasizes the waist and stronger shoulders highlighted by beading and military details," Miller said.
Miller knows how to do a dress -- it's what front-row fans like Ivana Trump and Jane Krakowski come for -- and slim-cut sheaths in beige and black were among the best. In the same mood were a beige scarf-neck jacket and black wool wide-leg pants with a slim snakeskin belt, and a khaki-colored pencil skirt made of dry cotton burlap worn with a black silk blouse with miniature pompom embellishments. Believe it or not, these were seen at other fashion shows, too.
For the past few seasons, Miller has seemed particularly influenced by faraway lands with cultures rich in handicraft arts, such as Morocco and Central America. The themes weren't quite as specific for this collection, although there were some beautiful stained-glass prints and earthy colors, ranging from a mustard yellow to a dusty blue with many greens and browns in between.
The lunching ladies who consider Bill Blass a staple of their wardrobe don't have to fret over what they'll wear next spring. The line's creative director resigned midway through preparing the spring collection, but the dresses presented Thursday at New York Fashion Week were based on looks of the house's archives.
The design studio led by Prabal Gurung found their inspiration in "the pretty young things" who so often are called to cocktail parties and other dressy occasions.
While Bill Blass might be most famous for its tailored sportswear, the "unsung heroes" of the label have been the dresses and gowns rich in embroideries and other intricacies, the design team explained in notes provided at the presentation at the New York Public Library.
Standouts were a sweet blush-colored silk-satin dress with an embroidered rosette tulle underskirt and a lovely cocktail dress made of ivory and black tulle and decorated with black beads and lace.
The label has struggled to find the right creative viewpoint since Blass retired from the company in 1999 and died in 2002. The fresh-looking ivory chenille embroidered organza dress covered by a matching trenchcoat with just a peek of tulle peeking out at the bottom in the spring collection was a strong step forward, as was a gunmetal silk organza dress with crystal and metallic foil concentrated on the midriff.
A tulip dress with a lace underskirt that had a stiff hoop shape was not.
Moving forward, design direction will come from Peter Som, who was recently named creative director.