NEW YORK – At New York Fashion Week on Monday, everything old felt new again.
Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera showed that old world style still has a place in fashion. Both made classic styles feel fresh.
And why fix what's not broken?
De la Renta reliably offered a lot of embellishment, color and a bit of pomp, while incorporating this season's trend of earthy prints and organic materials. Herrera went back to her roots, full of the rich colors and feminine touches of her native South America, with just enough spice to make it sexy.
Other collections shown Monday fit trends seen throughout New York Fashion Week -- an eight-day preview of the spring-summer looks of 100 or so designers. Luca Luca paid attention to the small dressmaking details that appear to be hallmarks for spring, while Jill Stuart gave up dark, heavy fashions in favor of light and flowy dresses.
Still to come Monday were collections from Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
The words "classic with a modern twist" might very well be the most overused phrase in fashion. But it also may be the only way to describe Oscar de la Renta's spring collection.
De la Renta put on a real show in a former church with The Polyphonic Spree, a funky choir, providing background music. Victoria Beckham and tennis star Roger Federer were in the front row. (When Federer took his seat next to Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the rest of the crowd gave him a round of applause for his latest U.S. Open championship.)
Each season, de la Renta turns out a mix of gowns, suits and chic little dresses for his uptown customer. This time, prints featured leaf designs and wood carvings, beads were crafted into flowers and the palette included many earthy neutrals. Even the grand finale dress, with a giant black feather tucked into the black waistband and a full ballskirt, had a certain restraint.
De la Renta dresses the black-tie set, and the offerings for them ranged from a red column gown to a fitted gold tulle gown with mirrored beads all over it.
Carolina Herrera showed a spring collection on Monday that went back to her South American roots.
One gown was quintessential Herrera: a shirtdress gown with tiers of ruffles on the skirt in a coral-based floral print -- equal parts romantic and serious. There's nothing girlie about Herrera or her clothes.
"Every dress had an important powerful detail," said Suze Yalof Schwartz, fashion editor at large for Glamour. "Finally there's a designer who designs clothes that look as expensive as they are."
Herrera adorned dresses with feathers, jet beads and sequins arranged in floral patterns.
"I would throw away every single item in my wardrobe for that one white shift dress with the feathers and black beading," Yalof Schwartz said.
Other outstanding dresses were a slipdress with a hand-painted floral design in rose that was covered by a black sheer overlay, and the daytime outfits of a red floral-print dress with blue grosgrain ribbon detail and a suede sheath dress with a white canvas collar decorated with a single white flower.
Jill Stuart has gone from Goth to froth.
Just a few seasons ago, Stuart was courting tough chicks with an all-black collection. On Monday, though, the clothes Stuart put on the runway at the New York Public Library were light, airy and often pretty.
A sheer white organza jumpsuit had a feminine flutter sleeve, and a ruffled halter-top minidress in ballet pink was youthful but not too young. They might be tempting to a starlet such as Tori Spelling, who sat in the front row.
White was the dominant color in the collection, but she used a fair amount of purple, ranging from light lilac to a deeper lavender, continuing with a color that has already proven popular at retail for fall.
Stuart also had some success mixing crisp and sturdy pique fabric with a floaty sheer fabric when she put together a jacket with a delicate blouse and sleek leggings, but when she tried to blend the textures on a single short little frock the result was much clunkier.
Most of Stuart's customers tend to be edgier and urban, so she can get away with more revealing styles than many other designers. However, conventional wisdom says catsuits -- like the black strapless one Stuart offered -- should remain on the catwalk.
What you saw isn't always what you got with Luca Luca's spring collection. Many of the looks designer Luca Orlandi previewed at New York Fashion Week on Monday had little hidden gems that you had to strain to see -- and that's how he wanted it.
Orlandi said in his notes left on the chairs of the stylists, retailers and editors at the Bryant Park tents that he was inspired by modern stained glass.
The last gown, with a deep U-shaped front, moved from a pink color on top to seafoam green on the bottom. Another surprise came on a seafoam-colored chiffon dress -- as the model walked, little blue beads that looked like tile were revealed under long, vertical pleats. The pleats on another cocktail dress turned into pockets somewhere around the hips.
And, as the end of Fashion Week nears, it looks like the jumpsuit will inevitably be part of what's offered for spring -- wearable or not. Orlandi's strapless version was at least pretty in an oyster-colored silk shantung fabric with a little sheen.
There were no rules of the runway for Nanette Lepore: Stripes were mixed with florals; bright orange and pink blended with gray and beige; and linen was paired with lace.
Lepore was inspired by Picasso for the collection presented Monday as part of New York Fashion Week.
She used a lot of all-over prints, especially on wispy below-the-knee dresses, including an adorable strapless collage-floral sarong and flounce dress. Shorter dresses that seemed like mini-kaftans were called "swimdresses."
Pants were short, too, with exaggerated wide legs but otherwise tailored and ready to go to work. She paired them with a series of one-shoulder tops or a jacket with a bow.
Lepore couldn't decide if one swirl-print number was pants or a dress, so she called it "pants-dress," but from the audience's perspective it looked like the increasingly ubiquitous jumpsuit.
Like many of her peers, Lepore outfits models in shoes that she also designs. She has a higher-end signature shoe label but she does kicks for Keds, too, and there was one shoe from that collection -- a canvas wedge with an ankle strap -- that might give espadrilles a run for their money next year.