NEW YORK – To your left, look at the exotic species "hungry model." To your right, see the genus "overexposed celebrity."
The catwalk turned into an urban safari as New York Fashion Week drew to a close on Wednesday, full of khakis and tans and plenty of pockets.
The only wildlife spotted was of the Hollywood variety: Jennifer Lopez added a little extra star power on Tuesday, debuting her JustSweet collection in the footsteps of Gwen Stefani's and Nicky Hilton's earlier shows.
Neutrals were prevalent throughout the eight-day previews for stylists, retailers and editors, along with candy-colored gowns that displaced the standard little black dress.
Not even evening gowns were spared from organic materials and landscape-inspired palettes. Donna Karan made the most of khakis and tans, while Zac Posen listed "wheat" as one of his muses for a collection inspired by the American plains. Isabel Toledo's best natural-neutral outfit for the Anne Klein label was a chevron-striped dress in brown, black and cornflower blue.
One thing's for sure: If you're thinking of going on safari this spring, you can be very well dressed for it.
Zac Posen, with his handbag line, new fragrance deal and long list of sponsors for his show, certainly has an entrepreneurial spirit. It seems, though, he also admires the spirit of the pioneers.
His spring collection, presented Tuesday night to an audience that included Demi Moore, Lucy Liu, Serena Williams, Martha Stewart and Sean "Diddy" Combs, honored early American settlers and "their insistence on simplicity and craft."
In his notes, Posen explained that inspiration came from "'Days of Heaven' (a 1978 farmland film), the Shakers, wheat fields of the Great Plains and the romance of the wide open sky."
Believe it or not, "wheat" wasn't the craziest thing on the runway. Posen interpreted it both literally -- a minidress with a large bow and a gigantic crystal wheat brooch -- and figuratively. Those results were much more wearable: a series of daytime khaki-colored outfits, including a trim pantsuit with a jacket that had oversized pockets and a belt around the waist, paired with a white tie-neck shirt.
In Posen's world, pilgrims and pioneers also have occasions for fancier styles, such as a white cocktail dress with an oversized ruffled collar and pleated skirt -- the pleats horizontal across the middle and vertical down to the hem -- and a gown made of twisted ribbons that had tiers covering its full skirt and an exaggerated pouf on one shoulder.
There's a lot you can do to look sexy without showing a lot of skin. The dresses in Donna Karan's spring collection were sensual thanks to their body-hugging stretch fabrics in skin-tone colors.
In fact, the top of the dresses tended to be either shirt-style, high-neck halters or off-the-shoulder, while the bottoms were ready for dancing -- long and loose in jersey or viscose fabrics.
But, ironically, it was the almost nonexistent nude color that was so eye-catching.
She used the same palette for many of her daytime outfits, too, reinforcing the popularity of neutral colors, especially those in the brown family that mimic nature. Khakis and tans made sense for Karan's safari-inspired looks.
An indigo twill coat dress looked quite refined, even though it looked like denim, while a linen gauze dress in light yellow with an exaggerated fabric rose at the base of its V neck was a refreshing ray of sunshine.
Karan paid attention to detail, which paid off in the clothes. A ribbon-embroidered lace skirt demonstrated fine craftsmanship, and a light gray dress that skimmed the body had a delicate flower embroidery worth a second look.
You'd think over the last two decades, Tommy Hilfiger had done everything to a navy blue blazer that he could. It is, after all, the staple of his preppy style.
But he showed the New York Fashion Week crowd that he's got a few more tricks up his sleeve.
The first look of his spring collection was a double-breasted women's version in coarse cotton gabardine that was worn over silky pajamas in navy-and-white stripes. (The jury is still out on whether the PJs were sleepwear or '70s-style glam loungewear.)
The jacket, with brass buttons, was a slimmer, more chic version than he offered in the past. He also did a slim-cut, laced-jersey tunic and a double-breasted A-line coat with bracelet-length sleeves -- both in navy.
There were navy jackets for men, too -- the best of which were lined with a retro Palm Beach-map print. The same colorful print was used for a pair of ladies' silk-scarf shorts.
Hilfiger said he was inspired by the '60s and early '70s, and that he had Grace Kelly in mind when he updated the shift dress by accessorizing it with a scarf and two-tone heels.
He closed his show -- and essentially Fashion Week -- with two elegant white dresses: one with tuxedo ruffles down the front and one with a bow at the base of an open back.
Big colorful butterflies hanging from the ceiling. Pink, purple and green trees. A model dressed as a fairy, on a swing.
Jennifer Lopez said her new young contemporary line was "fantasy -- classic inspiration but with a new, kind of funky spin," so she turned the setting of her JustSweet show Tuesday night into a fairy tale.
Models pranced down a silver sparkling runway wearing colors called pixie dust, magic mint and pirate pink. The clothes were sparkling, too, ranging from a sweater dress with thick, sparkling, colorful, diagonal stripes to denim boy shorts with a sparkling brown hoodie.
Lopez, 37, said she developed JustSweet to fill the void between J.Lo, her denim and T-shirt urban wear line, and Sweetface, a high-fashion, higher-priced line. She wanted to do something in the middle. All the pieces range from $49 to $99. She said she designed the line for the young at heart.
The actress-singer, who performed at Fashion Rocks on Thursday, said she's not worried about whether she is taken seriously as a designer.
"I'm not looking for the credibility," she said. "I'm looking to make clothes that every woman can wear."
Isabel Toledo used her artistic eye in crafting a spring collection for Anne Klein that she described as "industrial glamour."
She explained in her notes that some of the most special pieces were rooted in an "art attack": Her husband, Ruben, a well-known illustrator, accidentally smeared one of her dresses with paint. She loved the results and, thus, a series of hand-painted, slightly askew floral prints were born.
It's that quirkiness that Toledo is slowly introducing to Anne Klein, a venerable American brand that has wandered in its identity over the past few years, going through different designers with different ideas about what this sportswear label should be. Spring '08 was Toledo's second full collection, and she didn't feel the need to play it safe.
The show opened with a coat dress decorated with what looked like rectangular tiles in every shade in the rainbow, certainly feeding the broader seasonal trend of bright colors. Another lively printed dress featured an Asian floral design, and the fabric was crinkled into what Toledo called a "broomstick" look.
The collection did, however, feel a little out of step when it came to some black "tar lace" outfits. They seemed too dark and heavy to fit into a spring wardrobe that, if New York designers have anything to say about it, will be light, breezy and feminine.