Celebrity Models Wear Red for Charity as New York Fashion Week Opens

New York Fashion Week opened Friday amid an international debate about too-thin models, yet the first major runway show of the event featured women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors.

And the crowd loved it.

The Heart Truth show, part of the Red Dress project, a federal initiative spearheaded by first lady Laura Bush, is an annual event at the Bryant Park tents to raise awareness about heart disease. Famous designers pair with famous faces, who then wear red dresses on the catwalk.

It's not a fashion show by traditional standards, but the standing ovation that tennis great Billie Jean King received might be a sign that fashion industry insiders are more willing to accept women who exceed the size 0s that have become the standard.

The Heart Truth show, which was attended by Bush, accompanied by designers Michael Vollbracht of Bill Blass and Carolina Herrera, followed the official kickoff to Fashion Week: John Bartlett's menswear show.

Fashion Week continues through Feb. 9, with designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang slated to preview their fall styles.

Red Dress Collection: Most audience members had their eyes on the celebrity models -- including Kelly Ripa, Lauren Hutton and Angela Bassett -- but there was some real fashion on the runway, too.

One-shoulder goddess gowns were worn by Kim Cattrall for Carolina Herrera and Rachael Ray for Donna Karan, while Marlee Matlin wore a sweetheart-neck strapless gown by Douglas Hannant. Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera's Gustavo Cadile dress paid homage to Rivera's Puerto Rican roots with a fiery red color, tiered dance skirt and ruffled bolero jacket.

Paula Zahn's V-neck draped gown by Bill Blass flowed beautifully behind her and Lauren Hutton was the perfect model for Narciso Rodriguez's architectural gown with sheer short sleeves.

Kelly Ripa wore her Diane von Furstenberg beaded wrap dress well; race-car driver Danica Patrick looked like a modeling pro in her loose short-sleeve gown by Jovovich-Hawk that featured a heart embroidery at the center of its empire waist.

But the audience favorite did indeed seem to be tennis star King, whose outfit was designed by Gustavo Cadile. She shunned the high heels that most of the other celebrities wore in favor of Adidas sneakers -- accented with red, of course.

John Bartlett: This collection was a parade of camel- and oatmeal-colored clothes that would look right on an urban hipster or suburban dad. Menswear generally takes fewer risks than womenswear does, but it's also harder to incorporate real style or flair.

Bartlett did it here.

The pant legs were narrow, jackets fitted and sweaters full of texture, especially cable details. Color-blocking added energy to ski-style turtlenecks and subtle patchworking, accomplished by mixing tonal fabrics, was enough to make suits stand out without seeming gimmicky.