The celebrities who once lined the front rows of these seasonal previews in party dresses have increasingly made their way backstage into positions of power.
Celebrity names are commonplace on mass-market brands: The Kardashian sisters, Venus Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Daisy Fuentes, Heidi Klum and reality stars Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad each have department-store brands.
But a handful have also become serious fashion forces. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are among the most imitated — or sincerely flattered — U.S. designers for their brand The Row, and this year were named top womenswear designers by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Victoria Beckham's previews are among the week's most hotly anticipated, and paparazzi-free.
Gwen Stefani, Nicole Richie and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe have also pulled away from the pack.
"The lines that are successful are very authentic," said Susan Kaufman, editor in chief of People StyleWatch. "The key is the celebrity being involved, being involved in the look and the concept, and to be proud to wear the clothes."
On that measure, Holmes seems ready to join the club. Showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week seems a major commitment to the brand and Holmes' future in fashion. "It was very clean but with a cool factor," Kaufman said. "I can easily see her (Holmes) wearing it."
Michael Kors' sunny disposition found a home in Southern California for the upcoming spring fashion season. He turned out an optimistic, cheerful and modernist collection that he said was inspired by the architecture, attitude and mostly the weather he enjoys every time he makes a trip to the West Coast.
"You could be sitting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, by the pool, and you could find this entire palette whether it's the palm green, the turquoise of the pool, the yellow of the sky — of the sun," he said in a backstage interview. "And I love all the architecture that we see whenever I go out to California. ... You're seeing a lot of that kind of geometry play into the collection here."
Stripes were strong, and he opened the show with a female model in a red-and-navy striped bodysuit with a zip-front navy skirt with a crisp white belt, while her male runway companion had on a green-and-navy striped pullover and striped pants. On later outfits Kors played with the proportion of the stripes, mixing thick and thin, and even horizontal and vertical.
Kors said he purposely included bright colours and fun details on clothes that, while technically for spring, get shipped in February.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Latex and leather: That's what keeps Oscar de la Renta modern while maintaining his position as the godfather of uptown style.
On his runway Tuesday evening, de la Renta equally paid homage to the decorative and frothy styles that have been his hallmark for more than four decades as well as the new technologies that keep fashion ahead of the pop culture curve.
One of the most remarkable looks was a two-piece dress made of ivory silk faille and with a feminine peplum around the hips that also featured a top layer of a latex flower appliques that could have been the icing on the most delicious cake.
Leather has been a staple of this round of previews for editors, stylists and retailers, but de la Renta took the risk with latex, which actually seemed even lighter and more supple than the buttery leathers the crowd has seen.
De la Renta's outfits certainly courted the crowd of socialites, celebrities and power brokers that typically favour his label. Not many others can justify a super special-occasion, shocking-pink embroidered gown that boasted turquoise tassel embroidery, resin flowers, pave crystals and jeweled neckline.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA CHILDRENSWEAR
Like a proud grandfather, de la Renta beamed Wednesday as bite-size models showed off his first full children's collection for spring, a garden party of floral and lace party dresses for girls and classic layered looks for boys.
One lucky little model hitched a ride in a wagon painted in a blue petal design to complement her red dress in the same print. Two boys toted skateboards for their strut down the runway and two others glided on scooters.
Some had their end-of-runway pause before the cameras down like the bigger pros — and all wore huge smiles.
De la Renta launched a small collection of kidswear for spring of this year. Generally, de la Renta children's party dresses last season didn't exceed $350 — far from the priciest of the high-end designers entering the lucrative toddler-with-bucks market.
Betsey Johnson threw herself a big, crazy 70th birthday party with pal Cyndi Lauper belting "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and confetti-slinging models prancing decade-by-decade down a runway in her wild clothes, including one clutching a not-happy-looking baby pig.
Johnson's grown daughter Lulu popped out of a huge faux birthday cake on stage and watched with her two young kids as grandma performed her signature cartwheel and splits.
If anybody deserves a night out, it's the flamboyant Johnson, a breast cancer survivor who lost control of her signature boutiques earlier this year. All 63 of them in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. held going-out-of-business sales after Betsey Johnson LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.
The brand will continue on a wholesale basis and online, with moderately priced clothing sold in department stores, along with accessories and other licenses.
So why not celebrate? Huge video displays offered glimpses of her rock roots in the swinging '60s, as models held up glitter-lettered signs marking the decades, culminating in new clothes for spring with a princess theme, twirling and shimmying before a bra-clad parade in skimpy sparkle bottoms spelled out "cheers" in letters on their backsides.
Johnson's actual birthday is Aug. 10, 1942, but who's counting.
HOLMES & YANG
Holmes might have just tipped off the paparazzi on how to find her: They should look for a woman a camel-colored suede capelet with red shorts, or, if it's later in the day, maybe a strapless jumpsuit with beaded fringe running down the side.
Holmes and her design partner and longtime stylist, Jeanne Yang, attended the preview wearing black leather blazers and black stretch pants.
There wasn't a runway, just 14 models on pedestals. One wore a black leather lingerie-style camisole with an olive silk button-front maxi skirt, and another had on a black lace slouchy blazer with black lace short — an outfit right on trend with what tastemakers have been seeing this round of previews.
Many of the outfits hit on the menswear silhouettes and luxury fabrics Holmes favours.
It's not uncommon for little gifts to be given out at Fashion Week shows, but the one that awaited guests at Nanette Lepore was not the usual fragrance or hair-care item: It was a big blue Obama-Biden button.
Backstage, Lepore said she'd been upset that nobody seemed to be talking about the election. "So I decided, even if you don't support who I'm supporting, at least pay attention to it!"
On a less political note, Lepore delivered a colorful and snappy Spring 2013 collection, dominated by a brilliant shade of green she calls clover. "Greens were just feeling so fresh to me this season," she said.
The clover shade appeared in everything from jackets to tops to trousers to dresses to swimsuits, in solids and in prints. It was often accompanied by black and white, either in stripes or in checks.
Bibhu Mohapatra was working on costumes for an opera in upstate New York not long ago when he saw an insect that fascinated him: a luna moth.
That graceful insect, he said backstage on Wednesday, inspired his Spring 2013 collection, in which he embellished both daywear and evening gowns alike with intricate cutouts, filigree-inspired prints, appliques and embroidery.
For daytime, a sleeveless white top had "drapes," an almost winglike effect. It was paired with a steel-colored pencil skirt. An onyx leather dress was enhanced by intricate laser cutouts. A sea green and sand-colored suede dress with silk inserts was one of the most wearable daytime looks.
Some of the embellished gowns seemed a bit too busy. But a chartreuse and sand organza gown with a hand-pleated skirt made a wonderfully striking impression: the effect was that of a swirling breeze enveloping the model as she glided down the runway.
From the triangular cleavage cutouts to the plunging V-necklines, designer Narciso Rodriguez made his point with pointed shapes.
"It's a very graphic collection. It's kind of a signature at this point after so many years: the splicing, the colour, especially black and white," said Rodriguez before his show, which was held Tuesday off-site from the Lincoln Center tents.
But while the designer known for modern and architectural silhouettes showed a handful of black and white looks, colour dominated the minimalist collection with blood-orange sheath dresses, a loose-fitting fuchsia blazer and silky tops with intricate, emerald embroidery.
The easy-breezy collection ended with a stream of silky soft, paper thin, slip dresses colorblocked with geometric shades of pink.
Before the show Rodriguez explained how the mood backstage matched the vibe coming down the runway: "Some seasons are more stressful than others. This one is a very happy, mellow, nice feeling."
British restraint? Not here.
The Jenny Packham catwalk was a parade of one glitzy, glamorous look after another, and she wasn't one to shy away from a single — or thousands of — beads, sequins and sparkles.
Packham wouldn't be doing justice to 1960s Las Vegas without them, right?
London-based Packham said in her notes that she took a long look at Lauren Bacall, Shirley MacLaine and Angie Dickinson, aka "The Rat Pack Mascots," as inspiration. If these muses were to swing open the closet doors in spring 2013, they would find Packham's checkerboard-beaded gown, a swinging trapeze-beaded mini and the ultimate hostess dress, an orange T-shirt gown with embellished long-sleeve cuffs.
There was a bit of repetitiveness in the collection, but that's the life that this woman lives: party after party.
MARC BY MARC JACOBS
Marc Jacobs threw a hipster picnic Tuesday with a mashup of neon checks, plaids and stripes — large, small, wide, narrow — loaded into outfits as many as five at a time for his more moderately priced Marc by Marc Jacobs line.
Other looks for men and women were less busy. There was an edgy chic to a roomy ladies' button coat in off-white with embroidered silver dots, and another in solid bright pink with large pockets, vents and heather grey sleeves with matching pink trim at the cuffs.
Another button coat was more fitted, in a fuchsia pattern of smaller dots against dark blue.
But the line's spring show shouted bold, fun prints in bright orange, pink, purple and red.
J. Crew is sending its customer packing. The retailer presented a collection of upcoming styles on Tuesday that picked up influences from vacation spots around the world.
It was only natural to tap into the retailer's growing international presence, explained Tom Mora, women's vice-president of design, in a pre-show interview. "I always have her (the J. Crew customer) in my head, and she travels with me. I'm mostly taking her to warm places."
One print on a pajama-top dress featured the image of a hotel and its pool — probably Miami in the 1950s. And there was pink, lots of it.
AP Writers Leanne Italie and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.
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