NEW YORK, N.Y. - Every so often at Fashion Week, there is a moment when the runway is transported from the bustle of New York to a different time or place.
Who needs a plane ticket to join the jet set? Might as well let your clothes do the globe-trotting.
At Vera Wang on Tuesday, it was an idealized India. Tory Burch's muse was a preppy American who goes out to see the world. J. Crew had in mind a beach vacation. Rodarte? Medieval role playing.
"If you see a great dress, you can build a lot around it," said Ty Hunter, Beyonce's stylist, who said the right look might even inspire a real-life trip to shoot a music video.
Editors, stylists, retailers and celebrities will continue gathering at Merdedes-Benz Fashion Week through Thursday before heading to London, Milan and Paris.
Vera Wang's India-inspired clothes were quiet, delicate and lovely, sometimes requiring a trained eye to notice Wang's nod to the Nehru collar or choli jacket. They invoked India without ornate trappings or touristy gimmicks.
Wang's A-list crowd (Stacy Keibler caused a front-row frenzy) could appreciate the soutache embroidery, which looks a bit like braided lace, that decorated a white sleeveless V-neck shift, and the chartreuse brocade peplum top with gold jeweled epaulettes paired with a chantilly hand-pieced lace sheath.
The collarless, sleeveless tailored jackets were a bit more obvious in their reference to India, but not too much so.
"The collection is out of India, but India is just the starting point," Wang said in a backstage interview. "There is no belly dancing, there are no sarongs, there are no saris. It is about the sort of discipline about Indian men's clothes like Nehru, against the mystery and sensuality of Indian women — but not literally."
Here's how far Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have come with their fashion collection The Row: Sitting at the spring preview, it becomes clear that other designers at New York Fashion Week have been mimicking the layered-yet-airy refined look that is at the heart of this label.
This was the real deal, though, with the Olsens piling on the models long and fluid duster coats, tunics and dresses on Monday, sometimes paired with pajama pants and other times with slouchy skinny-leg silk ones.
The Row did hit on the emerging lingerie trend, although they don't get credit for starting that one. That seems to be a collective statement coming from fashion insiders as they put next season into focus.
Almost every outfit here was a single colour, head to toe. There was no embellishment so the clothes had to speak for themselves. In their notes, the Olsen twins said the collection "celebrates a spirit of subtle colours and exquisite layering."
It was another example of the easy elegance that earned them the Council of Fashion Designers of America's award earlier this year as the top womenswear designers.
Punk met the medieval princess on the catwalk at Rodarte, where the design-duo sisters said they were inspired by medieval and role-playing games.
Laura and Kate Mulleavy took the edge off grommet-covered leather pants by pairing them with silk blouses, and toughened up a brocade organza dress a leather embroidered bodice.
The peach halter gown with a yellow waistband could entice a hero for a damsel in distress.
But don't mistake this spring collection for anything but modern: The chunky shoe made of mixed materials and a computer-cut heel made sure of that. The cagelike corsets used here fit into this apparent fascination with harnesses this round of fashion previews, but they somehow seemed to make more sense on this runway where the Mulleavys don't pull any punches.
Mark Badgley and James Mischka seem to like movies a lot. Old movies.
For their Spring 2013 collection, the designer duo picked a 1935 film version of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" — a play that takes place in the spring, after all.
The film starred James Cagney, but the star of the Badgley Mischka collection was their fabrics — "springlike fabrics, but with depth to them," explained Mischka backstage. Lots of tulle and chiffon, for example.
Among the more interesting fabrics was a "hologram tweed" — a shimmery tweed used both in a casual pant, paired with an ivory organza bustier, and in a jacket, paired with an organza and chiffon skirt.
But though there were a number of separates featured, Badgley and Mischka are known for their eveningwear, loved by celebrities and socialites (the crowd included Kevin Jonas and gymnast Aly Raisman). And there was plenty of that, for example a filmy celadon-colored tulle and organza gown, and another tulle-and-organza creation in a brilliant coral — the show-closing gown.
Imagine this young woman, all preppy and proper. She buys a ticket to Africa, to India and then to Mexico. She's hooked on exotic lands, and she loves bringing home the treasures she finds there.
That's the muse who dominated Tory Burch's runway. Her first look was for departure day: a prim wheat-print silk faille day dress with a suitcase-style handbag in the matching print.
By Look No. 4, she's loosened up and wearing an eyelet sundress. Halfway through the spring collection, she's wearing an embellished crocheted jacket, a knit T-shirt and fringed, crocheted raffia skirt. She has a fringed knit poncho with a hood that's decorated with a floral applique.
Probably to the shock of her friends and family back home, this woman even wears tie-dye.
"This was an experiment in layering, an American remix," explained Burch. "She's layering on all the things she's discovering. She wears an evening gown with Moroccan moccasins."
Rachel Roy mixed smudges of blue and grey with an earthy print of birds and animal skulls in a loose one-shoulder jumpsuit and palazzo pants in an eclectic spring collection that included pops of bright coral, neon orange and ivory eyelet lace.
"For me, I do a lot of mixing and balancing," she said Tuesday during a presentation at her Manhattan showroom. "I believe in mixing prints by taking opposites."
A crepe racer tank in the smudged print was worn with an ivory silk trouser adorned with a cascade of purple and light brown dandelions — and a belt offering a third design.
Roy used a wave of coral colorblocking in a more fitted sleeveless dress. She paired a colorblocked, bright orange knit top with long sleeves in blush and a bright, white pair of loose eyelet lace shorts.
"Getting dressed in the morning, you pick a vibrant colour and maybe you'll have a vibrant mood," she said.
Designer Sophie Theallet recently won a big knitwear award. So it shouldn't be a surprise that she incorporates knitwear into so many of her new designs.
What was striking about the French-born designer's Spring 2013 collection was what she did with that knitwear — pairing brightly colored, fitted little cardigans with filmy organza skirts and dresses.
"Why not?" she said with a smile backstage at Tuesday's show.
There were lots of pretty dresses at Theallet's show, and many bore an unmistakable image: A dragonfly.
"The dragonfly is viewed in different ways in different cultures," Theallet explained backstage. "Sometimes evil, sometimes spiritual. I wanted to show how the woman I am dressing can be anything at any time — she can be what she wants. She is dressing for herself."
The models must have been grateful — especially their feet.
At Naeem Khan's Spring/Summer 2013 preview on Tuesday, most designs, except the fanciest gowns, were paired not with the usual stiletto heels but with flat sandals, like ones you'd saunter over to the beach in.
The Indian-born Khan, who famously designed Michelle Obama's first state-dinner dress, remained true to his glamorous roots, presenting a number of red-carpet-ready gowns.
But he also broadened his collection by adding separates and daywear, as in cotton sateen pants paired with a bustier, or a cashmere off-the-shoulder sweater, or a quilted trench in bright blue.
Khan ended his show with a series of beaded chiffon caftans, in marigold, coral, blue and blush.
The Theyskens Theory line marries edgy-style darling Olivier Theyskens with accessible Theory, but the new spring collection presented a singular vision. It was an all-day wardrobe for the cool urbanite who might be a little more romantic than she thought.
She likes strong shoulders, even when she's wearing a knit T-shirt dress. She also wears a lot of cropped pleated pants, often leather ones, with high waistbands, and cropped jackets.
When she wears a coat, it's long like a duster.
While Monday's preview was for spring, the mostly dark palette suited the hideaway venue in an unused part of a midtown post office. Theyskens, however, did embrace some strikingly light shades of denim.
VICTORIA, VICTORIA BECKHAM
Easy, sporty dresses in sunbleached colours, friendly prints and a bird or two reflect California's influence on Victoria Beckham and her more affordable Victoria line.
Against bright white walls at Milk Studios, with a sweeping view of the Hudson River downtown, Beckham held her adorable toddler Harper (in a white romper) during the laid-back show, her second in a week and the third for the more casual line.
A dreamy "cloudy moon" print in a sloped-hem sleeveless dress above the knee had a muted white orb on top, fading into a sky of mauve and blue. She used the same pattern in a different silhouette with pleats along a seam at the waist that offered a roomy fit.
There were sheer panels at side seams in several dresses, including one in midnight blue, and patch pockets on others in black and military green, including one with short sleeves worn by Beckham herself.
"This is my fun side," Beckham said before one of several small seatings. "It's what I wear for the other half of my life. I have four kids. I really do like to have fun."
ALICE AND OLIVIA
Stacey Bendet, founder and designer of Alice and Olivia, predicts a breath of fresh air this spring.
No gloom and doom for her. The styles she offered up for next season at a preview Monday were unabashedly happy, colorful and made to put a smile on the wearer's face — no questions asked.
"I started with the whole concept of going back to the American dream," Bendet said. "I wanted a return to optimism and feeling good."
Basically, Bendet was looking for an excuse to have a party. Where else would one wear a sparkly red-and-white squiggle-pattern bustier and flared miniskirt, or a silver halter dress with an open back and full skirt?
She mined the 1950s and its feminine silhouettes and bright colours for inspiration, so the collection has its share of swinging hemlines and bustiers. There were updates, though, including digital floral prints and a peach leather motocross jacket.
Pop star Avril Lavigne, the designer, promises a "badass" wedding dress she might make herself when she marries Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger.
"Either it's something I'm going to design, or partner up with, collaborate with another designer," she told reporters Monday after presenting the spring collection of her Abbey Dawn clothing line.
Kylie Jenner was the last to walk, in red, ultra-short shorts with garters attached and a black leather and lace biker jacket.
Lavigne's rocked-out clothes for spring include human skeletons in black on the front of stretchy, striped dresses and in white on others. Lavigne also used skulls in black lace on jackets and at the hems of minis.
AP Writers Leanne Italie and Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.
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