As spring previews slid into their fifth day, there has been some departure from the approach of putting boldface names in the coveted front row seats — and letting them steal some of the thunder from designers.
Oscar de la Renta limited his guest list, telling Women's Wear Daily he was focusing on the people who had a real reason to be there, not "20 million people with zero connection to the clothes." Tommy Hilfiger, once a celebrity magnet, said Monday that he wanted to return the focus to fashion.
"I don't like the drama in the fashion world. I like to do our thing without the drama," he said backstage before his show.
There were still plenty of tabloid favourites — Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan have all made appearances — but they are more of a rarity than in years past, when they were invited en masse and thrown in front of paparazzi. How many people were really focused on the Herve Leger dresses on the runway Saturday when Nicki Minaj was right in front of them? (At least designer Max Azria was smart enough to put her in a new look from the spring collection.)
For the celebrities-turned-designers, it's an even more careful dance. Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have all made long-term commitments to their fashion brands, slowly and delicately courting editors, stylists and retailers, instead of the paparazzi.
The Olsen twins moved their show from the Upper East Side to Soho downtown, far from the Lincoln Center tents, for their intimate unveiling.
Holmes and her partner, Jeanne Yang, invited no photographers — save one house cameraman — and only a couple of dozen top-tier editors and stylists for their show in a Chelsea gallery space close to the Garment District.
"It's in my neighbourhood. We walked here," Holmes said.
Hilfiger filled a hangarlike venue on the West Side with sand and built his own boardwalk for surf-inspired styles.
"It's really from the inspiration of Melrose to Malibu, and we brought Malibu to New York," he said. "It's about surfing and skating, sporty lifestyles, about colour and the modern cool woman."
There were colorblocked neoprene pieces — one of the biggest trends emerging from these seasonal previews — shown alongside denim and olive surplus styles.
Top model Joan Smalls had on a leather basketball jersey (No. 1, of course) paired with denim track pants.
The Olsens draped their gallery space with gauzy fabric for a look at clothes that seemed what a woman of means, but one who shuns the spotlight or fuss, would take on safari.
Wonder if the twins are planning a trip?
Two years ago, they won the Council of Fashion Designers of America's top prize in womenswear and continue with the esthetic that got them there. Shapes are long, lean and worn in lots of layers. Some of the clothes were purposely crinkled or with unfinished edges.
Herrera was among the exceptions to that low-key celebrity thing.
Her guests included Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, the R&B singer Ne-Yo, "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks and "Downton Abbey" star Michelle Dockery.
The packed crowd was regaled with elegant, ethereal gowns featuring geometric motifs enhanced by the layering of fabrics, which gave them the appearance of constant movement.
The inspiration? Kinetic art, or art in motion. "It's the reaction of two layers — I find that this is totally kinetic," Herrera said in a post-show interview, as well-wishers crushed around her. "It creates its own movement."
HOLMES & YANG
Holmes and Yang said their spring collection is about wearable elegance.
The mix they offered included a black silk V-neck gown with leather trim and a khaki camp-style shirtdress with a lace-up V at the neck.
The duo said they wanted to start their business quietly, grow slowly and do it right.
The best of Karan's spring collection was classic Karan, day-to-night stretch dresses (especially a one-shouldered, block-print number), coats that you wouldn't want to take off, a man-tailored shirt definitively cut for a woman.
There were rich colours of tobacco and terra-cotta, and it seemed navy was Karan's new black.
She opened the show with a series of indigo-colored viscose dresses. There also were beaded, wrap miniskirts with silk tunics barely tucked into the waistband.
But the key piece was the scarf skirt, which was light and had a lot of life.
"It was all about a search for a scarf. I think as signature to what Donna Karan is about is a bodysuit and a scarf and the tailoring," Karan said.
She had spied a scarf she fell in love with and it took her on a journey to India — and she came back with a suitcase full of new ones.
"If somebody would say to me, 'What's the most important item to own?' It's a scarf ... because it covers up what you don't want to show, and it shows what you want to show, and it just flows with the body."
3.1 PHILLIP LIM
Lim said he was inspired to explore "different terrains, landscapes and rocks" in search of "something stable, sturdy and elementary to stand on."
What helped? Salt crystals that crunch underfoot at his 3.1 Phillip Lim show.
The designer proved better than many in expressing his theme clearly and forcefully, best of all in the embroidery that evoked intricate and colorful rock formations.
It's been a busy few months for Lim. In June, he won a Council of Fashion Designers of America award for his accessories. And on Sept. 15 he debuts his new line for Target — what he calls a "modern-day wardrobe for citizens on the go."
Zac Posen started draping his collection almost three months ago, and he was still doing it right up until the first look appeared on the runway.
It wasn't a last-minute rush — in fact, everything seemed incredibly quiet just before his show on Sunday night. It simply takes that long to hand-pleat chiffon and hand-paint organza. "Given the intensity of this collection, it has all been very calm," he said.
Posen even took a nap for almost an hour after the final sound and lighting checks, and before receiving a pep talk by phone from friend Naomi Campbell.
Models are important to Posen: Their loyalty and enthusiasm launched his career. Coco Rocha wore the first look on the catwalk, a pale-pink chiffon cape dress. Lindsey Wixson wore an ivory-colored bustier gown and go-to Posen muse Crystal Renn wore a lemon-colored frock with a wisteria print and fluttery short sleeves.
Derek Lam's clothes always have a pronounced urban edge. For spring, he wanted to be playful, too.
His show had some unexpected nuances such as sparks of bright yellow, breaking up his usual crisp colour palette of black, white and navy. An elegant yellow crepe strapless gown came in sharp contrast to the series of bold plaids, in black and white or blue and white, that began the show.
"My work has always been rooted in American sportswear. So I'm just loosening it up, relaxing a bit," Lam said.
There was more than big, bold graphics on display at Edun, the label founded by rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.
There was also the debut of a new designer — Danielle Sherman — and a front row where Bono and Hewson were joined by Trudie Styler, Gina Gershon and Christy Turlington Burns.
The collection was heavy on black-and-white pieces in bold geometric prints: skirts, coats, roomy pants and short tanks over longer, flowing tops. There were also some large, soft grey sweaters, sportswear in bright orange and leather pieces in white, black and a rich cayenne colour.
Edun was founded in 2005 by Bono and Hewson to promote change through a trading relationship with Africa. Many of its garments are traditionally produced in Africa or made from fabrics sourced there.
BAND OF OUTSIDERS
Los Angeles-based designer Scott Sternberg really, really likes "The House of the Rising Sun." The song played many times both before and during his show.
But the collection was inspired by much more than a 1960s vibe, Sternberg said afterward.
"Hollywood noir, sirens, bohemia, and Robert Altman's 'The Long Goodbye,'" he said, listing the themes that guided him. "All mixed with something super-sporty, fresh and pure."
Translated into clothes, that meant a lot of very comfortable, sporty yet urban looks which would fit right in in Los Angeles — indeed, the Hollywood sign, or actually the back of it, figured prominently into Sternberg's stylish visuals. But they'd work for a young customer pretty much anywhere else, too, in these informal days.
Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.
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