And we speak of the big, giant WE. Fashion editors, stylists and retailers fill the seats at shows but the looks are beamed everywhere — and pretty much instantly. You'll start seeing consumers copying them sooner — and maybe more inclined to shop, said Sally Singer, creative digital director at Vogue.
But she still thinks spenders like direction from insiders.
"Ultimately, retailers pick trends. They decide what people will buy because it's what they believe in to put into stores," she said. "Things that work at retail are things that might not be from this season's runway."
Hello, cropped tops?
But there are some trends that do work, she said: The great menswear-inspired button-down shirts, for example, from the placket-front nightshirt to the crispest collared shirt, the flashes of sheerness, the fuller skirts and even palazzo pants for evening.
Jay Fielden, editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine, said he focuses more on muses, or general inspirations, that leave a lasting impression than single items.
"From a man's point of view, there were a few women who came out of the shows: the super-sexy girl showing her goods, the very refined elegant look that's more of a throwback to a real woman, the tomboy, and the girl who has brains and doesn't wear things aimed at a man, although I'm a guy who can like that."
Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera's modern twist on an old-school sophisticate is "the way any man would like his wife to dress — effortless perfection," Fielden said.
Some designers offered true moments of fashion "direction," said Singer, including Proenza Schouler's show, which featured long pleated metallic skirts. "That's a show that will transcend the week."
Other top picks from Singer included Michael Kors, for "modern pretty clothes," and Narcisco Rodriguez, for a cut that fit like a glove.
There wasn't, however, a huge, groundbreaking swing from aggressive tough girl to a hippie chick, for example — and don't expect that to happen again soon. You'll notice the evolution of a tight, nipped shoulder to a rounder, softer one, or skinny jeans to wide-leg pants instead, Singer said.
"You realize it has shifted when you feel like you are in the wrong thing," she added.
Don't start the shopping list just yet, though. While the New York previews ended Thursday night with Marc Jacobs, there are still weeks to go in London, Milan and Paris.
Jacobs closed eight days of spring previews with a memorable show, for sure. He put on a stifling parade of dripping hot models against a decaying beach backdrop in an armoury that felt like a billion degrees.
Catwalkers, including Cara Delevingne, wore high-necked wool and lace numbers decorated with tassels and beads on a boardwalk above black sand strewn with garbage and an abandoned bus.
The lucky models wore Hawaiian print Bermuda shorts and sequin tourist sandals, the flat Velcro-close ones that grandma might wear with socks.
That floral print, though, turned into some fabulous eveningwear that wasn't as exaggerated as some of the opening dresses, but with the same drama. Which front-row celebrities — Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder, Julianne Hough or Hailee Steinfeld — will wear them first?
Jackets with puffy sleeves and wide shoulders seemed most likely to land on the must-have list of Jacobs fans or the coolest marching band player you know.
The name on the label still reads Calvin Klein, but the women's collection is clearly Francisco Costa's now.
It's been 10 years since Klein picked the Brazilian-born designer as his successor, and Costa presented his anniversary collection this time around.
"I hope it's a little out of the box," Costa said. "It's urban but it's a mix of cultures."
Costa said the mix of looks reflected all the sights and textures of New York when he first arrived here in the 1980s. "I was inspired by a lot of energy," he said.
"Sometimes we forget as we get older what New York is. We think New York isn't the same, but it is the same — we've changed," he said.
He covered a lot of ground. The opening sand-colored wrap tank top and wrap skirt were signature minimalism, save the flash of pink lining, but over the next 35 outfits Costa offered a luxe, refined snakeskin tank and skirt; twill painter's pants with exaggerated pockets, cuff and rear; and a black woven leather jacket with multicolored thread fringe.
It wasn't a coincidence that so many fashion watchers at Zoe's show were snapping photos of the models' feet each time a particularly comfortable-looking shoe — a glittery metallic Birkenstock-style sandal — came by. Anyone who's been wearing stilettos all week is now blistered and bandaged.
The shoe epitomized what Zoe seemed to be going for in her clothes, too: Outfits that you can travel far and wide in. Either on safari, or just out on the streets.
The designer "takes the modern jet set girl on a safari," according to her publicity material. "A travelling muse wearing her femininity with effortless confidence."
In the clothes, that translated to a mix of trendy and classic items. Leather was prominent.
One suit, in a luscious chocolate brown, had a belted safari-style jacket over short shorts. There was an appealing belted leather mini-dress. There were up-to-there miniskirts but also long, lacy dresses. There were slouchy satin pants, and comfy sweaters. And there was a good deal of denim — distressed, in short shorts or baggy pants, and not distressed, as in a suit with a denim coat and high-waisted pants.
Model Coco Rocha appreciated the versatility of the designer's work. "Rachel definitely has pieces that you can go grocery shopping (in) as well as go out for the night in one piece."
A good percentage of the collection was black and white: low-slung patent-leather minis paired with printed floral trenches, a black knit dress with a sharp white menswear-style collar, a perfectly tailored white pantsuit with a black mock-neck top.
Even the round-toe, chunky-heel pumps made a statement different from the other scores of designers who either preferred delicate pointy-toe stilettos, aggressive booties or flat sandals.
Lauren saturated a handful of looks in bright lime, orange, red and yellow in both daytime ribbed dresses and leather coats, as well as eveningwear. The gowns would be surefire favourites for red-carpet cameras.
"I love the colour. The colour was great, it was different for Ralph," said Jessica Alba, a seasoned Lauren front-row guest.
Krakoff used a lot of light, ethereal colours and garments. He seemed to signal his intentions with the first look: a flowing chiffon dress in the colour of lobster bisque. He stayed with bisque for much of the show, throwing in white, nude, and, for those who can't live without it, some black at the end.
"I was playing with the idea of weightlessness, and overt femininity," Krakoff explained in an interview after the show. "And combining it with some classic attributes of the brand," as in more sculptured, tailored pieces.
The duality resulted in some fascinating combinations. One of the better ones: A white grain leather top, to provide weight and structure, paired with a filmy white chiffon and cotton voile skirt. And to cap it off: A square-toe pump with a pedestal heel in hi-litre yellow.
In her quiet sort of way, Sui has started a rebellion.
She said her spring looks, inspired by the romantic English pre-Raphaelite painters, was her way of bringing a little beauty back to the catwalk — and the closet. "It's a reaction against the world right now. I want to bring back poetry to the way we dress."
Sui also infused a little bit of the 1960s, seemingly her favourite fashion era, to her new romantic vision. There were shifts and vests, tapestry bags, gladiator sandals and Balinese headdresses.
She always has a youthful style, but this time, she didn't go too young. The blousoned chiffon styles, lovely crochet lace sweaters and vests, and dresses with a touch of mesh, were a little more adult.
"I guess I'm a little more grown-up now," Sui said.
Known for elaborate eveningwear, this up-and-comer's runner was most notable for chic daywear.
"Even in the daytime, you can mix in some fancy things. That's my DNA," Mohapatra said.
Black trousers had an unexpected and flattering colored pleat down the leg, and the pleats of a bright yellow dance dress formed a geometric pattern. Flowers bloomed in the pleats of his floral skirts as models made their way to the photographers.
Of course, there were gowns, too, including a coral-colored floral with a scarf halter top and tightly folded pleats.
"Yes, four different kinds of pleats," he said. "Some of them were hand done and took hours!"
Fashion designers love to talk about timeless classics, but even the best looks can use a little makeover to freshen up. Tahari's spring collection celebrates 40 years of his company and its defining style, but, he said, he had to make the clothes fit the new context.
"When I look back it was always a 'lady' behind the things I liked best. Sometimes we were caught in trends I'd rather not repeat," Tahari said.
He tweaked his plunging V jumpsuit to add a silicone insert on the chest, and a biker jacket now has mesh inserts. The leap between those styles and brand new ones, such as an overcoat with perforated leather, was seamless.
Follow Samantha Critchell at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion and http://twitter.com/sam_critchell
AP writers Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.