NYFW: Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Marchesa and more

Wednesday:

Rachel Zoe Credit: Getty Images
Rachel Zoe
Credit: Getty Images

1:25 p.m. 
It’s no secret that Rachel Zoe loves the ’70s.

 For the past few seasons the stylist-turned-designer has served up a replica of her personal wardrobe on the runway. But for spring you can forget about bellbottoms and floppy hats —well, sort of. This collection is more modern and sophisticated, and much less less retro. And while the designer hit all the season’s obligatory trends, her standouts were the timeless denim pieces, including low-slung distressed cutoffs paired with a crisp white shirt under a white moto that married the model-off-duty sentiment with Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy elegance. And for the loyalists: A black and white bohemian kaftan closed the show. - Tina Chadha

J. Mendel  Credit: Getty Images
J. Mendel
Credit: Getty Images

2 p.m. 
Higher hemlines are officially a trend, which feels kind of early considering that the fashion pendulum was just swinging the opposite way last season. The flirty mini skirts and dresses I’ve been seeing this week are the antithesis of the full, mid-century midi skirt that is dominating fall. J. Mendel‘s collection is full of sweet, upbeat, leggy dresses and shorts that stop just short of girly. He calls it “gamine chic.” They come in a range of pastels, feminine prints and brocades and seem tailored for Hollywood celebutantes and the ladies who lunch set. -Kenya Hunt

3:30 p.m. 
When I’m not in a show, I’m usually in a meeting or showroom visit, which is my opportunity to catch-up with the directors who handle publicity for the designers and examine the collections up close. At the moment, I’m headed to Nolita for mint lemonades with Alexander Wang’s team. We chat about Rihanna, who was spotted this morning wearing one of the logo-heavy looks from the show (fashion works fast), and debate the complexities of the almighty Cronut, which is sold, or rather sold out, at a shop nearby (yes, fashion people do eat sweets). -KH

3:15 p.m.
I’m in my seat waiting for Milly to begin and to my right is an empty spot. Since it’s a few minutes to the start of the show, two girls squeeze into the place, making our whole row crammed and uncomfortable. The girl sitting to my left has straight up taken her shoes off and is rubbing her bare feet on the carpet. Get me outta here. -TC

Milly Credit: Getty Images
Milly
Credit: Getty Images

3:25 p.m. 
Milly’s spring show can be described in one word: Mesh. OK, fine, I’ll expand. Designer Michelle Smith sent out mesh see-through bustier dresses over high-waist hot pants that either looked sporty (paired with bomber jackets) or sexy secretary (throw on cat-eye glasses and a ladylike handbag). I’m all for designers trying something new, but the strong color palette (mostly black with neon pops), bomber jackets, hoodies and leather cropped overalls felt like an aggressive play for downtown recognition. Combine that with all the bare skin and you get a distinct American Apparel vibe. According to show notes, Smith drew inspiration from the perforated facades of buildings she saw in a recent trip to Tokyo. Her best takeaway from that trip, however, were the striking prints based on Japanese and Hawaiian florals that covered midi skirts and stretch dresses. Those were cool without trying too hard. — TC

5 p.m. 
OK, logos are officially a thing too. I’m having drinks with the ladies of Donna Karan and DKNY — including the social media queen behind @DKNYPRGIRL, the brand’s VP of Global Public Relations Aliza Licht — and it’s turned into a fun girls’ gossip session. After trading war stories from this week’s runway trenches, we talk about Rita Ora, who closed out DKNY’s 25th anniversary show in a look emblazoned with DKNY logos. We also discuss how the branding idea is starting to pop up on certain streets back in East London. I have the feeling we’ll be seeing even more of this once London Fashion Week begins on Friday. -KH

5:10 p.m. 
I’m waiting for Marchesa to start when the woman sitting behind me informs me that there’s a butterfly sitting on my T-shirt. Now had it been any other bug, I would be screaming and bouncing into Anna Wintour’s lap were she sitting next to me. (The Conde Nast creative director is in the house, by the way). But since it’s a gentle pretty butterfly I ask her to take a picture instead. Then we shoo it free. — TC

Marchesa Credit: Getty Images
Marchesa
Credit: Getty Images

5:20 p.m. 
It turns out my fluttery friend is the perfect accessory for Marchesa’s spring show, which is full of bohemian embellishments: lace butterflies, hand-painted flower appliques and dip-dyed feather plumes. Gone are the dramatic structured ball gowns of last season and in their place, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig are sending out more wearable red carpet heart-breakers in shimmering embroidered lace and sensual diaphanous silk. The opening series of dresses — such as a dusty blue gown with colorful floral embroidery and cascading train — worked best and are feminine without being too princess-y. The fluffy organza petal skirt and coat, however, are a harder sell. — TC

Thursday:  

Ralph Lauren Credit: Getty Images
Ralph Lauren
Credit: Getty Images

9:50 a.m. 
The space where Ralph Lauren‘s show is being held smells like lilies. Each season, an enormous floral arrangement the size of a medium tree top sits at the main entrance. Inside, the usual crystal chandeliers that line the runway are missing. Instead the place is stark, painted black and white. 

10:10 a.m. 
Who would have guessed that Ralph would revisit the Mod ’60s? It turns out the black and white was foreshadowing for the opening series of looks: a series of A-line double-face knit dresses, and graphic separates and slick trouser suits in Mod-inspired shapes and a monochromatic color palette. Next comes saturated blues, reds and purples, nearly every look worn with the coolest patent Mary Janes. It’s the youngest looking collection we’ve seen from Ralph in years. This collection isn’t glamorous in a traditional sense — instead it exudes a British sense of cool. But let’s get down to what the clothes will mean for you. Coming on the last day of New York Fashion Week, Ralph’s collection underscores the return of the mini skirt. Lore has it that hemlines rise with stock prices. And while Wall Street is climbing, the economy still looks uncertain as a war potentially looms in Syria. So it remains to be seen how the trend factors into what’s happening in the world culturally, but the upbeat energy radiating from the clothes is palpable, reminding us that when CNN headlines grow increasingly depressing by the hour, we can always escape through a beautifully made dress. -KH

Calvin Klein Credit: Getty Images
Calvin Klein
Credit: Getty Images

2:10 pm

It’s the last day of NYFW and the who’s who of the fashion world is gathered to watch Francisco Costa’s 10-year anniversary show for Calvin Klein. Joe Zee is taking selfless in the front row, and in the next section over there’s another kind of photo shoot going on: Photographers are going snap happy getting shots of Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, who are in attendance. This is the most A-List audience at a show thus far this season.

2:30 p.m.

To jazzy tunes, Costa’s spring collection celebrates what a master craftsman he is. He shows looks with frayed edges and deconstructed shapes in colors ranging from sandy white to moss green to shiny black. There are moments of his signature minimalism in the sheer, oversized-yet-airy T-shirts and the low-hanging painter’s pants. But the series of dresses and jackets, woven with folksy multicolor yarn or featuring patchwork silk and leather, add some louder oomph. The fun, yet elegant, 1920s evening wear  – embellished with feathers and delicate fringes — also seem to say that even after a decade, there’s still new ground to cover.

Ones to watch : We take a look at collections from two young brands receiving a lot of buzz this season.

 
Assoulin
Assoulin

Brooklyn native Rosie Assoulin — who previously interned at Oscar de la Renta and Lanvin, and not to mention received personal design lessons from her mother-in-law, Lee Angel jewelry designer Roxanne Assoulin — showed a strong collection of polished lean separates, dramatic volume and satin-y eveningwear options. Standout looks include billowing wide-leg trousers adorned with colorful grommets and a floor-length tuxedo coat in punchy coral. 

Dion Lee Credit: Getty Images
Dion Lee
Credit: Getty Images

Australian designer Dion Lee, known for his masterful construction, started his show with full-sleeve body-hugging looks in all black wool with patent-leather details that felt inappropriate for spring — but that was the point. Lee’s collection was “seasonally irrelevant,” according to show notes. He focused his line on all four seasons. The results were his signature sliced, sexy separates in fabrics fit for just about any climate. Whether or not you can squeeze into one of them is another question. - TC


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