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1. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is partly responsible for the feminine ’20s -inspired moment you’ve been seeing in the March issues of fashion magazines. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to see him go in the opposite direction for fall with classic, mannish tailoring. The collection was quintessential Ralph Lauren through the lens of British elegance — elongated three piece trouser suits in tweed and Prince of Wales check, chic tuxedos worn with top hats and canes and smartly tailored trousers paired with fair isle sweaters. The femininity emerged later through a series of bombshell gowns that came in satin, velvet and elaborate beading. They displayed a rich, decadent craftsmanship rarely seen in a week dominated by sellable sportswear.
2. Calvin Klein
Sometimes a garment is so special that it demands to be in all black —all the better for the eye to focus on the technical prowess that went into making it without any distraction from color or print. This was the case with Francisco Costa’s mostly black plays on architectural shapes, volume and texture such as a midnight-glazed top in wool and mohair worn with cropped, contoured trousers. Each look was precise, confident, controlled — and intense. One could easily see any of Costa’s dresses on Rooney Mara, who sat in the front row. To highlight the seriousness of it all, models speed walked down the runway like ambitious women with places to go, exactly the kind of shopper who would gravitate towards these clothes.
3. Anna Sui
This was Anna Sui’s love letter to the ‘60s. Sui drew inspiration from various references from the decade, including mid-century modern legends Charles and Ray Eames and Alexander Girard, the designer best known for his colorful, folk-inspired textiles. She channeled them into her signature playful aesthetic, with results that included cuckoo clock prints, plaids and floras in bold sea foam, lime, orange and hot pink that appeared on just about every shift dress, jacket and blouse in the collection. There was also a school girl/secretary vibe. Models in oversized glasses wore cozy cardigans in mohair or chunky crochet patterns over sweet dresses with Peter Pan collars or chic, long plaid coats with matching skirts. But the best part was the feeling of happiness the show projected, from the models’ cheery demeanor (it’s like they were instructed to smile) to the jeweled unicorn applique to the cute owl-shaped hats and gloves. This letter was definitely sealed with a kiss.
4. Proenza Schouler
We can all now safely declare Asia a trend. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough joined the growing list of designers who conjured up the Far East in their collections. The reference first surfaced in the impressively constructed white origami-like dresses, jackets, blouses and wide-leg trousers that opened the show, a cool subversion of the traditional karate uniform — almost as if an ass-kicking Japanime heroine went on a shopping spree at Barneys New York. Kimono sleeved coats and chinoiserie print dresses fleshed the theme out even more. It all made for a tougher, more cutting edge interpretation of Asia than the other versions we’ve seen this week — think “Kill Bill” vs. “The Last Emperor.”
5. Michael Kors
Only Kors, who made financial headlines this week when he had a 27 percent jump in stock price this Tuesday, could make lumberjack plaid ooze luxury. But his craggy theme saved the clothes from veering into the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” trap that his collections have fallen in during seasons past. What the rugged elements did was add an urban edge to his conventionally glamorous look. For instance a Chesterfield coat with an oversize fur collar would have read totally differently if it had been done in Kors’ trademark gray or camel. But in red and black buffalo checks, layered over leather trousers, it looked modern and cool. Sometimes his outsize outerwear reached fashion victim proportions, though, such as the case with a belted Alpaca fringed coat that practically swallowed the model wearing it.
6. Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti
Bring on the winter white! For those who think black is the only way to look chic, behold Alberta Ferretti’s fall offerings. The designer started her contemporary line in a palette of elegant bone, which enhanced the minimal, slightly futuristic affect she seemed to be going for with looks such as a skirted suit cinched at the waist with a clear plastic belt. In another look, a jacket came with a plastic overlay. But it was by no means an austere or tech-y show. There was a strong focus on officewear with a modern edge, such as her silver tuxedo suit, as well as plenty of sparkly pieces for when the computers get shut down.
7. Alexandre Herchcovitch
It’s been a week of subdued elegance so far, and Alexandre Herchcovitch’s refined collection underscored that point. This is the guy, after all, who once sent models down the runway in giant, cage-like football shoulder-pads in hyper-bright colors. His work for autumn continued the experiment in ladylike dressing he started last season, but in a much less saccharine way. It was bold in color choice with a quiet autumnal palette of burgundy and saffron that quickly gave way to a range of shiny and matte golds. But the clothes were quiet in terms of the ideas he explored — simple suede dresses, tops and skirts with subtly curved lines. The best part was his use of fabric. Who knew lace and suede go so well together? These were dressy clothes for unfussy girls.