The starlets lining the front rows of New York Fashion Week on Friday would be right at home in the refined yet youthful styles parading before them.
The look on the second day of more than 100 previews for retailers, editors and stylists balanced a ladylike elegance with a youthful flair. Light colors and lace details were offset by cutouts or even leather harnesses.
Allison Williams of HBO's "Girls" and Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit" watched the muted florals on denim and midriff-baring cutouts at Peter Som. Emily Mortimer was on hand for Jason Wu, who said his collection aimed to balance beautiful refinement with something provocative and sexy.
"I love the idea of those two coming together — a softness and a hardness coming together and I wanted to make a collection that sort of balanced, just teetered on that line of sexy but still sophisticated," he said.
Kate Bosworth looked the part of the modern sophisticate at Cushnie et Ochs, where the styles were sleek and chic. "The idea of youthful elegance is perfect for this show," she said. "I do think there's a movement toward a classic shape, a classic look, even if it's in a really loud print."
Meanwhile, the drama of "Project Runway" took center stage for the 10th anniversary season of a show that designer and judge Michael Kors said thrives because "fashion people by nature are a little high-strung, a little dramatic."
"Quite frankly, fashion people are interesting," he said. "Nothing against accountants but we are not a group of accountants, that's for sure."
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week previews for retailers, editors and stylists continue for eight days, before the fashion crowd heads for London, Milan and Paris.
For Som's refined and youthful look, muted floral prints were shown on denim (part of Som's partnership with Earnest Sewn) and midriff-baring cutouts were carved into ladylike sheath dresses that fell below the knee. A pink orchid-print bustier dress was dotted with a bit of more demure lace.
Standard button-down shirts and a lace T-shirt were jazzed up with jeweled collars.
Olympic gold-medal runner Sanya Richards Ross was there, fully decked out in one of Som's lace numbers. "I love fashion. It's in my genes. If you saw my grandmother going to the grocery store, you'd think she was having lunch with the Obamas. We're always dressed up," she said.
Som is known to play with texture, and he created a colorful patchwork of snakeskin chevrons. The best version was the shift that was mostly a mix of pinks and purples on top, and chartreuse below the dropped waist.
There wasn't a lot of room for error on the Jason Wu runway. But he didn't need it.
From Carolyn Murphy's opening crocodile-like leather sheath to the navy silk tulle harness gown with embroidery that closed the show, the look was slim and sophisticated. Lace insets, bra tops, sheer fabrics and sharp tuxedos turned into shorts kept lively what were really refined, classic silhouettes.
Wu, in a backstage interview, said he was inspired by two photographers with differing styles — Helmut Newton and Lillian Basman. It was the second show in the early going to make specific reference to Newton, which could explain the dominance of black and white. It was also the second to put leather harnesses on the models to give them a little bit of edge. They topped a white-lace embroidered shirt worn with black croc shorts, and over a pink lace sheath that also got a little bounce from a peplum.
One would imagine that first lady Michelle Obama, who helped propel Wu to hot-ticket status after she wore his gown to the 2008 inauguration, would wear her black-and-white "ghost print" satin sheath with organza insets sans leather hardware.
RAG & BONE
The layers were lovely in the preview of next spring's Rag & Bone collection. They weren't "too much" — though the models in heaps of leather and lace in a steamy, raw space might have disagreed.
You wouldn't have known it to look at them, though, especially finale model Karlie Kloss, who had on a coral ripstop poncho.
Each look oozed the cool vibe that designers David Neville and Marcus Wainwright have mastered.
Tough leather, sometimes quilted motocross style, mixed seamlessly with both the ladylike peeks of lace and the menswear-inspired shirts. Confirming a few trends in the first two days of seasonal previews, Rag & Bone flashed some skin with strategic cutouts, did the hoodie thing and played with the proportion of the trenchcoat. Once they're on this runway, they're likely here to stay.
Prints in skinny pants, flouncy tops and dresses dominated Nicole Miller's runway with a sci-fi, bad-girl feel.
In sparse notes, Miller said she was inspired by the "juxtaposition of improbable things" and "digital nature." There were earthy splotches in a print she called "space clouds" on a long, feather-light train paired with a short black skirt and a tight leather sleeveless crop top.
Dresses in a futuristic floral of coral and bright greens and blues were worn with black leather. One model had long, straight hair streaked in colors to match the print.
Beadwork popped on the sleeves of a T-shirt in the same "future flora" print. Miller also used bead embellishment on a crop top in blush and blue, paired with a cobalt leather skirt, and with a variety of other pieces.
Sun-bleached floral prints, summery tweeds and lace lent Rebecca Minkoff's runway show a laid-back feel.
With touches of leather, including a faded denim print on a pair of skinny, stretch pants, she paid homage to Slim Aarons, the American photographer of the 1960s and '70s known for capturing socialites, jetsetters and celebs glammed up poolside.
Some wider-leg pants had a slight flare with pink and blue florals at the ankle. But she interspersed her soft colors with rich hues of indigo, mustang red and vivid green.
Minkoff used plaids and lace on shorts. She included bustiers, rompers and a jumpsuit, mixing masculine shapes with feminine details.
Lucky were the models in the beachy white cotton maxi dresses on the Yigal Azrouel runway Friday.
Outside Azrouel's New York Fashion Week show in Manhattan's Meatpacking neighborhood, it was roasting, but the designer choose an easy, sort-of-breezy path for the spring collection.
Azrouel is known for an architectural and clean style. He continued to refrain from extra embellishment for next spring, but the shape was definitely looser.
There were hooded jackets, waffle-knit tops and tank dresses. He started the show with optic white looks, which morphed into gray and then black. One pink dress, which he called "quartz," captured the "apron" dress trend (think a sheath silhouette with tank straps) that is emerging from this round of previews, but the very low cut back made this more sexy than utilitarian.
He also hit on leather, continuing its must-have status for the fall season, and the loose hoods, which made sense on the lightweight cotton-leather trench but looked a little strange on the cotton-silk cocktail dress.
Pamella Roland honored Ellsworth Kelly in a black-and-white dominated presentation that included splashes of lemon yellow and cobalt blue just as the iconic American artist does in his paintings.
Roland covered several easy-to-wear evening gowns and shorter dresses in flat maco beads for a shimmer rather than an outright explosion of sparkle.
"I think that sparkly look's kind of going away a little bit, but so many of our customers still want that," said Roland, usually known for color but herself dressed in a black-and-white tuxedo pant outfit to celebrate her new minimalism.
The sleek clothes presented in groups of models who rotated eight times Friday at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall were no-nonsense for the working mom. She drops off her kids in the morning and heads to the office to run her own company, Roland said, adding: "There are no ruffles."
The entire collection, Roland said proudly, was made in New York.
Design partners Robert Tagliapietra and Jeffrey Costello sent dresses draped and colored for falling in love down their runway Thursday.
The two used a waterless heat-transfer process called AirDye to create double-colored pieces on fabrics as thin as chiffon, including some with swirly prints inspired by the look of paint on canvas.
They included a dress with a wrap front in pale violet and "dress coats" to complement all sizes in teal and rose. Many of the pair's dresses, including some just above the floor, featured gathers at the side and center.
"We wanted it to be about falling in love. It was the emotion, the romance we wanted," Tagliapietra said backstage after the downtown show.
There was intrigue — and Heidi Klum in barely there gold — at the "Project Runway" show that will decide who wins the 10th anniversary season.
Eight contestants thanked their loved ones and shared their inspirations in the hour-long parade before the judges on the Lifetime series and a huge crowd at the Lincoln Center tents.
But only three or four of the eight remain in the running to win the milestone season (the others were shills to keep us guessing). The finale, based on judging of the Fashion Week looks, will air Oct. 18 with guest judge Jennifer Hudson.
There was a touch of mesh in jackets and tops from Gunnar Deatherage, a self-taught, 22-year-old designer from Kentucky who learned to sew at age 7 from his grandmother.
Elena Silvnyak, 28 and originally from the Ukraine, sent models out with bright yellow and green lips, two-tone fitted dresses and tunics.
Venn Budhu managed a rare smile at the end of his show, which featured impeccable bodices and necks in constructed layers of fabric on formal gowns and cocktail dresses in reds and off-whites.
Sonjia Williams, 27, another New Yorker, sent down an ode to herself, a "bold, strong, confident woman," with blue lace in leggings and tops, a wide-waisted skirt in a floral print and shorts in a piped leatherette.
AP Writer Leanne Italie contributed to this report.
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