Previews of spring styles officially started Thursday at New York Fashion Week, but the crowd here always likes to get a jump on things, so the stylists, editors, retailers, models and celebrities were drawn to a slew of early events, including the Style Awards at the Lincoln Center tents that serve as a hub for the next eight days.
That's where Kate Upton was honored as the model of the year, and Zac Posen was named top designer.
Wednesday was also Elie Tahari Day, declared by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in honor of the designer's 40th anniversary of his business in New York City, and Michael Kors was celebrated by The Couture Council of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Both Tahari and Kors are among the score of designers on the calendar of catwalk shows that will ultimately shape the shopping lists of consumers in six months' time. Tahari said the industry certainly has changed in the way it does business over the years, but the end goals are the same.
"The most important thing I want to share is that I learned how to treat other people the way you like to be treated. I have learned through many mistakes, but I have learned through this industry that gives you glory and riches, that it's most worth it when you make people happy."
He hinted that the clothes he'll debut later during fashion week will cater to the customer's strong belief in personal style. "When I started, you saw a girl with a long skirt below the knee, and then all the skirts had to be that way. Then everyone had to have a short skirt. But there's less of that going on now, and people respond to certain looks, and how it's good for their bodies."
After using mostly restrained hands for fall, several designers have said they'll take a more relaxed approach for spring. Tommy Hilfiger, for example, will revisit "the ease and attitude of the West Coast lifestyle and iconic California beaches."
Max and Lubov Azria were the first heavy hitters on the schedule with their BCBG line.
"We want to see a woman more cool, more relaxed, and that's sexy," said Max Azria backstage before the show.
BCBG MAX AZRIA
The palette here was full of coastal tones, including pale blush, sand and light blue. The many cotton pieces often had a little wrinkle to them. And there were tunic-style dresses. The Azrias will celebrate 25 years of BCBG in 2014, and the pieces in this collection will be in stores for the anniversary. There are rumors of financial turmoil at the house that had some in the crowd wondering how happy an occasion that would be.
Edgy and raw is OK for someone else, but Shoji says he's happy to have his clothes called pretty, sweet and ladylike. He staged a parade of pastel dresses dotted with lace, embroidery and feathers and dubbed the collection "Sweet Liberation." Shoji said backstage, "I think we need more sweetness and fun in this world. I am not afraid to be sweet, and women are confident enough now and know they can be taken seriously even if they wear pretty clothes."
The geometric shapes that Chai is known to play with had softened edges, thanks largely to his choices in fabric and color. One look was white seersucker and the next a bright red silk in a shade he called "grenadine." Chai puts his men's collection and the looks from his Love label for women on the same runway. His men's clothes seemed a little more daring. Truthfully, you don't see many knee-length, blue-windowpane coats worn with tie-front shorts on men.
CREATURES OF THE WIND
The label helmed by Midwesterners Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters showed maturity after the mentorship and attention that comes with being a finalist in the Vogue Fashion Fund and an emerging-talent nominee at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards. The show wasn't, well, showy. It had solid styles that one could imagine in the closet of a confident tastemaker, not trendy cool girl. There was a hint of a well-dressed housewife from the 1950s in the boxy shapes and jumpers — and some looks evoked the glamorous loungewear that was a must-have back in the day.
Follow Samantha Critchell at http://www.twitter.com/ap_fashion and http://www.twitter.com/sam_critchell