An easy spring elegance, deceitfully simple but never sloppy, brought a bit of good, clean fun to New York Fashion Week as the biannual round of frenzied runway shows moved into the fifth day on Monday.
The secret, Carolina Herrera said, is in the details. Look to tailoring that appears simple, when it really isn't, or loose without crossing into 1970s redux or boho slouch.
"Fashion has to have details and it's a way of doing them in a very simple way that they look effortless," she said. "That's what fashion should be: effortless and fun."
Herrera, beloved in the UAE, with her stores prominent in malls across the country, seems never to have a wrinkle in her skirt, not a hair out of place. Nevertheless, she has a playful side, too. A shirtdress seen on the catwalk had oversized pockets, and a delicate red cocktail dress was made of seersucker silk. It's not Herrera's way to make things too fussy, even when there's a lot going on. A black and blue gown was as soft and pretty as you'd expect from the designer, even though it was covered in sharp-edge embroidery. Making things look simple can be one of the hardest things to do, she said.
And it's the US Open that's happening alongside New York Fashion Week, but athletic-inspired clothing seen this week has been as unrelenting as Novak Djokovic's backhand. Although style swans such Anna Dello Russo still pulled out all the stops to keep street-style photographers snapping away, there are those who have taken a stylistically laissez faire yet sporty and active approach to fashion over the past couple of days.
Stephen Gan, editor of V Magazine and creative director of Harper's Bazaar, chose comfort over style by wearing colourful Nike trainers, and André Leon Talley, American Vogue's former editor-at-large, stuck to what's become his uniform: a silk cape and velour suit combo. But nothing embodied this fashionably active trend better than a showgoer who wore a top and pencil skirt combination in contrasting plaids paired with Nike trainers that featured neon panels.
As a brand, Y-3's design ethos is rooted in this seamless blend of style and activity and at the spring/summer 2012 outing, it was more of the same. Altuzarra, on the other hand, showed off big, comfortable pieces such as an oversize knit sweater in neon yellow paired with a tight leather skirt, and a bright white form-fitting, belted dress with a soft ruffle at the hemline just above the knee. His jungle print with bright red, purple, green and pink flowers stood out. It appeared in a print, zip-front halter quilted vest paired with matching long trousers and as an accent on a pair of skinny white crop trousers and leather jacket.
Altuzarra wasn't alone in embracing the colour white. Over at Bebe, which is considered a contemporary line with a strong following among young teenage girls, the show was an all-white affair with uber feminine dresses that had Victorian sleeves and abundant lace details. If even half of those pieces make it to the Bebe store in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, the young girls of the UAE will be decked in white dresses worn with utilitarian coats, cinched at the waist with drawstrings to dress the femininity down.
At Marc by Marc Jacobs, which made a colourful addition to the capital last year when it arrived at Abu Dhabi Mall, the vibrantly hued and optimistic collection boasted an interesting combination of sporty ease juxtaposed with edgy style. More bright colours paraded down the runway: electric orange, flame scarlet and fresh grass. Models in visors wore striped shirts with peplums on their pencil skirts; one sauntered down in a military green blouse with an orange skirt that had a drawstring closure.
But if there is a brand that knows how to put an outfit together using tactics and smarts, it's DKNY's parent label, Donna Karan. Her legion of fans adore her for showing them how to dress purposefully without neglecting their femininity. Case in point: the Casual Luxe line she introduced this season moments before her main show, which featured paper-thin nylon outerwear, jersey dresses and linen shirts designed for the globetrotting nomad who wants flexibility with their wardrobe. Those linen shirts should be especially popular in a climate like the UAE's.
For the mainline, Karan used tribal motifs to anchor the show, with large brush-stroke prints seen on one-shoulder dresses, flattering, waist-hugging full skirts and elongated gowns with stone embellishments. But she also gave a nod to activewear, as seen in several bodices with elastic bands, which gave the collection a whiff of fencing gear, and the transparent paper-thin jackets worn with A-line skirts.
Activewear trends aside, however, these were clothes that modern, productive women will want to wear.
Additional reporting by Robert Cordero