It has been a strange mix of fun and function at New York Fashion Week's presentations of the collections for spring/summer 2013. While some collections picked up a quirky, lively sense of carpe diem, with Roaring Twenties influences and tropical colours, other designers - including those known for their classic glamour - took either a graphic, modernist approach or a sporty, preppy wholesomeness. Here are our picks of the most important looks for next spring.
Evening wear, dresses and cover-ups all came in high-tech synthetics, with ripstop coats being a particular favourite, as at Rag & Bone, while at DKNY, neoprene evening dresses won points for practicality.
A simplifying of palettes took place across the board, together with increasingly elaborate prints. A natural result of that was a reworking of Chinese-ceramic-style blue-and-white patterns. Sometimes it was just a pretty batik or tie-dye, as at Tory Burch; at Rebecca Minkoff it was almost like classic Delftware.
From the blue-collar practicality of Donna Karan's classic baseball caps to Catherine Malandrino's sweet, feminine, white peaked caps, there's a confident, sporty sassiness here that looks effortlessly cool.
Among the more popular prints on dresses were supersized photo-real digital prints that took up whole garments. The minis in Victoria by Victoria Beckham featured a nightscape, while Naeem Khan's dresses were all about the sunset.
It's been an up-and-coming colour for a couple of seasons now, but yellow continues to grow in popularity and is now one of the most used hues on the catwalk. Whether a clear, punchy, sunshine pop contrasting with cloud grey, like Lacoste's version, or the warm, almost mustard colours that Thakoon used as an accent, or even Carlos Miele's dramatic tiger print, it's certainly a colour worth investing in for another season.
While last season's bright orange is still around, it has moved into a softer range for next spring, with a strong but gentle coral shade making appearance after appearance. Some designers, such as Carolina Herrera, employed it as a contrasting accent to another colour; while others, including Chado Ralph Rucci, used it in a block.
The Yves Klein blue that still, even with the familiarity of season, packs a punch has morphed into a less pungent primary blue or denim shade, used to great effect to smarten up functional worker clothes - a boiler suit and a canvas shirt dress at Rag & Bone, for example, or in passementerie embroidery at Hervé Leger by Max Azria. Elsewhere, it was faded down into a delicate cornflower blue: Dennis Basso used this pretty shade to lighten up his sumptuous evening wear.
With such simple, classic silhouettes around and, across the week, a generally pared-back, grown-up palette of stone, white, black and the odd blast of colour, neon colours were able to add a rebellious edge. At Noon by Noor, chic and delicate fabrics were punched up with fluoro biker jackets and even a heavily draped evening gown in neon orange. Chado Ralph Rucci took an even more radical approach with entire suits and matching bag and shoes in neon pink.
Reputedly the length of women's skirts says something significant about the economy: the shorter the skirt, the better the economy. This season, with some exceptions, hemlines are hovering just around the knee: an indecisive length psychologically, but actually rather flattering, especially for those without the benefit of endlessly long pins. And it need not denote frumpiness: the curve-hugging silhouettes of Reem Acra's shift dresses were as va-va-voom as you could wish for.
Is the reign of the skinny capri pant over? Not quite, but there is certainly a strong move towards the insouciant elegance of oh-so-long wide pyjama trousers. Reem Acra teamed some very elegant ivory high-waisted palazzos with a little satin bomber jacket, emphasising the shape's impressive leg-lengthening qualities, and Billy Reid's womenswear collection featured relaxed linen trousers styled with little leather jackets.
Inevitably, the evening wear specialists sent out huge, tulle skirts that rustled and frothed around the models, but DKNY had an earthier take on the look, with paper linen and paper cotton skirts and dresses standing lightly and sculpturally away from the body.
Jenny Packham's ivory 1930s-style bias-cut dress was deceptively simple, but its lines encapsulated a whole move towards the glamorous simplicity of the Art Deco style. Carolina Herrera's graphic opening dress, with a belt using the stylised swirl of an Art Deco take on an ionic column; Dennis Basso using 1920s-style fringing; and Naeem Khan's embellished kaftans spoke of the fantastical futurism of the classic silent film Metropolis.