On the catwalks on Monday, productivity trumped frivolity, as designers equipped women with the sartorial armour to get to work.
A blend of glamour and practical chic
On Monday the fashion pack went back to job-to-do mode. The clogs, cosy outerwear, snow boots and bed heads that some editors were sporting over the weekend gave way to proper shoes, coiffed manes and serious, chic outfits. On the catwalks, productivity trumped frivolity, as designers equipped women with the sartorial armour to get to work. Carolina Herrera, always reliably luxe, sent out refined workwear for the pampered Park Avenue crowd. They may not be for the average office worker, but Herrera's discerning and wealthy customers will happily be adding add her creations to their gala fund-raising wardrobes.
There were precious elements throughout the collections: fur, which for better or worse continues to be a big trend this season, came in all shapes and sizes, as boleros, collar trimmings and large scarves, and trimming gloves in suede or shiny leather and prim, wide-brim hats. Aside from these luxurious accents, there was a deep-red wool pleated dress, wide-leg wool trousers and wool coats that would make for chic day looks. But this was a Herrera show after all, so glamorous Oscar-worthy offerings were in order, with jacquard cocktail dresses and column gowns in taffeta, embroidered lamé, brushstroke silk faille and a show-stopping azalea silk gazar gown that had the actress Renée Zellweger's name written all over it.
Monique Lhuillier has been the go-to designer for many an actress's glamorous night out. The Philippines-born, Los Angeles-based designer was inspired by Chinese warriors. Lacquered dragon day dresses and a trench featured alongside red-carpet knockouts such as a black tulle gown with tiered skirt, a strapless jacquard dress and a gown in red duchesse satin with a dramatic floral skirt. Historically known for drapey, liquid lines, Halston in the hands of Marios Schwab is all about architectural dresses with flirty shard-shape cut-outs, sensual folds and chic wool tailoring. Schwab is also aware of the tendency for the younger, hard-working generation to mix and match pieces, so sculptural skirts, draped cotton and silk tops and wool sweater-dresses were also key to the story.
Zac Posen, Catherine Malandrino and DKNY made sure to offer plenty of practical options. Posen, who has said that his business is in survival mode, made a conscious effort to avoid the impractical frou-frou gowns he loves. His catwalk included easy above-the-knee dresses, button-down blouses, swingy skirts and wide-leg trouser suits. Malandrino's dense layering may have been too much for many women, but if you break down the styling, there are cosy sweaters, drop-crotch trousers and fluid tops. DKNY, too, was about pragmatic style, sending out a prodigious number of wool skirt suits.
Meanwhile, Marc Jacobs, who has for a couple of seasons produced outré collections, decided to pare down his work and focus on clothes that serve a real function in women's daily lives. In a neutral palette of greys, soft browns, charcoals and yellows, there were wool dresses with full skirts, blazers with scallop hems, long rectangular-shape dresses, peacoats and many trousers. Practical chic, indeed.
* Robert Cordero