The fourth day from a freezing New York Fashion Week for autumn/winter 2011/12.
Donna Karan shows she still has what it takes
It might have been a response to the icy weather, but yesterday was all about the coats - and it was the big guns who sent the best ones down the autumn/winter catwalks of New York Fashion Week.
Donna Karan can still, after all these years, draw a crowd of the most formidable players in fashion. Grace Coddington was seen sketching next to Anna Wintour as the outfits moved past.
Karan, who in recent seasons has experimented with the aesthetic that built her global empire, hasn't always had consistent results. But this season, her signature feminine-yet-practical power attire for women is back on track. The collection, titled Pearls of Wisdom, was predominantly in an icy grey palette, with taut skirts in double-faced wools, jackets with strong shoulders and angular hems that were belted, and slinky, shoulder-baring evening dresses with draping worn by Karlie Kloss at the end. Karan's models wore chiffon veils and sported remarkable coats, such as the trench with wide lapels.
Like Karan, Carolina Herrera's woman is an almighty creature in the social circles and, come the autumn, Herrera's prim cocktail dresses and blouses can be worn underneath capacious cashmere coats belted at the waist, shawl collar coats and metallic evening jackets.
If Herrera's clientèle is the East Coast well-heeled elite, then Monique Lhuillier's is the opposite: the West Coast's warm-weather glamazons. Small wonder that coats weren't needed, but she made up for it in a variety of dramatic evening dresses fashioned from marabou feathers, soft silk chiffons, decadent gold laces and vampy leopard-printed silks. The British designer Jenny Packham, meanwhile, who shows in New York, is also in Lhuillier's camp - low on outerwear, heavy on the glitz. She's dressed some of the world's biggest entertainment stars, including Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Lopez, and her parade of slinky, drapey dresses, with metallic beading and copious embroidery on chiffon frocks, is likely to keep her popular with that crowd.
For Derek Lam, however, it was more about luxe separates and he showcased the most fetching array of outerwear. There was a wool coat in a dizzying pattern, a black leather jacket with panels of mohair, desirable blazers, minimal cashmere capes that moved effortlessly - and even two dresses inspired by toggle coats.
Chado Ralph Rucci, meanwhile, who cuts like a true couturier, is always reliable. There were the flattering, architectural shapes that attract his loyal clientèle - typically wealthy women over 50 such as Whoopi Goldberg and Martha Stewart, both of whom were in attendance - but Rucci's glamorous red coats were on trend enough to generate interest beyond his classic customer.
Marc Jacobs's intensely polka-dotted collection also produced shapely outerwear: a shiny, cropped jacket with distended shoulders, a masculine car coat, and a full wool jacket in olive green. Other notable iterations were Thakoon's stuffed jackets and coats in vibrating combinations of electric blue and red plaid. Behnaz Sarafpour's take was with cape-like sleeves and Altuzarra's oversized, raw-edged parkas were worn over silk dresses. The Olsen twins' The Row had evolved their luxe essentials from the first season into one of the most polished (easily of a Parisian standard) shows of the season. Naturally, it produced striking outerwear seen in the dramatic leopard skin coat and a purple Astrakhan jacket.
Moncler belied its sportswear roots in typically flamboyant fashion, with 200 dancers decked out in its Grenoble collection staging a flashmob dance performance in the middle of Grand Central at around 7.30pm that literally stopped commuters on the tracks. It was a staggering feat that had almost everyone there singing along to catchy tunes such as the O'Jays' Love Train, and all agreed it was easily the most entertaining presentation of the season.