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Hemp and high fashion ruled the runway

Two dozen top designers whet the appetite of editors, retailers and stylists Thursday night, ahead of the official opening of New York Fashion Week, with an ensemble show called FutureFashion staged by the environmentally conscious nonprofit group Earth Pledge.

Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein created a hemp-based pantsuit with a long, sophisticated overcoat that surely would blend in with whatever he offers during his fall-collection preview, and Michael Kors' rugby-stripe dress made of recycled cashmere captured the designer's signature look.

Donatella Versace used a cream-colored hemp-silk fabric for a knockout gown with an open back and dramatic draping that was the finale piece.

Julie Gilhart, fashion director at Barneys New York, helped coordinate the show, and Barneys will display the one-of-a-kind outfits in its windows. She said all the designers were eager to participate and more than rose to the challenge, finding ways to incorporate recycled or organic materials without straying from their usual aesthetic.

There wasn't an outfit that wouldn't be attractive to the Barneys customer, Gilhart said.

Nigel Barker, a judge on "America's Next Top Model," came to the event wearing organic Loomstate denim jeans that were darkened with a natural dye. He said he'd like to see the fashion industry take a lead role in green practices. "We're full of innovators," Barkers said.

The models in the show — including Shalom Harlow wearing an elaborate navy ballgown by Martin Margiela made of three vintage wedding dresses and Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann in a Thakoon parachute dress made of soy, bamboo and silk— all donated their time. They even flashed an occasional grin — not something they do often on the runway.

However, many struggled with the catwalk made raw-cut, kumbuk-wood that was to be turned into tabletops after the show. It was slippery and had natural cracks and holes, making it a not-so-perfect match for their stiletto heels.

New York Fashion Week formally opens Friday morning with the Nautica menswear show.

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