Season after season, it's Anna Wintour on the front row and Marc Jacobs as the most eagerly anticipated runway show at New York Fashion Week. Enter: The newbies.
Tory Burch held her first model walk at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday, the sixth day of spring previews, followed by J. Crew's first appearance at the tents.
Red carpet favorite Marchesa held the label's debut runway show at the luxe Plaza Hotel.
"It's a lot more work, although I'm not sure why," Burch said backstage, a few minutes before her first model stepped onto the catwalk. "But I love doing it.
Until now, Burch has only done presentations, where models stand still wearing clothes in venues that don't involve a seated audience and lack the drama of a runway. J. Crew has staged other shows, but nothing with the magnitude of moving to the tents that serve as the hub of seasonal previews.
That fact didn't hit Jenna Lyons, the J. Crew president and executive director, until she arrived at the tents Tuesday morning. "I thought we were just moving our show, but then came the hype and excitement," she said. "I felt excited when I got here — I felt like I was going to the prom."
Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman had some technical problems to solve with models who actually walked. The dresses in the Marchesa collection are usually very elaborate and grand — best complemented by skyscraper heels.
"The situation with the shoes was that they never had to be OK to walk in them," Chapman said by phone last week. "Now we have to make them work with the dresses, and now we have to think of the length of the dresses, too, so the models can move."
Much has remained the same at New York Fashion Week while the newbies settled in. The calendar doesn't change all that much. Vera Wang and Narciso Rodriguez, for instance, always show on Tuesday and stuck to tradition this time around.
Jacobs will close the eight-day run of previews Thursday night. Don't forget to turn out the lights Marc!
Fashion week moves to London on Friday, followed by Milan and Paris.
Burch did more than move to a bigger space and add bench seats.
Judging by the turnout for her first runway show, she confirmed her status as a solid player instead of an up-and-comer.
Burch's collection was inspired by the seaside French resort of Deauville in the 1920s.
Backstage, as she checked on models with hair pulled into ponytails, Burch said she was drawn to that locale and period because it was the right mix of polished and sporty.
She opened with a silk dress that had cascading pleats in front, and a red-and-pink striped tie-neck blouse paired with a dot-print skirt.
There was a little bit of everything, from a striped swim skirt to a billowy blush-colored gown, and that's surely the appeal of Burch's label. It's not breaking new ground, but her fans can count on it to hit the trends — with an uptown interpretation — and make them wearable.
Kate and Laura Mulleavy used to be the newbies. Not anymore.
For their Rodarte show this season, they presented a sunny day but also some starry night purple in a lavish homage to Vincent van Gogh.
A sunflower print was everywhere. Colors were bold: Marigold, aqua, night purple, and of course, midnight blue.
"Van Gogh's brushstrokes infused pretty much everything we did," Laura said after the show. "Our color palette, the embroidery, the designs. Every decision we made, we asked: Could this be part of a van Gogh painting?"
The popular label drew an A-list crowd to a Chelsea gallery, among them Beyonce, the Vogue editor Wintour and the Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle, who hugged the Mulleavys afterward.
She covered all the bases — some things for the red carpet, some athletic-inspired silhouettes and some high-concept fashion.
Wang's show pretty much mimicked her front row: Beyonce and Kim Kardashian. Serena Williams. And, yes, Madeleine Albright.
"Vera believed in empowering women," said Albright, the first woman to become a U.S. secretary of state. "When women are politically and economically powerful ... there is more stability."
Wang opened with featherweight layers of white, including a sleeveless peplum coat with an oversized hood worn over a slip dress. She then moved into more color than usual: hot pink, purple and mint green, all of which have emerged as top shades for spring.
The mermaid was muse at the Palm Court of the Plaza with one Marchesa fantasy frock after another — all befitting a princess of the sea.
Some of the gowns — and eveningwear is pretty much all Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig do — only borrowed the mermaid silhouette, with its tight bodice and flared hemline, but other looks recreated underwater sights and sounds.
A hand-embroidered cocktail dress had "fish threadwork and oyster silk cording," while another dress covered in silver beads also had a sculpted "fin" at the hip.
Dresses with long feathers captured the movement of plants in the water, and sheer illusion fabrics allowed embellishment to float, seemingly unattached to anything.
"It's all got a watery, magical feel," said Chapman in an interview earlier this week.
The clothes aren't necessarily for next season. They're supposed to last longer than that.
The brand's mantra is timeless looks that still fit with the trends, head of women's design Marissa Webb and her menswear counterpart, Frank Muytjens, said backstage before their first-ever appearance at the seasonal previews.
"We don't want to be disposable fashion," Webb added.
Mixing casual classics with unexpected dressier touches is another tradition for the label, leading a denim Western-style shirt to be paired with a sequin skirt.
"I didn't style anything differently than I normally would. I still want it to be J.Crew," Webb said.
Still, she said she woke up before her alarm clock in anticipation of the show.
And Muytjens acknowledged that he sweat this collection a little more, too. "I felt a little more pressure."
Acra is known for luxury — lavish, embellished gowns perfect for the red carpet.
For her spring ready-to-wear collection, she wanted to bring the riches of her fancier clothes into her more casual ones, and she's done it with prints: A vintage jewel print, for example, on a silk sheath dress. Or a mineral print. Or a kaleidoscope print.
"It's all about the prints this year," she said backstage.
The show began with an oxidized animal print on a one-shoulder dress — something Wilma Flintstone might have worn if she had a superb tailor. It went on to mineral prints, such as one on a silk charmeuse sheath with a jeweled side clasp. And a kaleidoscope design on a pencil skirt.
This being Reem Acra, materials were sumptuous.
Designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka wanted the collection to move with each step the models took. They wanted them to convey lightness without being frothy. They wanted saturated color without being overly bright.
Customers ask a lot of their clothes nowadays, so it's just precautionary for designers to do that too, Mischka said. "We try to talk to our customers and take their temperature all the time," he said.
What do they want?
Perhaps a floral brocade dress with a peplum and crystal clips at the waist? This shopper likes her glitz. Or maybe the sleek yellow leather strapless or the light and airy lemon-chiffon organza and tulle dress?
Some of the best looks, though, seemed slightly less conventional: a lingerie-style romper in blush crepe paired with sheer, full-leg lace pants.
Cornejo knows her clients: Many are working women. They're not at the beach all summer long.
So for her spring/summer line at Zero + Maria Cornejo, the designer went for "fresh and summery but not beachy," she said backstage.
"These women work, they have jobs," she said. "They may be lawyers, like Michelle Obama. Or actresses, like Tilda Swinton." (Both have worn Cornejo designs.) "Or many other things. They may not have to wear a suit, but they need something that's not for the beach. Something more structured, more urban."
Cornejo's colors certainly had the feel of summer heat: lots of bright yellows and shades of orange to reflect the sun, and blues to reflect the sky. But some of the nicest designs were of a pure, bright white.
Dresses or tops often billowed like sails.
The highlight of Johnson's show always comes at the end — and it has nothing to do with the clothes.
The 69-year-old designer does a cartwheel on the runway and brings down the house. She added a split this time to huge applause from a crowd that included Nicki Minaj.
The first model on her runway was daughter Lulu, if you don't count her granddaughters who entertained the crowd before the lights went down with their pink-streaked hair and dance numbers on the runway.
As for the collection, it was an eclectic mix of tongue-and-cheek (really, more cheek) prom-ready sequined dresses, lace babydolls and other assorted lingerie-inspired looks, and tough-girl tight outfits with skull and X-ray motifs.
AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.
Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion