Fashion designers, retailers, editors and stylists settled into their routines Thursday for eight days of previews at New York Fashion Week with barely a blink at all the photographers' flashes: a sign of business-as-usual stability.
The luxury market that most of the runway shows speak to has, over the past year, steadily recovered at the retail level despite the volatile economy. The clothes to hit the catwalk in the early going showed a continued confidence in the colorblocking, tailoring and easy, elongated shapes that have been trickling into stores and will arrive in force come spring.
The brands BCBG Max Azria and Richard Chai Love kept colors basic and used hardly any embellishment, turning out straightforward, wearable clothes. Surely there are more flamboyant moments to come, but fashion is, after all, the marriage of art and commerce. Of course, there's the celebrity element, too, and Tadashi Shoji took care of red carpet looks with his Shanghai-visits-Hollywood gowns.
Cynthia Rowley melded high-tech touches, including a wall of screens simulcasting each look making its way down the runway, with clothes inspired by old-school craftsmen such as cobblers and welders.
Dozens of shows are planned at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents that serve as the hub, with another 12, including Skaist-Taylor and Tory Burch, presenting their shows elsewhere on the Lincoln Center campus.
"We look at every space. The question for me is, 'How do you break open the red velvet ropes?'" said Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, director of fashion at Lincoln Center.
Burch's show, for example, while an invitation-only event, is held in an all-windowed spot so Winston Wolkoff expects passers-by to get a peek.
However, big names such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, who all show later in the week, will draw the crowd to off-site places and likely enforce the strict guest list.
Here's a look at some of the shows from the first day.
BCBG MAX AZRIA
The collection designed by Max Azria and his wife Luboy continued the colorblocking trend that's already making its way to red carpets and magazine covers for the spring season, but there was also a muting of colors. Neon pink became a muted coral here, and purple a mellow merlot.
Embellishment was sparse. The emphasis was on geometric shapes, intricate pleats and unexpected mixes of fabrics, including several pieces with patchwork-style pieces of recycled-but-real fur.
In the notes prepared for the retailers, editors and stylists who descended upon Lincoln Center's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents for the first of eight days of previews, the Azrias said they were using the palette and textures "to add character."
It seems a continuation of the effort the designers have made in the last few seasons to elevate the brand to a more sophisticated, restrained — and more expensive? — level.
Colorblocked garments have geometric chunks of bright colors and have been fashion staples since Yves Saint Laurent's 1965 collection inspired by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.
Richard Chai turned menswear into powerful looks for women with top coats, tweed jackets and pinstripe pants for female customers of his Love brand, and he retooled trousers in his men's clothes to be slimmer and shorter than most guys are used to. Some of the best pieces were stadium and duffel coats, appealing to all sorts of customers.
The women looked put together in their mostly gray-and-black blazers and button-down shirts. There were flashes of femininity as Chai also offered some sheer layers and some pieces in pretty red floral print, a contrast to all the tailoring.
Tadashi Shoji sent a parade of gowns down the catwalk. Nothing overly complicated or particularly edgy, but glamorous with a hint of sexy. A flame-red washed velvet gown had a dramatic cowl back filled with black beading, and ballgown with a gold-and-black beaded lace bodice had the full Cinderella treatment for its skirt. The green blouson-top gown with mermaid hemline that opened the show was tailor-made for a bombshell.
For more of a delicate look, there was a green lace tiered dress with a handkerchief hem, while the trick of putting sheer black lace over gold fitted linings had a more sultry effect.
Cynthia Rowley says her fall collection was inspired by "mechanics, cobblers and leathermen. Welding, oil slicks. Women artists making big, strong work." Showing her own craftsman skills, Rowley somehow turned that into a lovely blouson dress in a blue-flame print, a soft buttery leather shift, and a tweed denim shirtdress. She paired skinny pants covered in a tortoise-shell print with a leather jacket and a jersey jumper with mixed print sleeves.
There were a few gimmicks, including jewel-encrusted coveralls, which was more jumpsuit than uniform, but still perhaps a little too literal. The jeweled collars, however, which created a turtleneck effect, seem like something that could really catch on.
Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion