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Nicky Hilton proves herself as a designer

Color, optimism blaze off the runways at Fashion Week
/ Source: The Associated Press

If fall’s gray palette seems a bit depressing, get ready for a dose of fashion Prozac.

The spring collections shown at New York Fashion Week were full of optimism, featuring bright colors and bursts of gold. Donna Karan showed a graffiti print in hot pink for her DKNY line on Sunday, while Michael Kors took on a disco theme.

Throughout the week, there’s been hardly a hint of black, if you ignore the audience.

Kors’ collection featured sunny gold, as did those of Proenza Schouler and Ralph Lauren — the toast of one of the week’s highlights, his 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

And if there wasn’t enough celebrity-spotting at that black-tie event or in the runway’s ront rows, Sunday marked the debut of Nicky Hilton’s line, Nicholai. Sister Paris was notably absent.

New York Fashion Week lasts eight days, previewing the spring-summer looks of 100 or so designers.

Nicholai (Nicky Hilton)To be taken seriously as a designer, Nicky Hilton had to show that she was not just another celebrity who wanted to see her name on a collection — despite the success of her handbag line in Japan and the sportswear collection she launched three years ago.

She showed she was serious Sunday night with her collection Nicholai (which is her real name). With her parents beaming from the front row, models pranced down the runway in outfits alternating between bourgeois — including a black silk cape over a white dress shirt paired with mini-shorts — and flirty, such as a black strapless dress wrapped in tulle.

She mixed it up with bandeau bikinis, summer dresses in bright colors, such as tangerine and fuschia, and silk jersey evening gowns.

Big sister Paris was not at the show. The collection, her father said, was all Nicky.

Phillip LimA pearl-embellished, nude-colored minidress told the whole story at the Phillip Lim fashion show Sunday, held inside the New York Public Library.

Lim previewed the collection for his 3.1 Phillip Lim label as part of New York Fashion Week.

“He is such a master of the great dress that you can wear in the summer and wear all summer,” said Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure. She said she personally looks for all-day, all-occasion dresses — and she spotted a few of them on the Lim runway.

The fashion industry considers Lim a top up-and-comer and he won the emerging talent award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America earlier this year.

He owes some of his success to creating outfits that go from day to night, offering affordable prices — by designer standards, and by adding a touch of embellishment to almost everything, according to Wells. “Everyone likes a little bit of that,” she said with a laugh.

Some of those decorated items in the new collection were a sand-colored silk dolman-sleeve top with macrame around the neck, a black cocktail dress with silk dupioni fringe around the neckline and wide back opening, and a crystal-covered cheetah patchwork dress.

Not everything, though, needed bells and whistles. A stone-colored belted caftan was elegant and his “P.I.” trench coats were as chic as they were practical.

It was Lim’s menswear that seemed to run a little more extreme. One has to wonder how many men — other than a model at a fashion show — would wear a gold lurex sweater, bow-tie shirt and black scout shorts.

Michael Kors
An explosion of color rocked the tents with Michael Kors’ spring collection.

For all the lovely dainty dresses that retailers, fashion editors and stylists have seen over the first half of Fashion Week, Kors offered the opposite in splashy and sunny clothes, ranging from a form-fitting rainbow color-blocked sweaterdress to a floral ruffle bikini in a print done in the spirit of the artist Seurat.

The audience, which included Jessica Simpson, got into the joyous spirit of the show when a glittery pink dress came down the runway to the soundtrack of “Xanadu.”

He didn’t forget, though, that his fans also depend on him for their daily dose of luxury. He delivered that with a gold brocade tunic and a black-crystal jersey jumpsuit with a halter top.

DKNYMix it up. That was the message Donna Karan conveyed as she presented her spring DKNY collection at her downtown studio.

Outfits alternated between crisp white tailored looks, including a coatdress with a portrait collar, and soft stretch cotton T-shirt styles. A navy-and-orange striped dress from the latter group would have been the perfect thing to wear on an Indian summer weekend day.

DKNY is Karan’s more casual, contemporary line, and for this cool customer, there were the long, loose sundresses that are everywhere at New York Fashion Week.

Karan also continued with the color-blocking trend and embraced a bit of a peasant look with flowing bodices, off-the-shoulder necklines and bell sleeves.

Narciso Rodriguez
Narciso Rodriguez can have a soft touch when he wants to.

The master of structured garments presented a breezy and feminine spring collection Sunday night for a New York Fashion Week audience that included actresses Rachel Weisz and Julianna Margulies. Yet the overall look was still completely Rodriguez.

A white dress with tie-dye sunbursts in pink and orange seemed downright funky for this designer, but a closer examination showed all the seams and careful proportion that are his signature. Same goes for a sexy nude-colored, tank-strap sheath dress sprayed with black beads, and a dark purple slipdress under a sheer black overlay that had a lingerie feel.

One model wore a white silk slip under a gray dress with an open front, and the peek of the slip that stuck below the hemline added a sexy touch.

A creamy cocktail dress had an overlay of metallic circles over the bustline as adornment; a more subtle companion dress was a metal-embroidered dress with an overlay of sheer black fabric.

Some of Rodriguez’s fans demand his architectural suits and he did deliver those, too — mostly pantsuits. Jackets had asymmetrical fronts and peplums at the hip, paired with slim ankle-length trousers.

The men’s suits ranged from a more traditional two-button blue silk suit with fitted pants to a more relaxed “suit” with a two-button, short-sleeve jacket and matching dark blue shorts. Yes, shorts.

However, there was an emphasis at Rodriguez’s show, and the broader Fashion Week as well, on seasonless styles — as in clothes that can be worn any time of year. On this catwalk, there was an outstanding asymmetrical cobalt-blue silk coat that completely covered the black cotton shirt and white silk skirt that were supposedly underneath.

Diane von Furstenberg Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg used her upcoming spring-summer collection, presented Sunday during New York Fashion Week, as an excuse to escape from everything she’s known for.

The wrap dress that is her hallmark was barely visible on the runway at the Bryant Park tents, and the best one that was there — a shiny shantung dress done in safari style — was almost unrecognizable without von Furstenberg’s reliable jersey fabric.

She also did fewer workday ensembles, instead concentrating on outfits for a summer vacation to a remote locale, or at least for hanging out poolside. Safari-inspired looks dominated, with a white linen suit looking particularly fresh. However, there also were a fair share of loose, airy dresses in tropical floral prints best pictured over a swimsuit.

Von Furstenberg used plenty of the pink and orange that have emerged as key colors of next season but she also played with the ocean shades of blue and green, as well as sandy neutrals.

A strapless dress with alternating horizontal rows of triangles and lines in brown and black against a white ground was called the “totem” dress.

A group of chiffon “pirate” garments were romantic without fussy trappings. Maybe Kiera Knightly could borrow the ethereal white blouse with rope-style trim if there ever is another “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

DieselHello, Miami.

Italian-denim brand Diesel revisited the steamy scene of Miami in the 1980s to set the mood for its new spring collection, presented Saturday at New York Fashion Week.

Hot pink? Check. Neon yellow? Check. Graffiti print? Check.

But there was nothing seedy about these clothes. The kitschy theme of the show was actually laundry detergent.

That might explain all the white: white jeans, white shirts, white jackets. The neon was the exclamation point to all the skinny jeans and slim skirts with gathered paper-bag waistbands.

On the softer side, there also were a series of light, flowing white tunic tops and dresses made of a sheer, gauzy fabric.

Jumpsuits are poised for a resurgence next year, with many designers showing them on the runway — including Diesel’s Renzo Rosso. One was in the spirit of what Norma Kamali did 25 years ago with a soft sweatsuit-type fabric, while another had oversized pockets.

The big pockets turned up elsewhere at Diesel, including a nice yellow raincoat, but not even those enormous pockets were big enough for the giant butcher-block bangle bracelets the models were wearing.