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Patchwork in, ponchos out at Fashion Week

Long, slouchy cardigans in autumn hues also on the runway
/ Source: The Associated Press

Patchwork and ponchos: One is so hot, the other is not.

Fully embracing the softer bohemian styles that first started to emerge for spring, designers Esteban Cortazar and Catherine Malandrino relied heavily on patchwork prints for their fall collections, which were previewed Sunday during New York Fashion Week. Imagine comfortable quilts that have been draped into tiered skirts and blouson tops.

Meanwhile, the shapeless — and, by now, ubiquitous — poncho has been absent from the Bryant Park tents in midtown Manhattan. It’s been replaced by long, slouchy cardigans and short, boxy jackets, which were particularly well done by Tracy Reese, who used brocade and printed fabrics for her portrait collar versions.

Reese’s collection had a definite Art Deco edge, with beaded fringe hanging from the front of a camisole paired with a sweater and slim skirt. A gold collar coat with a blouson top and orchid gold film embroidered skirt also evoked the 1930s, as did the gold metallic peep toe shoes with ankle straps on the feet of the models.

The palette had the season’s typical pumpkin, caramel and black, but the pops of bright blue, which was also a trend at Malandrino and earlier in the week at Kenneth Cole, were an unexpected — and welcome — surprise.

Reese used many metallic touches in her collection of slip dresses, daytime skirt suits and A-line coats, and her floral prints seemed to be inspired by interior design. She even calls one “blue wallpaper floral.”

Susan Kaufman, style director for People magazine, said, “I always love Tracy Reese. She’s consistent. She does clothes that are pretty, feminine, and they’re always special yet wearable.”

Kaufman also said she likes that Reese’s clothes look expensive though by high-fashion standards they’re considered affordable.

“She (Reese) doesn’t feel like she has to follow every trend,” Kaufman added. “She does what she does — and she does it well.”

Cortazar, the 20-year-old wunderkind from Miami, dressed many of the industry’s most-coveted catwalkers, including Caroline Ribeiro and Alek Wek, in 1970s-inspired chiffon dresses that floated as they walked. The silhouettes were loose, with high waists and bell sleeves.

His skirt suits were in tweed and featured asymmetrical and unusual necklines. Eveningwear was draped beautifully, giving gowns the appearance of liquid silk. An olive green gown with a halter neck and loose, open back was an outstanding example of the look.

Malandrino’s audience included Isabella Rossellini, and surely the stylish star found something appropriate in the collection that aimed to bridge the divide between American and French fashion.

In her notes, Malandrino explained that she was inspired by the image of a young writer who shared stories over a glass of absinthe with chic artists and poets: She and her friends “created a masculine-feminine genre and defined a woman of an independent identity and passionate love.”

The writer’s wardrobe, as envisioned by the designer, mixes “equestrian styles with handcrafted cameos, bequeathed pearls and rich jacquards.”

For this woman, Malandrino offered long mohair cardigans, a tank top with a ruffled front and cotton eyelet dresses. Since the colors were generally subtle, the rich textures from the soft knits and velvet jacquards really stood out.

On Monday, fashion editors and retail buyers were to get their first looks at fall collections from Betsey Johnson, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.