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Strong women serve as fashion muses

Ralph Lauren honors ‘Casablanca’; celebrities crowd Zac Posen show
/ Source: The Associated Press

The “independent woman” has been a driving force behind the spring collections presented at New York Fashion Week.

In their notes to editors, retailers and stylists explaining what influenced their clothes, various designers wrote that the women they had in mind are strong, confident and independent, who dress mostly to please themselves, and not to impress a man, a boss or their social circle.

“For spring, I was inspired by a strong, sophisticated elegance that mixes refined luxury with cinematic glamour and an air of mystery,” said Ralph Lauren, who presented his collection Friday, the final day of Fashion Week.

Ralph Lauren: Lauren never pays attention to trends. He does what he does — simple, graceful, rich clothes — and he does it well, collection after collection. This season was no different as he featured sleek and slim dresses mixed with menswear pieces.

“I thought it was so clean, precise and beautiful,” said Allure Editor in Chief Linda Wells.

She singled out a group of platinum gowns in platinum lame as very special.

“Most designers these days are all eveningwear and no day. It’s nice that he’s so good at both,” said Wells, who sat in the front row with Kevin Costner, Lauren Hutton and Emmy Rossum.

Among the highlights for daytime wear were a long white linen shirt dress with a pleated front; a black-and-ivory silk striped shirt with an ivory linen vest and a bone-colored linen pant topped with a black silk floral embroidered kimono; and a long pencil skirt paired with a mandarin-collar shirt-style jacket — both in a creamy white.

Cocktail clothes included a cream-colored wrap blouse with a halter neck and a ruffled front that was worn with off-white cropped pants and an open-back halter dress in black linen with a tuxedo-style placket front.

The overall look was a nod to the 1942 film “Casablanca” — complete with models wearing Panama hats.

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The loose, long wrap dresses topped with loose cardigan coats in the neutral-yet-dark palette were stylish yet extremely wearable. A butterfly tunic with full, flowing arms worn over a long skirt was youthful but not too young, and a leather strip-stitched tapestry dress simply was great to look at.

A delicate patchwork handkerchief evening dress struck the balance between elegant and cool, something Karan also did with several daytime looks.

L.A.M.B.: Before there was Kingston James McGregor Rossdale, the fashion line L.A.M.B. was Gwen Stefani’s baby. She’s still the creative director of the collection and, judging from the spring clothes, she’s still nurturing it.

Instead of the juniorish clothes she offered last year, there was more of a ladylike look in this collection. One group had a country club feel — complete with a white tennis skirt — while another was more of a safari style.

And a great gold trench coat hit on two of the season’s top trends: metallics and dressy coats.

Stefani also debuted her new accessories line, which was surprisingly understated and sophisticated — with barely a logo in sight.

Zac Posen: This is a guy who knows how to pack the house. His show is always one of the most chaotic, in part because of the frenzy over the celebrities who sit in the front row. This year’s roster included Eve, Kanye West, Kate Bosworth and Sandra Bernhard.

At his Thursday night show, held in the biggest venue at the Bryant Park tents, Posen presented a mostly mainstream collection of ladylike blouses, skirts and dresses that he said were inspired by “the refined aesthetic and vibrant eccentricity of Japanese design,” along with the allure of Esther Williams’ underwater world.

An ivory silk scallop dress with an open back was elegant, and an organza blouse with layered sleeves, worn with a gray wool trouser, was a different take on the layering trend seen on the runways this week.

An aqua-colored fringe dress was an obvious interpretation of the Williams theme but it was also playful, youthful and cute. A more sophisticated version of the look was a navy halter gown with black fringe on the back and bottom.

Posen, though, also is drawn to drama, however impractical — or unwearable — it might be. His finale dress was a gold-and-silver strapless showpiece so heavy and wide the model had trouble navigating the runway. That made it hard to appreciate the hard work that surely went into it.