NEW YORK (AP) — Marc Jacobs. Calvin Klein. Ralph Lauren. Spring previews wrap up Thursday at New York Fashion Week with shows by some of the most influential designers in the business before the industry moves on to the runways of London, Milan and Paris.
Lauren's show always seems to come at the right time, when the exhausted crowd needs a breath of fresh elegance after eight days of non-stop fashion.
They got it this time around with Lauren's loose "Great Gatsby" silhouettes and wide-legged pants and shorts suits, some paired with men's ties that looked more Tom than Daisy.
The pale palette shimmered in soft pinks, silvers, whites and greens. It was a distinct departure from the bursts of bright color and less-dainty florals that dominated eight days of shows for editors, stylists and retailers.
Feathers in boas were carried over to the neck and hemlines of flapper dresses in outfits complete with hats of the era.
Another classic American brand, Bill Blass, preserved the past and forged a future in the hands of Jeffrey Monteiro. He was chosen almost two years ago to revive the line after years of tough going for the company.
He showed familiar, impeccably tailored navy coats and blazers, but underneath a navy twill peacoat was a bandeau top. A white halter jumpsuit had no back at all. A number of looks for evening exposed an equal amount of skin.
As soon as the Lincoln Center tents come down, London Fashion Week begins Friday.
The intersection of sportswear and elegance happens on the Ralph Lauren runway. It gives him a place on the American fashion scene like no one else.
There was a feminine hint of ruffle in a floral print, optic white menswear suits, luxe liquidlike fabrics and Deco beading were all part of Lauren's reimagining of '20s style.
Lauren showed great skill in balancing simple shapes the hardest thing to do well — with glamorous details: an ostrich feather scarf here or beaded bag there.
The ivory skirt suit with a hammered-satin tank top, accessorized with an embroidered linen clutch bag and ivory sandal is a lot harder to pull off than something dripping with decoration.
"He's so renowned for desirable, memorable and modern clothes," said Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar.
Virginia Smith, fashion market director at Vogue, added: "It's sort of Ralph Lauren's world and we're living in it."
She especially liked the gowns — the knockout floral lame and the off-the-shoulder goddess style — among them. "They were a tour de force."
The catwalk featured more dressy styles than Lauren has recently turned out.
Olivia Wilde had the coveted seat next to the Lauren family. They always gather en masse in the front row. She seemed to show particular interest in the robin's egg-blue georgette dress with beading on one hip.
How fast can the Lauren team get that gown on the plane for Sunday's Emmy Awards?
Other interesting accents? A shirt tail hem on a black racerback tank, trailing gracefully behind the wearer, and a black organza top with an accordion pleat back. And while a red long-sleeved gown with an accordion pleat skirt seemed a little stodgy, the navy-and-white satin halter gown with a dot georgette skirt looked fresh and chic.
Nodding to the trend of big color, Monteiro included not only bright red — a signature color of Blass, who left the company in 1999 and died in 2002 — but also a bold yellow. A sequined gown of that color was a surprising, almost jarring burst of brightness.
In a backstage interview, Monteiro made it clear he was honoring the past. "We have the archive, and that's always the inspiration," he said. "Classic American sportswear. Sophisticated and easy."
His ideal client is versatile. "It's the classic American woman," he said. "She evolves, but she always comes back."
Considered one of the most influential collections on the runways here, duo Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough seemed one step ahead with more trim, tailored shapes.
But they also confirmed emerging trends with optimistic flashes of yellow and aqua, clean shapes and a lot of prints.
The first model wore a buttoned-up jacket and tasteful, though super-short, shorts in dark brown with a tiger print.
From there, the designers moved down the spectrum from crocheted raffia, with a slight sheen and geometric details that oozed crafty chic, to very modern tech-crepe fabrics that hug the body. Both showed that Hernandez and McCollough continue to experiment with texture as much as silhouette.
To build on artful, architectural and expensive wardrobes, Rucci offered several modern looks with sheer plastic panels. Sometimes it was an inset around the bodice, sometimes more subtle on the cuff of a jacket or hem of a skirt.
And there was a white neoprene coat, paired with a faille straight skirt, like you've never seen neoprene before.
He used silver python for a banded skirt that was worn with a sheer chiffon button-front blouse. For evening there was black caviar-beaded blouson dress — using the tiniest beads one could imagine — that had little fringe at the hemline.
The clothes are grand but not showy — and Rucci received a standing ovation for his effort.
AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.
Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion