New York

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 March, 2009, 12:00am

In the midst of a full-blown recession, New York had the unenviable task of being the first city to hold its autumn/winter fashion week. It came as no surprise that Manhattan's runway shows were scaled down, with designers such as Vera Wang opting for small, intimate presentations, often in their own boutiques.

Giorgio Armani tried to prove he is recession-proof by opening a glittering Fifth Avenue flagship, with an equally fabulous party. This plus a million dollar donation to the arts meant that heavyweights such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Caroline Kennedy came to show their support. Fashion does have a heart, or at least knows when it's time to do some good deeds.

The three most anticipated shows of the week were those of Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and Jason Wu, the latter made famous by the dresses he designed for Michelle Obama. What we didn't expect was the furore surrounding Barbie's 50th anniversary. Who says fashion is frivolous?

But back to the clothes. With recession haunting their minds and bank balances, designers got down to creating clothes that we might actually want to wear. Phillip Lim looked to the 1960s for inspiration, with slim suits, ruffled blouses and vintage-inspired print dresses, but the real winners were the coats, which ranged from sequinned to cropped in the front with ruffled tails in the back. An element of nonchalant sensu-ality was provided by Wang, with his sexy cut-out and ruched mini dresses (also seen at Charlotte Ronson) accessorised with chunky lace-up boots and bags with plenty of hardware.

Sharp tailoring came from Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein, who continued down the minimalist route with simple but structured sheaths in unusual textures and fabrics such as tattered felted wool and laser-cut velvet. Zac Posen also got in on the act with 40s-inspired sculpted dresses with plenty of ruffles and puff sleeves, while Proenza Schouler featured high-necked, long-sleeved dresses with zips up the back. Wunderkind Wu included polished dresses with details such as tiered ruffles, polka dots and pleats that should fit nicely into the first lady's wardrobe.

Marc Jacobs revisited the 80s with bubble skirts, huge shoulder pads, leggings, metallic leathers and velvet bustier tops. It was bright, bold and funnily enough, more wearable than it was two decades ago. Leopard print, embroidery and tapestry patterns made their way onto Diane von Furstenberg's wrap dresses, tunic-miniskirt combos, slouchy cardigans and voluminous coats.

Established designers such as Carolina Herrera (show-stopping eveningwear), Michael Kors (tailored 'neo-classics'), Oscar de la Renta (luxe fabrics for New York tai tais) and Ralph Lauren (tweed suits and metallics) did what they do best. Triangular shoulders gave new life to Donna Karan's jersey drapes, making this one of her stronger collections.

As for the trend list, top looks were sharp shoulders, fur, techno fabrics, solid colour, suits and leather. The recession has brought the 80s back to life. A remake of Fatal Attraction cannot be far away.