Urbane renewal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 April, 2011, 12:00am



Paris Fashion Week is probably still the most exciting of the big four. It's a week in which four-inch candy-coloured wedges are more common than baguettes - especially across the gravelly ground around Les Jardin de Tuileries. OK, we're exaggerating, but the city, even more so than usual, unashamedly embraces style.

Despite the spectre of the John Galliano scandal, things became increasingly optimistic on the runway as the week wore on. Rather than a strict minimalist austerity, trends veered towards a newfound maturity, with one eye on the 1970s and another on the 30s and 40s. Crossed-eyed perhaps, but the results were gorgeous shapes embracing volume and curves, especially along the shoulder and hip in gentle lines.

A few designers championed black and white but, on the whole, colours echoed mature sentiments; deep and inky with some set in 70s palettes. Androgyny or masculine dressing for women was another huge autumn-winter 2011/12 trend. Grown-up sophistication was subtly underscored with sheers, leathers, cutouts and restrained sexuality.

It was a hectic week for Galliano, given his dramatic arrest and speedy sacking by Dior, but those who speculated his eponymous label's show would be called off were wrong. A presentation to a select few at a discreet location displayed a blissful balance of fantasy and seduction. The 30s-inspired line was reworked with sex appeal and flair.

Christian Dior's show also showcased Galliano's signature skills in fantasy and seduction, although the models' fun, flirtatious posturing seemed at odds with the emotional opening speech by Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano, who deplored the anti-semitic comments made in a bar by Galliano. Layered silhouettes evoked dandies and romantic poets in silk jacquard tunics, and breeches were worn with sweeping hooded cloaks in rich dark shades. However, it wasn't a fitting swansong for the designer, who had given 15 years to the brand. Pretty boudoir pieces of sheer girlish chiffon and tulle closed the show.

The silver-grey bouffant wigs at Jean Paul Gaultier's show reinforced an almost universal emphasis this year on maturity. The show was opened by French comedienne Valerie Lemercier, who strutted and stripped off heavy layers. Models followed suit to reveal delicious bourgeois outfits steeped in louche luxury.

Bucking the trend was Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. His was a dark, young androgynous collection with classics reworked for contemporary urban women in a sombre palette. Distressed items and modern tunics, jean leggings, knit or tweed cape coats, mannish jackets and jumpsuits were worn with functional flats, low heels or boots, at times layered with genius slips of sexy gothic lace.

Although a few designers, such as Nina Ricci, Valentino and Junko Shimada, went for ultra-femininity in girly shapes, Chantilly lace and powder hues, the menswear influence in Paris proved to be big news.

Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf and Rick Owens all championed a modern androgyny, the former relying on signature soft masculine influences, showing off easy shapes and tailored trouser suits. Barbara Bui channelled rock-chick chic with oversized sheepskin jackets and boyish tanks.

Those favouring a masculine touch with monochrome black and white included Yves Saint Laurent, Rick Owens, Issey Miyake and Damir Doma. Dai Fujiwara bade farewell after five years helming Issey Miyake with an origami-inspired collection in monochrome, flashes of hot red and 3D graphic prints. Stefano Pilati at YSL played with the feminine tuxedo effect. Lines were elegant and shapes lean and boyish - the all-white finale was a stunning show of Pilati's powerful skills in tailoring and elegance.

Rick Owens returned to more structured approaches with a tough, nun-like purism. Rounded shoulders along with exaggerated top proportions evoked body armour. Viktor & Rolf's collection, both futuristic and archaic, was 'a battle for beauty', it said at the pre-show. Models' faces were painted blood red and the structured collection had stiff armour-like pleats softened only by occasional slivers of silk chiffon.

Long, languid shapes at Hermes created a narrative of deluxe travellers in exotic locations. It was a subtle tale, hedging bets on beautiful cuts and heavy draping, long kaftan dresses, coats and jackets that were athletic and beautiful.

The Lanvin show began sombrely, gothic tree and wide-brimmed hats complementing dark colours on well-made dresses (Alber Elbaz's forte), but rich colours and exaggerated shoulder volumes followed with beautiful, blinding intensity.

Haider Ackermann showed his strength with stunning, almost liquid jackets and models gown-clad in deep jewel hues. Satiny materials were sensually twisted and draped with kimono shapes and obi belts.

Where Jean-Charles de Castelbajac took on surrealism with a fun, gimmicky approach, Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquiere interpreted it with exaggerated proportions in faux-leather cable-knit sweaters and jackets and below-the-knee skirts in exotic flower prints.

Snakeskin was central in Chloe's latest oeuvre as bold 70s shapes ruled. Low, wide-leg trousers in snakeskin print were followed by a python mac and flared jeans. Rue du Mail by Martine Sitbon again conquered effortless Parisian chic, with skirts falling over the knee and stylish peek-a-boo cutouts around the neck. Dries Van Noten injected 70s glamour with colourful patterns on feminine tunics. Flared wide trousers, contrast sleeves, gold brocades and skirts split thigh-high added flair.

Sonia Rykiel's colourful collection employed checks, argyles, tartans and fairisle, all nods to Cool Britannia. The louche 70s touches and warm rich colours were sophisticated and stunning.

While Kenzo's boho hippie turned messy with a paisley-print overload, C?line accomplished sleek modernism with flair and perfect execution. Inspired by vintage cars, the architectural tailoring was streamlined with gently curving ergonomic lines. Innovative materials, wood prints and appliqu? leather strips reflected retro dashboards and interiors.

Sixties roomy mod shapes at Loewe screamed luxury thanks to gorgeous buttery leather, nubuck and suede.

Miu Miu took us instead to the 30s and 40s with simple retro styling. Miuccia Prada had obviously studied pre-war silhouettes and her dresses were full-shouldered, her prints adorable.

The naughty proclivity of sheers came in several lines. They were a foil to heavy bunching, jackets and volume at Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garcons, where the half/half concept saw outfits long and darkly tailored on one side, barely more than a thin sheer sash on the other.

Yohji Yamamoto went punky with asymmetrical see-through knits, transparent dresses and Doc Martens in black with slivers of red. Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy went for mysterious; buttoned-up sheers and black that edged a sexier sensibility along with orchid and black panther motifs. Lady Gaga's catwalk appearance at Thierry Mugler's futuristic collection saw her posture and pose in ultra-tapered tight outfits with cutouts, Mugler offering exaggerated, peaked shoulders, sheer insets, patents, see-through knits, body stockings and latex trousers.

Louis Vuitton added to the kinkiness of it all with a fetish-themed collection. Marc Jacobs brought out the big guns: Amber Valletta and Naomi Campbell both walked and Kate Moss closed the show, smoking irreverently in a pair of tiny hot pants. With French maids dusting and models emerging from an old lift, it was a cheeky show with great vintage shapes, PVC, see-through macs and peaked doorman caps.

You know you're in for a show if you're holding a Vivienne Westwood Gold Label ticket. The godmother of punk did not disappoint. Gold glittered on the runway as well as from the skies, as confetti. Having journied into her luminous imagination, she showed pinstriped power suits, brocade coats and jaw-dropping gowns in an ode to what she called 'the worldwide woman'.

Manish Arora and Alexander McQueen pulled no punches in both workmanship and creativity. Electrifying embroidery and sculpture skills on bright interpretations of Asian culture featured in Arora's presentation. Thunder and lightning opened the Alexander McQueen show, introducing a silhouette of peaked shoulders, nipped waists and dramatised hips, all in white. Angelic white and S&M black alternately dominated in this breathtaking collection of perfect detailing, craft and Sarah Burton's sublime imagination.

Paris highlights

Alexander McQueen

Ethereal ice-queen beauty inspired Sarah Burton's show at La Conciergerie: Marie Antoinette's prison. The show featured fur-lined hems - cuffs and seams adorned outfits with exposed zips, structural hardware that contrasted with long flowing trains on gowns, some even with strings of pearls sewn into the skirt. Hard-edginess was muted with the softness of frayed long dramatic organza. One incredible dress with a bodice of broken china with tulle and organza looked more like contemporary art.

Haider Ackermann has such a mastery of sensuality. Liquid black and ivory long drapes were followed by jewel hues. Leathers, suedes and silks all added to the tactility of these gorgeously opulent creations, belted at the waist. The elongated kimono reference can't be ignored; according to Ackermann, he wanted to bring a more reserved complexity and masculinity to last season's girl. This was one of his best collections to date.

Louis Vuitton

This show featured masks and patent leather gloves, shearling caps and rubberised lace - all obviously fetishistic. Sculpted roomy jackets and blouses and stiff below-the-knee pencil skirts could have been conservative had they not been so pinched by patent cordovan belts. Peter Pan-collared French-maid outfits came with see-through macs and lots of shiny vinyl surfaces contrasted with heavy wool coats and suits. Kate Moss in a rubberised lace jacket, cashmere hot pants and knee-high lace-ups stole the show. The reinterpreted 1958 top-handle Lockit bag was the objet d'art of the season's accessories.

Sonia Rykiel

Brightly coloured fox stoles draped the models' shoulders, chic trouser suits reigned and for evening wear, glam sequin-striped cocktail gowns came with razor-cut bra cups. Cashmere dresses and fur contrast-sleeved coats were popular in colourful traditional patterns. Tartan and tweed were well used and zesty 70s retro colours such as olive, rust, red, brown and orange held the collection tightly together.

Miu Miu

A new venue, Palais d'Iena, set the scene for Miuccia Prada's take on 30s and 40s Paris. Red lips and comb-fixed 40s hairdos accompanied the vintage silhouette: an oversized wide boxy shoulder, with dresses slim-waisted, long-sleeved and knee length. Flowers and bird prints reinforced the cute retro vibe and sequinned versions added glamour.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Anti-fur protesters chanting 'Gaultier assassin!' outside did little to deter the fashion set's love for this designer. Nicole Richie sat front row as Gaultier offered a mature yet playful collection. Camel and mustard outfits, lurex and flashes of bright print were inspired. Lots of men's pinstripes, short trenches, beading and red tartan turned heads in a nod to old-school glam. It was sumptuous bourgeois 'rich bitch', spiced up with furs, leathers and gold brocade - but shapes were kept chic, relaxed and very Parisian.


Christophe Lemaire's first uber-luxe collection for Hermes looked East. It wasn't tacky Orientalism; kimono influences, kaftans and details such as obi and tassels were done with blissful elegance. Flowing robes came in vibrant as well as natural earth tones. Low-waisted, clean lines and clear prints paired well with handsome coats in cashmere, rawhide and leather. A live falcon and a bow and arrow referenced Asian nomads, as did the pluckings of a zither. Jing Zhang


Britons turned into a nation of twitchers (bird-watchers) and Tweeters as London Fashion Week shows were broadcast on screens around the city and in the Underground. Bird and feather prints ruled on the catwalk, as did new media technology. Designers appeared to have been digging in the hedgerows for ideas, with swallows and sparrows on dresses and blouses at Mulberry, Orla Kiely, Saloni and Issa, and bold feathery jewellery by Erickson Beamon for Maria Grachvogel.

The countryside came to the city as country garb such as sheepskin jackets, gilets, chunky knits and breeches mixed with glimmering party looks.

Orla Kiely printed abstract birds on knits and smock dresses while Issa went with abstract feather patterns on long stylish jersey gowns and satin blouses.

In her swansong collection for Pringle, Clare Waight Keller pulled cashmere and mohair tweed and fairisle knits out of the archives to give them a rustic raw-edged appeal in snug layers. At Daks, there was a real sense of tradition in quilted country coats and box pleat walking skirts in the house check - an ironic, bourgeois look. Topshop Unique highlighted another British trait - a love of dogs - with its witty 101 Dalmations collection.

The flora and fauna theme was more sophisticated at Jonathan Saunders, Erdem and Mary Katrantzou, who are among London's premier print designers. Saunders cleverly juxtaposed prints that climbed the body, with bold geometric motifs. The colours were dynamic but he kept it very controlled and buttoned up by using a slender 40s silhouette.

Erdem's flowers were straight out of a watery Impressionist painting: smudges of colour printed on shimmering silk and velvet dresses, the patterns expertly morphing into boucle wool and lace like some modern collage artwork.

London's other printers, Peter Pilotto and Matthew Williamson, were much more abstract, with Russian artists inspiring constructivist 3D shadowy linear prints on Pilotto's cardigans and long lean skirts, while fractured patterns worked across dresses and blanket coats in Williamson's collection. One of the strongest trends in London, and pretty rare in winter collections, was a cheerful use of colour, notably at Burberry Prorsum.

Red was Betty Jackson's favourite for jackets and belted coats in leather, fleeces and alpaca worn with cropped trousers. Amanda Wakeley showed finely tailored dresses in orange wool and Kinder Aggugini dip-dyed and spray-painted colour onto his slouchy wool parkas and slim coats.

Vivienne Westwood, in her delightful idiosyncratic way, daubed the colours of the paintbox on the faces of models wearing her Red Label collection, dressing them in voluptuous checked dresses and wavy patterned knits.

After the neon hues of last season, Christopher Kane trod a darker path with black leather two-pieces printed with crochet patterns and dresses curiously trimmed with plastic tubes filled with coloured water, inspired, apparently, by children's pencil cases.

Giles and Julien Macdonald's collections, meanwhile, moved into a romantic but darkly gothic world of long dresses and shaggy furs. It looked wild and tempestuous at the JM show and rather serene and dignified at Giles, despite its bondage overtones.

London highlights

Burberry Prorsum

Christopher Bailey delivered a vast choice of smart military-style coats, short drop waist dresses and Mod sweaters in chirpy coloured melton wools and checks for the Prorsum collection. His muse this season was chic 1960s Chelsea girl Jean Shrimpton.

Mary Katrantzou

The designer sees nature through the eyes of the porcelain artists of the Qing dynasty and 18th-century Meissen. Her curving moulded silhouette followed the neck of a precious vase, her prints morphing from Chinese carp to Meissen florals. She developed the collection by repeating the prints in complicated knitted jacquard dresses and long floaty gowns.


Waxed and sheepskin jackets, gilets, chunky hand-knits and breeches were mixed with glimmering maxi dresses as Emma Hill foraged in the woodlands and hedgerows for her theme. It's typically British to throw a duffel coat or a big knit over a glamorous party dress. Francesca Fearon


Nothing is ever straightforward in fashion; there is never just one story, one colour, one era that provides inspiration, and thank goodness! How boring would that be? As designers in Milan tapped the decades (1920s, 60s and 70s), dug through their brand heritage and played with themes such as couture, androgyny and the military, out came a mash-up of intriguing looks to get us excited and, more importantly, spending.

Fashion is about interpretation and runway shows have a way of turning things that you take for granted on their head. Designers such as Miuccia Prada, Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta, Raf Simons at Jil Sander and Consuelo Castiglioni at Marni will always come up with the unexpected.

A year ago Prada was giving us voluptuous Mad Men looks - now she's trying to make sexy fabrics look innocent by dreaming up naive 20s-meets-60s silhouettes, furry bathing caps and boots that look like men's socks worn with Mary Janes - almost surreal.

And who but Simons would think of padding coats and dresses to recreate voluminous 50s-couture silhouettes and make them look really desirable? And what about the amazing alchemy of craft and creativity at Bottega Veneta and Fendi? It's luxurious without necessarily being showy, except maybe for the gold-dusted furs.

There were a few key messages to emerge from Milan this season. The first was that colour is still strong, notably mustard, teal, burnt orange - a typically 70s palette. Textures are still big: furs, feathers, knits and tweeds. The overall mood was grown-up and covered up.

Milan can usually be relied upon to come up with some sexually provocative looks, but those wanting obvious titillation missed out this season. All those buxom Italian television personalities sitting front row must have been disappointed on that score. Even Blumarine, noted for wildcat prints and hyped-up glamour, produced ribbed turtleneck jumpers and 60s-style sporty coats. OK, there was colour, but did we misread the invitation? Was this really Blumarine?

Perhaps the scandal surrounding Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his sexual peccadilloes has created a general antipathy for that kind of overt sexuality. There was a real desire to move away from sizzling rock-chick looks and to dress grown-up women.

Labels such as Gucci and Pucci, which in the past could be relied upon for femme fatale dressing, did a volte-face and produced clothes that you could comfortably wear to tea with the Pope. The modest styles, however, do imply a suppressed sensuality somewhat enhanced by the addition of sophisticated furs and luxurious accessories.

Gucci positively smouldered with 70s movie-star allure, and did so by simply adding furs, sunglasses and fedoras. Peter Dundas at Pucci headed for the chic schlosses of the Tyrol, where he revamped housewife-ish loden coats, dirndls and tailored breeches, somehow making them look glamorous. The famous Pucci prints were interpreted in cut velvet and brocade for snug, corseted cocktail dresses.

Giorgio Armani can always be relied upon for modern feminine fashion for the boardroom, but channelling it in boudoir pinks for his mainline was a surprise. However, his Emporio Armani collection still employed plenty of black tailoring and neat leather jackets.

Meanwhile, Salvatore Ferragamo's sharp-suited models in their pinstriped dresses, swaggering coats and no-nonsense slicked down hairdos channelled don't-mess-with-me types heading straight for the glass ceiling. Some collections really played up the masculine-feminine, yin-yang theme.

This is nothing new at Dolce & Gabbana, the Italian design duo often plundering the male wardrobe to create sexy tailoring for women. However, here, they - and Moschino - really played heavily on androgyny. Dolce & Gabbana sent out some of its girls as boys, in rockabilly outfits - double-breasted jackets, pork-pie hats and men's brogues - and had them saunter down the catwalk with hands tucked into the pockets of their low-slung trousers. Despite these extremes, there were lots of sexy sheath dresses sprouting lingerie lace and covered with jazzy star prints to please their loyal fan base.

At Moschino, Rossella Jardini used naval uniforms as her starting point, producing faultlessly tailored tail coats, tuxedos, riding jackets and peaked caps, but blurring the genders by adding rose-print lining or a pink cummerbund.

The customer who really seems to be missing out this season is the free-spirited boho hippie. However, one designer came to their rescue: Roberto Cavalli. His rock 'n' roll, fringe-meets-animal formula still works, although he's cleverly cast it into a decadent, darkly gothic world for autumn. Wildcat prints in silk chiffon were shadowy, worked in inky dark tones and given a tribal vibe with feathers and fripperies.

Angela Missoni similarly tapped into the 70s, but comparing her to Cavalli would be like comparing chalk and cheese. Her vision is sugary and dream-like, starting with raw-edged tweed and patchwork python maxi coats and feathery trimmed knits. The fairy-tale, a pastel palette and illustrations on blouses and long skirts, was grounded by biker boots and chunky hand-knits.

Etro, another craft-based house, imaginatively put exotic patterns, often based on tapestries and richly coloured Oriental carpet motifs, together in eclectic mixes. Shiny materials, tartans and Donegal tweeds were also thrown together in a versatile way.

Aside from all the cosy furs seen around the Milan shows, DSquared's maxi fur coats, ice-skating boots and big felt hats were the look most likely to be spotted around Vail and Aspen next winter, teamed with jeans and jumpers. This is the Caten twins' spin on True Grit-meets-biker girl look; the trouble was, half the audience were already wearing it - with long skirts, leather jackets and knits already de rigueur among the fashion crowd in chilly northern Italy.

Milan didn't manage to turn everything on its head, but it did try.

Milan highlights

Jil Sander

Pure bright colours in the audience testified to the popularity of Raf Simons' summer collection among industry insiders. Next winter, Simons will reference mid-century elegance. Those saturated hues will reappear on the snowy slopes of chic ski resorts as hooded jumpers teamed with skinny black ski pants. For evening it will be lightly padded couture printed with alpine flowers.


The brand played with a 60s vibe, prints echoing the interlocking patterns on the catwalk carpet in a collection full of restraint and elegance, but styled in Consuelo Castiglioni's quirky idiosyncratic way. Lean coats slipped over prim dresses, formal gloves, furs and handbags, but with lots of colour and texture. Pastel and lurex patterned knit dresses and a roomy cream coat with beaded tassels were highlights.

Bottega Veneta

Tomas Maier is the Heston Blumenthal of fashion, constantly experimenting with texture and craftsmanship and always producing gourmet chic clothes. Covetable 60s shifts and trim little cardigans were shredded, embellished and painted to create the effect of light filtering through a stained-glass window. The colours glinted like the opals, topazes and citrines in the newly expanded fine jewellery collection.

Giorgio Armani

Armani thought pink, boudoir pink to be precise. Pretty iridescent, pale, dusty and powdery shades were brushed over fluid trouser suits, marabou jackets and slinky long dresses. The new trouser shape is cut off at the ankle and turned up to accentuate the width. Glamorous evening dresses, some with hooped hems, twinkled with crystals.


There is still mileage in the 70s. This 90th anniversary collection tapped the slick 40s-meets-70s cinematic allure of the era. Below-the-knee culottes and pussycat blouses were a surprise, but Frida Giannini's muses were Angelica Huston and Faye Dunaway, so we saw plenty of glossy lips, colourful furs, divine evening dresses and streamlined handbags to keep Gucci gals happy.


Karl Lagerfeld threw down the gauntlet in the atelier. Collages of sable, fox, croc and tweed in camouflage patterns were used for lightweight swingy coats, gilets and bibs on cashmere sweaters. Gold dust was sprinkled onto fox fur. A lush collection with texture, furs, cashmere and tweed, and gorgeous gem-studded stingray clutches designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi.


Duran Duran in the front row were a reminder of Gianni Versace's 'rock the baroque' look, which Donatella has updated. She pared away the excess, leaving a streamlined silhouette with flashes of colour and a few gilded military buttons, while that curlicue baroque print was revamped as a single bright motif climbing up the body of a slim dress.

Roberto Cavalli

Fashion may have gone all ladylike and prim, but Cavalli isn't about to abandon his boho rock chick in a hurry. Dark, mysterious and beautiful, Cavalli's girls looked like medieval maidens in lacquered leather and brocade jackets gleaming like metal armour. Also seen were romantic devor? velvet dresses in art nouveau patterns. Francesca Fearon

New York

New York may be the most commercial of the major fashion weeks - editors are offered free Fiji water, a 'Star Lounge' and even manicures - but it's also the place to spot trends before they hit other cities.

The biggest story for autumn was an emphasis on craft, as designers returned to rich details, luxurious fabrics and artisanal techniques that took spring's minimalist look to a new level. Longer silhouettes, trouser suits and chic sportswear (that is what the Americans do best) were also popular. If you have to own one colour, it'd be crimson red.

American fashion would be nothing without its stalwarts and Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein served up strong collections. Over the years, each has succeeded with a signature look deeply rooted in American tradition. This season some revisited their archives or paid tribute to Americana.

Donna Karan softened her signature urban look with a palette of nude, silver and greys that evoked 'the glow of pearls on the skin'. Architectural dresses, high-waisted skirts and nipped-in jackets in iridescent chiffon, jersey and embellished silk showed off her skilled draping - a lesson in elegance.

Ralph Lauren also courted the sophisticated woman, but by way of 20s Shanghai as seen in the Chinoiserie-inspired accessories. His signatures were also there - the crisp white shirts, tailored trousers, long-sleeved gowns and mannish suits made from reflective fabric that mimicked the mirrored runway.

Streamlined was the key word for Carolina Herrera's subtle collection, although the devil was in the details. Wool felt dress coats, caplet jackets and button-up embroidered jumpers will appeal to her jet-setting clientele while a sweeping black liquid jacquard gown was added for extra glamour.

Diane Von Furstenberg and new creative director Yvan Mispelaere referenced fearless American legends such as Diana Vreeland, although each look had a touch of French je ne sais quoi. They visited the Wild West with graphic gaucho wraps, culottes and a fringed waistcoat. For the city, there were clashing heart prints, polka dots and flashes of gold.

Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy headed to the American prairies with a windswept look that featured Wizard of Oz red dresses and sheaves of wheat printed on long gowns. Proenza Schouler explored Santa Fe with computer-generated native American blanket prints and intricate textiles.

Tommy Hilfiger revisited the preppy look that made him millions, but infused it with a boho 70s vibe, as seen in his printed pyjama suits. The sleeveless suede and shearling jacket and capes were more luxe than rocker.

The 70s also coloured the collections of Tory Burch and Michael Kors. Burch went for velvet flared trouser suits, tartan, maxi skirts and pussy bow blouses while Kors celebrated his 30th anniversary with a lean silhouette inspired by the decade of disco that merged classic American sportswear with refined elegance.

Craftsmanship was the main message at Calvin Klein, where Francisco Costa once again dazzled with innovative fabrics, including shiny calf hair, alpaca and paper-thin shearling. Marc Jacobs spent a lot more on his crafty rubber polka dots and studded skirts with plastic cabochons - his show reportedly cost more than US$1 million.

The younger crowd had plenty to choose from. Sophia Kokosalaki at Diesel Black Gold turned her back on minimalism with rock 'n' roll lace-up denim, thick knits, python-printed leather trousers, and 18th- and 19th-century inspired military jackets. Alexander Wang's outerwear-centric collection featured oversized quilted parka ponchos, capes and hoodies worn cropped in the front and long at the back.

Phillip Lim also abandoned his girly glamour for an androgynous look, featuring sporty layers of cropped trousers and bi-colour bodysuits.

Everyone was talking about Prabal Gurung, who continued to serve up red-carpet favourites such as the modern off-the-shoulder washed silk red dress. Another hot newcomer was Ecco Domani winner Bibhu Mohapatra, whose cool offerings included goat- hair jackets and metallic denim for the evening.

New York highlights

Ralph Lauren

Lauren's recent visit to China inspired his collection, which featured pops of colour with 30s-inspired jade and tassel necklaces. The Eastern influence was at times literal, as seen in the smoking jacket embroidered with a colourful dragon print and the emerald cheongsam. More elegant were the shifts featuring art deco-inspired beading, masculine tailored suits and chic tuxedos.

Calvin Klein

Francisco Costa continued to explore minimalism, with structured dresses that moved away from the body and collarless baseball jackets. Fabrics ranged from shaved alpaca to technical silk satin that looked like a stiff, crumpled paper. Silk jacquard was laser cut into frills on several sheath dresses for a severe yet soft look wrought from a palette of wheat, silver, gold and ivory.

Marc Jacobs

Jacobs mixed high (fur, cashmere and crocodile) and low (polyester, cellophane and rubber) in a collection he called 'strict and severe'. Fabrics were reworked and transformed - skirts were made from layers of laser-cut rubber to resemble sequins while actual sequins looked like fur on backward jumpers. Polka dots appeared on everything, in miniature or XL patterns. Vinyl berets were fastened under the chin while the models stomped around in rubberised leather wedges and paint-splattered boots. Divia Harilela