By  on February 5, 2008

Two of New York's fashion heavyweights turned in collections full of feathered and furred luxury, while the newly revived house of Halston went for minimalism with shaky Seventies retreads.

Oscar de la Renta: Asked before his show what inspired his fall collection, Oscar de la Renta offered only: "Making beautiful clothes for beautiful women."

That simple mandate took him in two directions, both of which looked terrific. Obviously, de la Renta is betting that most of his ladies are recession-proof because many of the clothes were luxed up to the nines, as he worked in rich brocades and metallic tweeds, often adding glistening embroideries or fur for a vaguely Russian feel. Yet he rendered it all with impressive control, even in something as gussied up as a lean-cut shearling coat lacquered with gold paint and then strewn with sequins. Otherwise, a tweed skirt might get a deep fox border, or a lean dress an intricately embroidered bodice. On the other hand, for the more pragmatic among his fans, he offered a host of far simpler looks, such as a high-waisted bird's-eye tweed dress and a sporty granite boiled cashmere coat. Throughout, the biggest news came in the shape that was often, well, big, in full flamboyant skirts and glam trousers, both worn with jackets cinched at the waist to belie notions that a gal has lost her shape.

For evening, de la Renta showed some exquisitely embellished gowns perfect for the red carpet. But that's not the only kind of big night to pique his interest. He may already be thinking inauguration, and so went more discreet with a series of black columns. Of course, some powerful women like to wear the pants, even by night. Should one such lady have a date with destiny next winter, he'll be ready with an ultrachic blouse-and-pants ensemble. Call it power dressing of the prettiest sort.

Carolina Herrera: In its polished, chic cuts and artsy embellishments, the collection Carolina Herrera showed on Monday was typical of the designer's recent work. Yet those elements played second fiddle to an overarching thematic trick that felt oddly out of character. The theme: equestrian/hunting, rendered with a literal romance that approached costumery, while evoking the work of somebody else.


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