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As You Like It – Narciso Rodriguez, Michael Kors, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Taylor, Daryl K

Fashion week provided a fine juxtaposition, displaying slim, clean looks as well as those that were liquid and layered.

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Fashion week provided a fine juxtaposition, displaying slim, clean looks as well as those that were liquid and layered. With either approach, both work in a perfectly pretty way.

Narciso Rodriguez: It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that austerity is more difficult to manipulate than abundance. In trying to satiate the communal thirst for new-new-new, a less-is-more type of designer has one of the toughest jobs in fashion. Recently, working through that reality has been a particular challenge for Narciso Rodriguez, whose old-school reverence for the craft and subtlety of cut has at times resulted in movement too cryptic to appreciate from the runway. Not so with the collection Rodriguez showed Tuesday night. It featured the designer’s minimalist mantra in a beautiful lineup that felt not only new, but, at a moment when so many designers here are going the fussy-lady route, necessary.

Typically, Rodriguez kept most of his cuts reed-thin and sexy. The difference came in the execution of his splice-and-seam signature, now more overt and high contrast, yet sans a single gratuitous stroke. The results ranged from ergonomic sensuality to a snappy geometry that at times hinted at Mod. For variety, he worked in structured and fluid fabrics, often inserting panels of one into the other. And though he worked mostly in contrasting neutrals, shots of pink provided pizzazz.

When Rodriguez digressed from lean mode, it was with terrific, structured coats with bold piping and with a surprisingly girlish dropped-waist cocktail dress. More often, however, evening was a playful shimmy affair with carefree tanks aquiver with paillettes — saucy digressions amidst a lineup of high chic.

Michael Kors: Michael Kors has a long-standing Ali MacGraw fixation, partly because her style was her own and not the painted-on stroke of a stylist. “She once told me,” Kors said before his show, “that when she put that cap on and went out, she had no idea she’d start a frenzy.” It’s exactly that kind of polished, casual chic that Kors has made his professional raison d’être. After 25 years in the business, he still revels in the great classics of American sportswear, so much so that at this point he classifies some — cabled sweaters, peacoats, tartans and plaids — as “Michael Kors-isms.”

The collection he showed for fall featured all of those elements in full force, with references that spanned from the Jazz Age through the Ali-esque Seventies. And indeed most of it was turf he has covered before, which made for some quiet going. That said, there were still lots of great clothes. Kors is one of many designers this season embracing cold-weather fabrics — meltons, lodens, wool plaids, brocades and oodles of cashmere, but his is bulk-free coziness, lest one of his girls be mistaken for chubby. Thus, big sweaters went over skinny tops and languid skirts. In the collection’s biggest news, these, along with a stretched-out rugby knit dress, sometimes reached the floor, which may be too retro a day concept for Kors’ customer. But no matter, because she can choose from any number of alternatives, including lovely dresses of varying lengths, some with a flapper attitude, and one camel knit charmer accessorized with an argyle handbag and matching kneesocks. As for the mixes, there were appealing pairings of meaty outwear over sweaters with wide pants or walking shorts.

Kors kept evening relatively low-key, favoring the play of sparkles on black dresses with crystal sprays and a cashmere twinset over pleats peppered with paillettes. Just because she’s dressing down doesn’t mean a girl can’t sparkle plenty.

Marc by Marc Jacobs: Move over, perky fashion “It” girl. A new, more introspective type is moving in on your turf. In his Marc by Marc Jacobs collection, the designer played to her with darkish layers built around pavement-sweeping dresses and skirts for a Belgian art-student vibe. The mood evoked a whiff of deconstructionist nostalgia with enough style — and control — to perhaps convince a new generation of girls that their everyday look can consist of something more than a flimsy top over jeans. The lure was in the mix, as the parade of alternative fluidity and volume (there was tons) was broken by, for example, the nattiness of a tweed coat or the chic of a short, lean gray dress. But then, the allure of this collection has always been its expansive DIY possibilities; here, Jacobs added yet another cool dimension.

Rebecca Taylor: Rebecca Taylor threw herself a delightful birthday party. “I wanted to do something special and intimate,” she said. “Fashion week has been so intense of late — and not in a good way.” So to celebrate her 10th year in business, she invited everyone into a bright penthouse space done up like an ethereal tea party in which to show off her pretty fall collection on mannequins. Taylor exists in a frothy, eternally optimistic world, where girls float through their days in sweet floral dresses and delicate lace camis. There were plenty of these here, often teamed with high-waisted tweed skirts or long, louche Hepburn-esque trousers. The Victorian lace blouses offered a prim but not stuffy direction, while the set of lace dresses, in cream and chocolate, will be sure-fire layering pieces for fall and spring. It was, in short, a great way to kick off her next decade in fashion.

Daryl K: For all the rough roads Daryl Kerrigan has traveled over her 16-year career, she has rarely misstepped when it came to nailing what Daryl K customers want to wear. That’s perhaps because of her experience, or maybe because she lives and works on the fringe of the well-heeled set, though they love her clothes, too. So with little fanfare — Kerrigan actually seated most of the guests herself — and to the melancholy lull of Johnny Cash, out came winner after winner. Tops were cut blousy, as in a black gabardine kimono jacket or a russet silk charmeuse smock dress edged with beading, while bottoms were narrow. Layering here was key, but the lightweight fabrics gave it a “I just threw this on” kind of feel. Indeed, today’s Daryl K girl is smart, cool and doesn’t require much fuss — a lot like the designer herself.

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