Neiman’s Joan Kaner, who got her start working under Geraldine Stutz at Henri Bendel back in the days when the legendary store introduced the concept of in-store boutiques and helped put Stephen Burrows and Sonia Rykiel on the map, narrated a slide show of spring 2005 fashions, the point of which was the resurgence of individuality.

“We’ve come through a rough period when there was not enough individuality in fashion,” Kaner said. “We’ve finally reached the point where designers are stepping out and doing their own things. Yes, there are trends, but people are thinking now about what they want to say.”

Her presentation touched on highlights from a wide variety of collections, including Chanel, Valentino, Derek Lam, Carolina Herrera and others. “One thing we didn’t see was a bare midriff, and I for one was ready to stand up and cheer and say hooray for that,” she said.

Her carefully modulated commentary reflected her experience as a retailer and her knowledge of what wealthy women age 40 and up want from fashion. The store ordered items from Stefano Pilati’s first solo collection for Yves Saint Laurent without the bustles or mid-thigh hemlines shown on the runway “because most of us don’t need a bustle,” as Kaner put it.

She called Alexander McQueen the most “interesting” of all the young designers, and noted that John Galliano is “back on track” with “recognizable” clothes and a collection centered on the jacket. She singled out Chado Ralph Rucci and John Anthony as having the most integrity and style of any designers working today and, in response to a question from the audience, said that St. John and Escada are the store’s best-selling collections.

She identified several key trends that appeared in many of the spring collections: bold and brightly colored abstract prints such as at Helmut Lang and Prada, the color white, anything metallic, voluminous shapes such as relaxed pants and pouf skirts, ethnic prints, crochet and cropped trousers.

“Our customers have embraced them, and if you’re short, you don’t need to shorten them,” she said. — Cate T. Corcoran THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

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