Fashion Week revved up with the sweet and spiffy, the understated and the daring, as sleek looks contrasted with feminine shapes.

Kenneth Cole: Does Kenneth Cole feel just a little bit guilty about having amassed wealth through fashion? His current tag line has the ring of internal struggle: "To be aware is more important than what you wear." Similarly, this season's show-opening public awareness spot, titled "FVU," an amusing riff on "Law & Order: SVU," stars Whoopie Goldberg as the unapologetic perp who tells two cops that fashion doesn't matter a hoot in a world devastated by AIDS, homelessness and Katrina. But the detectives still throw the book at her (the book being the mammoth September issue of Vogue), since, "being socially aware is no excuse for bad fashion."

There was not an FV atrocity in sight on Cole's runway (at least not on the feminine side; thankfully, this publication need not address HotPants pour homme). Instead, the designer sent out a lineup of appealing sportswear that bore a certain savvy understatement. He worked in muted, often earthy colors — browns, navies, greens of the olive and moss ilk — while emphasizing tailoring that looked soft but still spiffy. Some strong looks played with boy-meets-girl, a generously ruffled wrap shirt with Bermudas, for example. When he countered the overt sportif, it was with all-girl dresses in vibrant crinkled chiffons. Still, Cole's own look might turn out to be the season's best — and most profitable. He took his bow in a Red Cross T-shirt with the number "1 (800) HELP NOW" on the back.

Nicole Miller: In New York, there's no bigger Celtics fan than Nicole Miller. After fall's romp with the Valkyries, for spring she refocused her attention on her first love — Celtic knots and symbols in a rainbow of jewel tones. That motif made for a few appealing pieces. But too often, Miller muddied the waters with a second strong concept — glam bohemia. It resulted in a battery of metallic crochets, architectural panels and some seriously unforgiving silhouettes. Girls might find all those balloon shapes a tad difficult to pull off — even on their skinny days.

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