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.Miller's best moments were when she boiled her ideas down to their square roots: lean white crochet dresses; a sweet cream Empire-waisted linen coat. And rather than tricky cuts and seams she should play to her strength, color. Miller's unafraid to use it with Pucci-like boldness — which she exercised on the oversized Celtic prints — or find fresh ways to pair it, as seen in copper trims on a mint skirt and a cerulean dress.

Gottex: A sexy Caribbean breeze swept through the tents Friday afternoon as Gottex's Gideon Oberson, inspired by the exotic isles, sent out his latest swimwear collection to a group that included celebrity guests as off-kilter as Dr. Ruth Westheimer and pop music's latest heir apparent, Ryan Cabrera, who both sat in the front row.

Oberson focused heavily on overlays and daring cuts. In his playful tropical print group, there were lots of ruffles and pretty chiffon après-beachwear, including slit-front skirts and shawls. And the twist played a key role in many of the 63 styles he sent out, most notably a lime one-piece with multiple twisted bandeaux on its front side. It was one of his seemingly simple maillot styles, though, that really wowed the crowd when the model turned around to reveal a beaded spiderweb across the back. But nothing upstaged the last look: a bikini festooned with more than 5,000 hand-carved, 18-karat gold mini banana leaves that swished as the model breezed by.

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