NEW YORK — With some exceptions, such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs, it was the younger and smaller designers who stole the shows last week.

While buyers praised the collections of these fashion icons, they saved their strongest plaudits for such newcomers as Derek Lam, Zac Posen, Sass & Bide and Peter Som. They saw plenty of new suits, tweeds, narrow pants, fitted jackets, interesting uses of fur, unusual color combinations and, perhaps most importantly, some surprising changes in direction at several designers.

“Overall, I really loved the New York designers that are developing — the younger ones,” said Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York. “Proenza Schouler had a great showing, as did Zac Posen, Behnaz Sarafpour, Derek Lam and As Four, and Libertine was great. That makes New York really interesting. There are all these people to watch.”

Here are what buyers had to say about the New York collections:

Stefani Greenfield, co-owner of Scoop: “My favorite was Michael Kors. I loved the energy. He took the whole feeling of Ali MacGraw meets Warren Beatty. I loved the fringe, the fur and the color — lavender.” Among her favorite lookswere the silver evening dress; lavender cable long dress, the paisley-printed pieces and the halter dress. She also loved the skinny pants tucked into boots.

She also singled out Jacobs’ belted knitwear, sweaters, the beaded skirts and the lace dress pieces. “The cashmere jersey wrap dress is definitely my girl,” she said.

“I thought the fur pieces all over the runway were great,” said Greenfield. Other favorites were the wool tweed coats at Chaiken; Diane von Furstenberg’s lavender python-print wrap dress; John Varvatos’ knee boots; Matthew Williamson’s camisole handkerchief dress and his rabbit-fur coat with vintage buttons, and Tuleh’s belted coats.

“What we’re seeing is a lot more opportunity for women to be perceived as beautiful, and women not trying to be a young girl. There was more of an opportunity for women in their 30s and 40s with jobs and kids to dress and still be on trend and look like a woman.”Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction: “Many of the established designers had great forward-thinking collections and many of the new, young designers took strong steps into the spotlight and will become major forces. The overall message was an eclectic mix of luxury, bohemian and femininity.”

However, Ruttenstein cited Ralph Lauren for “dipping into his own past rather than vintage shops; for making camel hair look modern, sexy and sophisticated, and for showing a new suit silhouette with full skirts in tweed, an importantnew silhouette.”

He also pointed to Donna Karan’s 20th anniversary collection as sophisticated with sexy, draped dresses; Marc Jacobs’ fur-trim coats, bow blouses and unusual prints; Michael Kors for combining paisley scarf-print skirts under pastel tweed jackets, along with his steamer coats; Zac Posen for his color and dresses; Derek Lam’s slouchy cashmere sweaters with brocade and beadwork; Peter Som’s blending of tweed, cashmere and fur; Proenza Schouler’s new direction concentrating on strong jacket shapes; Narciso Rodriguez’s new seaming and cuts on dresses; Anna Sui’s mix of sweaters, prints, bows, fur, lots of fun and originality, and Sass & Bide’s fun, floaty dresses.

Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue: “I thought it was an interesting week. There wasn’t a big moment of ‘wow,’ but there was a great consistency of what we saw for spring evolve into fall. It’s very much how our customers want to dress. The overall season was one of glamour, but not the sexpot kind of glamour of a few seasons ago. This goes from a demure kind of glamour like Tuleh to very refined and elegant kind of glamour like Oscar. It couldn’t have been a stronger season here in New York.”

She liked the subtle way Vera Wang introduced daytime looks; the mix in Tuleh, and that Marc Jacobs showed an “innocent glamour, beautifully making you feel nostalgic for another time.”

Sue Patneaude, executive vice president of designer apparel, Nordstrom: “The three things I would want to buy for fall are a light silk charmeuse dress — Carmen Marc Valvo had the most beautiful of all; second, a tweed jacket or sport coat, from Tuleh, Oscar de la Renta, Roland Mouret or Matthew Williamson, and third, a new suit from Jeffrey Chow, John Varvatos or Ralph Lauren.“We haven’t seen this proportion for a long time — that of a skinny top with a full skirt. It was absolutely on target with what we’re looking for and I believe it was the most important thing that happened in the market this week.

“Michael Kors did a good job in balancing the winter and summer weights and colors, which gives the collection a good range for customers around the country. Ralph’s play on proportion with a tiny top and full skirt was the most important look of the fall market, and Donna’s luxurious collection was worthy of her 20th anniversary celebration, and what a great way to end fashion week.”

Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman: “[It was] a pretty flat season for New York and a bit too safe as a whole. However, there were some definite highlights. Some of the younger designers were particularly promising. Zac Posen showed evolution in his design. Sometimes you wonder if these new designers have only one or two collections stored up. We have really seen him progress. His dresses were strong, and it was nice to see some sportswear.”

Burke also listed Derek Lam as very refined, with great tailoring, wonderful fabric and innovative colors and prints; Vera Wang, for a sophisticated, understated collection; Lauren, for being “really cleaned up, nothing forced or overly styled, [and] beautifully tailored, with feminine jackets, full skirts, strong silhouettes — almost reminiscent of couture,” and Carolina Herrera for wonderful deco Austrian references and ski themes.”

Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York: “Proenza Schouler had amazing short coats, and Behnaz had really beautiful knit skirts and a really pretty print. She’s establishing herself as a polished designer with really good taste, but a little bit of an edge. She dices it up a bit, which is nice.”

Gilhart also pointed to Rodriguez’s “amazing eveningwear. He gave some fullness to a really narrow silhouette.”Karan’s collection, she added, had plenty of jersey. “The way she draped it and added glass jewelry pieces to it, when there are so many pins and decorations, was really done artistically and was incorporated into evening.”Scott Tepper, fashion director at Henri Bendel: “Michael Kors and Tuleh were a joy from start to finish. They both, in different ways, took the most luxe elements and created pieces that are true objects of desire. The way they mixed all these elements was filled with youth, confidence and vitality. They were incredibly modern takes on American glamour.

“Patrick Robinson for Perry Ellis, Jeffrey Chow, Tony Melillo for Generra, and Derek Lam all showed sophomore collections that proved they are going to be designers to be taken seriously for the long term. All of them balanced fresh design aesthetic with the needs of real clients. We loved the use of prints at Matthew Williamson and felt this was Luella Bartley’s best collection to date. Daryl K. was perfect downtown dressing. Her skinny pants and short jackets had the feel of pieces that can be a uniform for women who are simply above “fashion,” per se.

“Trend-wise, we were happy to see fur and fur accessories so prominent again. We loved all of the charmeuses, satins and especially all of the ombrés. These will be great for us — our customer loves the femininity and glamour. We were less pleased to see all of the velvet, as this is not a fabric we sell well. Color-wise, all of the lilacs, mauves and purples were new and we feel the customers will respond well to the palette.”

Sarah Easley, co-owner of Kirna Zabête: “I really liked the Derek Lam, Tuleh, Matthew Williamson, Sass & Bide and Peter Som shows. I’ve never seen a more coherent season. Sometimes trends are all over and you’re grasping at straws to make a cohesive story. However for fall, it was very prim and ladylike, à la “Mona Lisa Smile”-Wesleyan sort of thing. There was a lot of fur — capes, ponchos — as well as a focus on the waist with belted dresses and coats, along with silk satin and shrunken tweed jackets.”

Anna Garner, head of fashion, men’s and women’s, Selfridges: “Perry Ellis did the lady look well. Patrick Robinson managed to mix it up really well and give it a younger attitude. It wasn’t quite as literal as that whole look was all throughout New York. Michael Kors was sassy, strong, Seventies — still lady but in a very bohemian jet-set way. Daryl K. had a good comeback. Her androgynous fashions were so refreshing against that backdrop of tweeds and uptown looks. And Matthew Williamson’s show was also a departure and had a free feeling to it.“The main trends were ladylike looks — tweed and pencil skirts and accessories like brooches and boots, but in a more fun way, like the rain boots at Marc by Marc Jacobs.”

Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner of Jeffrey stores: “I very much liked Proenza Schouler, Michael Kors and Tuleh. Designers are using a lot of bouclé and tweedy fabrics. There’s a slightly dressier feeling and less of a sportswear feeling. I saw lots of fur, gloves and over-the-knee boots. Also, the shift in accessories looks right with flatter, chunkier boots. I wish there would have been more color, but there was a lot of it in accessories and in showrooms. More and more importance is being placed on New York shows. I saw a lot of European retailers in New York — more than ever — as well as a lot of support for young designers like Behnaz Sarafpour, Peter Som, Zac Posen and Proenza Schouler.”

— WWD Staff

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