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New York: It’s Trend City

If you missed them in Europe, you can catch them here. And on New York's opening day, out trotted the plaids, shearlings, kilts, boots, neon brights, minis and micros.<BR><BR><STRONG>DKNY: Mixed Blessing<BR></STRONG><BR>Styling is destiny -- at least...

If you missed them in Europe, you can catch them here. And on New York’s opening day, out trotted the plaids, shearlings, kilts, boots, neon brights, minis and micros.

DKNY: Mixed Blessing

Styling is destiny — at least in fashion these days. And no one understands that better than Donna Karan. Her DKNY show Wednesday morning — or at least the first half of it — was a testimony to the importance of getting just the right mix. At her best, Donna is a master at combining the hip with the commercial, and her runway was full of perky plaids, dapper riding habits, flippy skirts and shearling coats to kill for. She also staked early claim to what just might be the smartest commercial crossover from the avant-garde in many a fashion moon: the knee-grazing skirt. And amidst all this splendor, Donna staged a mini-revival of the party dress, in everything from plaid taffeta to scuba stretch Neoprene.

Editing is also destiny, especially on the first day of the season. Here, Donna could use some practice. She’s a woman of a billion ideas — some of which ring familiar — and some of which should be saved for another day. But Karan’s excesses are in synch with her enthusiasm. And clearly, she is continuing to channel that energy toward an increasingly sophisticated DKNY that’s come a long way from its original ragamuffin wiles — a point made with the clothes and on the soundtrack. Donna opened and closed the show with Aretha Franklin’s “Pride,” an obvious ode to her most important customer: “I get up out of bed and put on my clothes ’cause I’ve got bills to pay.”

Adrienne Vittadini: Safe Haven

It’s not easy being the designer to open the season, but sweater queen Adrienne Vittadini accepted the challenge Wednesday morning. And she was off to an encouraging start, with a lively blend of plaids, argyles and black leather that gave a hip twist to her classic preppies. Next came Vittadini’s texture mixes — the strongest element of the show — in combinations like shearling vests or jackets over natural nubby knits, fringed sweaters and short brown leather skirts. Vittadini showed her sure, safe hand with knits in a series of ribbed cardigan coats over matching dresses and cropped twin sets over neon-bright minis. But those knitting needles were working overtime, and the repetitious parade of antiseptic knits dragged on too long.

Randy Kemper: A Subtle Hand

Everyone agrees that the tents are making life easier for editors and buyers. But they present a problem for certain designers, pushing them to present full-scale shows when their clothes can’t carry off that kind of flashy presentation. There’s no denying Randy Kemper is a commercial success, and his clothes look great in the stores. But Kemper’s subtlety gets lost on the runway. What did look great here were his tailored jackets softened with fabric laces cinching the waist; slouchy Thirties’ style trousers and simple wrap jersey dresses over crisp white shirts — all shown to great advantage on a bevy of mega models. But Kemper’s glamour theme got a little too hot and heavy for evening.

Badgley Mischka: Fuzzy Logic

Mark Badgley and James Mischka are venturing onto new, sportier turf — and having a romping good time in the process. Mohair was the ticket — in bright suits, dresses, toppers, and especially in the seafoam mohair kimono over a matching slipdress trimmed in more of the same. The chenilles looked terrific too, in burnt orange or plum jackets over sexy matching dresses. The design team has always shown a fine hand with glamorous evening looks, but why on earth did they glitz them up this season with attached jewelry and beaded gladiator overskirts?

Magaschoni: Out of Africa

Tracy Reese’s latest outing for Magaschoni may have been an ode to Africa, but it was one skitzy trip: Animal prints, a hot white satin safari suit and traditional, caftan-like daishikis were peppered among legions of little citified suits, rugged basket-weave knits, and parkas trimmed in fake mink. As if all that weren’t enough, Holly Golightly even breezed by. Some of the clothes were just fine, but they got lost in the blur of Reese’s discordant jaunt.

Lauren Sara: Hollywood Heights

Lauren Sara dressed her girls like Forties screen queens — and Dietrich, Harlow and Lombard would have loved it. Sara showed a range of salable glamour looks: a charcoal twin set trimmed in cloque over slim Hepburn trousers; a glen plaid suit updated with a rubberized nylon T-shirt, and sultry silk satin gowns topped with feather-collared coats. But some of Sara’s strongest looks had military overtones, such as leather flight jackets and midshipman’s jackets slipped over kicky kilt dresses.

Kalinka: Spellbound

Kalinka may have had a magical, mystical theme in mind, but the crystal ball vignette — not to mention the Barbarella hair and scary makeup — only detracted from some rather wearable clothes. She did sexy pinstriped suits with cool short skirts or narrow trousers, flippy A-line sweater dresses and straight-as-an-arrow long dresses in black and gray checks. The shiny black vinyl halter dresses and colorful pantsuits may not ever make it to the stores, but they definitely had a sense of fun.