A whimsical, slightly brooding attitude set the tone for the start of fashion week, as designers sent out easy looks in dark and neutral shades.

Ports 1961: A pragmatic shopper might think she really only needs a few cashmere staples: a sweater, a wrap, a coat, a couple of scarfs. But Tia Cibani, creative director of Ports 1961, is out to change that idea, and she made a good argument with her fall collection. How about a sweats-style skirt in heather gray, a chunky strapless frock in winter white or an oversized loose nude dress with a subtly bubbled hem? Add to these a parade of louche tapered pants in calming neutrals and those charming cropped sweaters and jackets, and voilà, you're officially cuckoo for cashmere. But fashion isn't just about a cozy, chic knit, and Cibani did branch out with tweed jackets and skirts and a handful of satin dresses — the prettiest being a velvet-trimmed sage floral topped with a darling nubby gray coat. Yet she went ever slightly too far, adding tricky details like tulle bustles under cardigans and coats and knit cummerbunds to looks that would have been lovely as is.

Réyes: José Ramón Reyes has taken his preppy prototype from spring and given her some major chic for fall. This time, he snuck into Margot Tenenbaum's closet and emerged with 40 covetable looks that perfectly tapped into her wasted-luxe look, an effortless mix of sophistication and "I don't care" élan. But rather than present a literal interpretation of the subversive mink- and tennis dress-wearing Margot, he reenvisioned her as a girl who has a regular day job and a busy social schedule. He offered a slew of sweet silk blouses with tuxedo-style pleated details paired with either skin-tight piped pants and pencil skirts or loose pleated men's wear-style trousers. The palette was dark and moody in gray, black and deep purple with a few cream stripes — a prep motif he carried through on knit sweaters and vests. But lest things got too serious, outerwear was a witty take on the Members Only jacket from the Eighties, done here as tan nylon puffers with fox-trimmed hoods and seersucker linings. Reyes also successfully segued into formal eveningwear with understated, fluid silk gowns. It was a great effort from a young talent who deserves a spot on the retail radar.Elie Tahari: Having unveiled his blueprint for building a billion-dollar company within five years, Elie Tahari started fashion week off with a capsule showroom presentation that indicated just how serious he is about his increasingly high-end aspirations. While his new growth plan puts a major focus on accessories — he's most proud of the filigree patterns etched into heels and printed on soles — Tahari certainly didn't ignore the clothes. "This is an era of luxury," he said. "As much as we want to dress down, we've reached the peak of the bottom." So here were the fur pieces and detailed hardware that push prices up, up and up. He played with themes, painting whispery blouses and skirts into an opulent Venetian picture with brocade, chiffon and lace, while giving smart outerwear a military touch. Romantic skirts and dresses — done up in every manner of velvet — were tempered most often with a structured jacket, while furs, especially sheared mink, made numerous appearances as boleros and coats. Fall is a pretty, decorated affair, which will give Tahari's customer options — wear it all for a decorative head-to-toe finish or pick just one piece to dress up a pair of jeans.

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