Vera Wang: A romp through the Roman Republic? That may have been Vera Wang's stated inspiration, but the collection she showed on Friday was in fact another sojourn to the land of artsy chic. It's a place Wang has claimed as her own, and where this season she found herself at a crossroads. Her challenge: to avoid redundancy while staying wearable and au courant. Duh, you say? True, that's the task of every designer every season, but one heightened exponentially when the signature is so specific and the costume-crossover potential so high. For spring, Wang responded beautifully, scaling back the obvious intricacy (despite highly complicated cuts) and decoration while retaining the air of wistful mystery, and countering her gorgeous Romanesque draping with bold structure.

The latter made for a deft and beautiful balancing act. Never a natty blazer kind of gal, Wang loves languid and here spun sweater and tunic dressing into nonchalant elegance highlighted by floppy, whisper-thin knits with floating chiffon back panels, each one a graceful knockout. Often, these played against slouchy pants, shorts or stiff A-line skirts which the designer dubbed "New Look" in a fanciful riff on a classic. These made for dramatic stuff — plenty evocative in rich-hued, often shiny fabrics, though not all easy to wear. As for decoration, Wang limited the extras to carefully placed bullion embroideries and bold stones engineered into bibs or collars for graphic oomph.

For evening, Wang was stellar, her nonglitzy beauties providing welcome antidote to all the overembroidered illusion out there. Among the stunners: a jewel-neck forest green gown bloused haphazardly at the hips, because the sensual earth goddess survived the fall of Rome — and loves to work a sexy drape.

Michael Kors: Tennis anyone? How about a day at the beach followed by some racy disco doings at Studio 54? In the collection he showed on Sunday, Michael Kors had all such activities covered with terrific results.

Kors' innate up-with-people/up-with-fashion optimism pulses through everything he does, and for spring revealed itself in a terrific, lighthearted lineup with a current of the designer's beloved Seventies wafting through. Within that framework, he delivered a feisty feast with enough diversity to thrill the gamut of his well-toned gals, whether they fancy structure — a sunshine-and-white doubleface shift, a snazzy bullion tunic — or a side-slit day dress with flou-la-la shades of Lisa Taylor photographed by Helmut Newton for Vogue back when. Not a dress girl? Sharp safari fare played into one of the week's developing trends. Even at the beach, Kors went two ways — neither of them trashy: high glam with plunging-V maillots or sweetly girlish with a ruffled bikini.Color proved a major motif, with a line list that read like a stroll through Whole Foods, offering ample sightings of lemon, guava, apricot and apple. A bit to the Miami Beach side of chic, you say? Nope, as Kors kept the combos controlled, working them conversely in bold, graphic blocks and a delicate Seurat-inspired floral. It all made for a delightful spring fling.

Vera Wang: A romp through the Roman Republic? That may have been Vera Wang's stated inspiration, but the collection she showed on Friday was in fact another sojourn to the land of artsy chic. It's a place Wang has claimed as her own, and where this season she found herself at a crossroads. Her challenge: to avoid redundancy while staying wearable and au courant. Duh, you say? True, that's the task of every designer every season, but one heightened exponentially when the signature is so specific and the costume-crossover potential so high. For spring, Wang responded beautifully, scaling back the obvious intricacy (despite highly complicated cuts) and decoration while retaining the air of wistful mystery, and countering her gorgeous Romanesque draping with bold structure.

The latter made for a deft and beautiful balancing act. Never a natty blazer kind of gal, Wang loves languid and here spun sweater and tunic dressing into nonchalant elegance highlighted by floppy, whisper-thin knits with floating chiffon back panels, each one a graceful knockout. Often, these played against slouchy pants, shorts or stiff A-line skirts which the designer dubbed "New Look" in a fanciful riff on a classic. These made for dramatic stuff — plenty evocative in rich-hued, often shiny fabrics, though not all easy to wear. As for decoration, Wang limited the extras to carefully placed bullion embroideries and bold stones engineered into bibs or collars for graphic oomph.

For evening, Wang was stellar, her nonglitzy beauties providing welcome antidote to all the overembroidered illusion out there. Among the stunners: a jewel-neck forest green gown bloused haphazardly at the hips, because the sensual earth goddess survived the fall of Rome — and loves to work a sexy drape.
Michael Kors: Tennis anyone? How about a day at the beach followed by some racy disco doings at Studio 54? In the collection he showed on Sunday, Michael Kors had all such activities covered with terrific results.Kors' innate up-with-people/up-with-fashion optimism pulses through everything he does, and for spring revealed itself in a terrific, lighthearted lineup with a current of the designer's beloved Seventies wafting through. Within that framework, he delivered a feisty feast with enough diversity to thrill the gamut of his well-toned gals, whether they fancy structure — a sunshine-and-white doubleface shift, a snazzy bullion tunic — or a side-slit day dress with flou-la-la shades of Lisa Taylor photographed by Helmut Newton for Vogue back when. Not a dress girl? Sharp safari fare played into one of the week's developing trends. Even at the beach, Kors went two ways — neither of them trashy: high glam with plunging-V maillots or sweetly girlish with a ruffled bikini.

Color proved a major motif, with a line list that read like a stroll through Whole Foods, offering ample sightings of lemon, guava, apricot and apple. A bit to the Miami Beach side of chic, you say? Nope, as Kors kept the combos controlled, working them conversely in bold, graphic blocks and a delicate Seurat-inspired floral. It all made for a delightful spring fling.

Rodarte: Kate and Laura Mulleavy have brought something wonderful and utterly new to American fashion. Yet everyone knows their most ebullient, romantic confections don't address the more mundane wardrobe needs of even the toniest women, and that in the interests of long-term viability, the sisters must extract and develop a commercial element for their breathtaking point of view. As so often happens these days with promising young designers who skyrocket to prominence early, they now find themselves working through that issue in full view of an intrigued yet impatient audience.

The Rodarte collection the Mulleavys showed on Saturday was part of the process, including toughened-up styling marked by neon ponytails and heavy metal stilettos. Much of it was brilliant, and not only the designers' most obvious attempts at simplified romance, as with the cloudy dream of a dress with a pink and blue organza bodice, the pleated gray skirt or the cornflower blue chemise suspended from thick X-straps. In other cases, they kept the complications more apparent but the dresses plenty wearable — the pink ballerina, its bustier attached to a flower vine that twisted delicately across the model's back. But the Mulleavys also showed the ability to go froth-free, expanding last season's knit experiment into a terrific, webby mélange lineup including a witty tennis-anyone twin set and pleated skirt. They proved, too, that they can do a no-frou suit, whether ballooning up a Chanel-ish tweed or New Look-ing it in acid green precision pleats.As for the duo's take on tough-chic with racy, exposed-seam pants scrunched at the ankles, if their desire to do sportswear is internal, coming from their own designing hearts, godspeed. They're not there yet, but they can't not try. However, if they're merely reacting to external pressure to instantly be all things to all credit card-wielding shoppers, that's a shame. Fashion is filled with casualties of square pegs forced unsuccessfully into round holes. Yes, the Mulleavys must find their way to commercial common sense. But it must be their way, and not someone else's.

Proenza Schouler: Concept — check. Materials — check. Execution — check. In Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez's first collection since receiving an infusion of money via the partial sale of their company to Valentino Fashion Group, the clinical elements that make for a great collection were there in full force. The idea, a chic military-majorette motif that played big-buttoned structure against almost-frothy, very leggy skirts, was appealing enough, its sophisticated cheekiness punctuated by foot-high feathered band-leader hats, and the girls looked great. So, too, when the military moment gave way to vaguely folkloric tweeds and short, precision-cut evening looks that retained a hint of the street despite ample gilding and the precision placement of a zillion tiny golden feathers.

But somehow, the collection felt wanting. The two designers are extremely talented, and their work polished-to-perfection, perhaps beyond its years and those of its creators. Sometimes watching a Proenza Schouler show, one feels that they let their quest for — and often, their delivery of — perfect trump real feeling. They seem to aspire to the kind of precision best exemplified by Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière. But in his case, studied perfection is typically a means to a startling, awe-inspiring end rather than an end in itself. In this most recent effort by McCollough and Hernandez, the clinical exactness took over, becoming the show's defining element, which is just not enough to make for a compelling collection. From so young and talented a source, we expect more.

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