SIMPLY VERA: It was as fascinating as it was fabulous. The arrival of Simply Vera Vera Wang for Kohl's may prove to be a watershed launch in fashion's ongoing, increasingly dramatic high-low tightrope act. Wang showed the spectacular collection to the press on Thursday evening in a charming presentation featuring models in a variety of witty mise-en-scènes.

The prevailing mood — one that encompassed everything from bubble skirts to undies to decorated throw pillows in the multiple-category debut — radiated Wang's sensibility, a seamless fusion of pragmatist, romantic and artiste. To wit, she worked a dark, moody palette for high-style coats (one cut with short sleeves, another with a high waist), gentle bicolor dresses and languid tunics over leggings, warming it all up with pilings of mufflers, ombré fingerless gloves and ribbed hats that bore hints of both grunge and Ellis Island.

If it sounds like a lot of fashion, it was — tons of it. And, despite the prices, $138 max at retail for the clothes, nothing looked or felt cheap, including the handbags. Rather, the materials were impressive, and wherever Wang could add a flourish, she did, as in tulle edging on pajamas and even in the grosgrain tab on the standard shoebox. All of which will no doubt keep the industry engrossed as the merch hits the selling floor in September.

Simply Vera may prove too much fashion for a mass audience accustomed to more traditional sportswear motifs, even from the numerous major designers who now swim in, or have at least tested on a one-season basis, the mass waters. Conversely, such supposition may be mere myopic musing rooted in a parochial high-end bias. Certainly Wang has taken care to address her new customers' far-flung needs. Because a gold bubbled brocade skirt might not work 24-7 for even the most au courant woman, the collection boasts ample everyday staples: jeans, T-shirts, plain and frothy shirts, cardigans, pullovers and on and on, right down to decorated ballet flats. What's more, since Wang is not only targeting the young fashion-girl-on-a-budget set, her casting featured a wide array of models, including one gorgeous over-50 type who looked casually glamorous in black jeans and a boyfriend jacket.Another point of fascination: Will this enterprise negatively impact Wang's signature and Lavender collections? Some competitors think yes; some, privately, may even hope yes. But one point is certain: Everyone is watching. If Simply Vera Vera Wang develops into the success on which its designer and Kohl's are banking, we can expect more and more designers to seek out deals of their own, and the ramifications, including those for the major department stores, could be enormous.

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