The CFDA 50th anniversary exhibit at FIT features a look from Donna Karan’s fall 1985 debut. It stands in all its black jersey-gold hardware glory as a reminder of what women have always wanted from the designer: chic urbanity. Kudos to Karan for returning to that realm this fall, with a high-glam ode to, call her what you will, the sexy power woman or the cerebral bombshell.

The collection centered on a reed-thin silhouette and tailoring galore, often in pinstripes. Karan incorporated her signature asymmetric maneuvers — half-collars, side-draping, off-kilter slits — and dared to revive an audacious shoulder. She finished everything off with fabulous “cubist” (they had their own asymmetry going on) fedoras by Stephen Jones, who just may prove one of the biggest stars of the New York season. Evening looked plenty fresh — lean, constructed gowns and a miraculous mélange of felted jersey and sequins on something sheer.

Sounds good, right? Yes — with a bizarre caveat. Independently, the thoughts of three different WWD editors (and, by extension, probably others in the audience) strayed to Ralph Lauren land. Why? Ralph doesn’t own pinstripes (Donna’s done her share), and she’s entitled to one red riding jacket in 26 years. Focusing on the clothes only, the silhouettes, tailoring and flourishes were all Donna. That leaves two related culprits: styling and staging. Just a thought.

Big thinker that she is (and savvy to boot), Karan has decided that showing three collections during fashion week (Donna Karan, DKNY, DKNY men’s) leaves a hole. Thus, she piggybacked her Casual Luxe lineup onto the main event. While any 12-look range covering both Eighties-esque blanket dressing and biker chick is bound to feel dissonant, there were plenty of keeper pieces in the mix.

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