DONNA KARAN: “Myopia is boring.” So Donna Karan proclaimed last week, promising to deliver a collection rich in diversity. “One day a woman wants to wear oversized, one day she wants to show her body. One day she’s into something relatively masculine, and the next, she feels more romantic.”
Karan, whose proliferation of labels indicates that she aspires to leave no womanly need unaddressed, wanted to make this collection as diverse as possible — within a highly sensual context. “Not about need,” Karan wrote in her program notes. “This is a collection of desire.”
As usual, there was a mystical air to Karan’s music, and her models’ heads were wrapped in multiple bands of skinny ribbon, recalling the goddesses of Olympus. But the desires Karan addressed in her fall collection are in large part carnal. Over the past few seasons, she has explored a particular type of urbane sophistication infused with an intriguing earthy glamour. This is the mood that dominated her collection, and at its best, it was drop-dead.
Karan played into the season’s gender ambiguity with subtlety — tailored pieces worn with silk tulle camisoles, a relaxed jacket over a tight leather dress. There were dark, slouchy pants and jackets, some of which fell off one shoulder in apparent homage to Ann Demeulemeester. “Masculine/feminine? Isn’t that what I’ve always done?” Karan quipped. “Oversized? I’ve only been doing it forever.” But in the spirit of diversity, she’s no slave to a single proportion. In addition to the baggy pants, there were others that were reed-thin, and while they looked familiar, no doubt many of Karan’s customers will love them.
This may be a tailored season, but Donna still loves what she calls “body clothes” — lean pieces in indulgent fabrics that caress the skin. Often, she put her pants or short skirts with luxe cashmeres — including ultra-indulgent “shatouch” sweaters.
Karan addressed evening with high drama and what she loves to call “an artisan hand.” There were burnout jerseys, beaded laces and chiffons, layers of stretch wool over tulle, and many were glorious. However, in pushing the envelope, Donna sometimes went too far with excessive geometric cutouts and floaty streamers tacked onto dresses for no apparent reason.
That type of whimsy is unlike Karan. One of the factors ranking Karan among the most important designers in America is that she thinks of her customers first, and editors second. And thank God someone does.
CALVIN KLEIN: Perfect? Maybe not. But the collection Calvin Klein showed on Friday was one of the most interesting in New York, or anywhere.
It’s no secret that Klein is not one for sitting still. He’s constantly pushing, reevaluating, testing limits and, yes, borrowing a thought or two when he thinks it makes sense, ever willing to set himself up for a fall. And there’s a lesson in that bold approach: There is room for risk at all levels of the market — even the megabrand level — as Klein’s collection of royalty checks attests.
Calvin has an uncanny knack for knowing when to shift gears. Not all that long ago, it seemed that each season he showed a collection more stark, more minimal than the one that preceded it. But “minimal” is by definition a finite concept, and more recently Klein has been adding to, rather than subtracting from, his clothes. Specifically, he has been taken with asymmetric cuts, graphic lines and layers of color — concepts he took in a new direction for fall. “This doesn’t look like last season, but you can see the thread,” he said earlier in the week.
Klein took that thread and wove it in a way that was more highly designed and more artistic — some would say artsy — than ever before. He said he was inspired by the work of Ellsworth Kelly as well Brice Marden, and “a little Japanese feeling.” At best, the clothes looked fabulous. And even when they didn’t, they were infused with a provocative sense of tension.
Klein’s newest shapes are eased up, and often architectural. He created structure not only with stiffer fabrics such as felted cashmere and wool, but by folding and draping fabrics, usually across the bodice or hips. Sometimes it worked beautifully, in, for example, a whole range of skirts and sexy dresses. At other times it turned tricky; pants with unnecessary geometric appendages were a bit overwrought.
For the most part, Klein’s colors were more subdued than in spring, and they looked great. He made a major play with gray flannel, but instead of suits, went for relaxed pants with small, draped shells. He also worked in numerous dusty pastels — lilac, yellow, pale green — and added bright accents of yellow and orange.
Underscoring it all was a sense of overt but unusual luxury, apparent not only in Klein’s lavish fabrics but in his attention to detail. There was an air about this collection that was very couture, with a latent street-wise spin.
Perfect it wasn’t. But perfection can is so predictable — and predictable is one thing Calvin Klein is not.

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