Fashion’s spotlight is now on New York, where it will highlight Tough Chic as well as looser proportions and plenty of gender play.

Carolina Herrera: “These clothes are for women with great assurance. The silhouette is sinuous and feminine. I like simple lines that emphasize the beauty of the fabric, whether it’s wool suitings, rich laces or hand-painted velvets. I did strong shoulders last season, and I’m doing them now. They make a woman look great.”

John Bartlett: “I’m happy about all this interest in the men’s wear; from the inception, I wanted to do an androgynous thing with this collection. It’s very polarized: There’s a side that’s tough and butch, and then there’s Jessica Rabbit. But it was very important to me that it be accessible. I want to make clothes a woman can wear to the office. All those nightgowns on the runway — they looked incredible, but how often does a woman go out like that?”

Donna Karan: “Masculine/feminine — isn’t that what we’ve always done? Oversized? I’ve only been wearing it forever. But for me, myopia is boring. One day a woman wants to wear something oversized, then she wants to show her body. One day she’s into something relatively masculine, and the next, she feels more romantic. This collection addresses the versatility I know women need. As for D, it’s an evolution of separates dressing. It allows women to create with their wardrobes, and it’s affordable.”
Options aside, however, Karan does like short skirts: “It’s all about the market. Hemlines are going up.”

Calvin Klein: “There is more fullness to the clothes. They are eased up, but cut to take on interesting architectural shapes through folding and seaming. This is due to great fabrics with a lot of body that allow the shapes to take hold. The colors also look very new: pale, pale mauves, blues, lemons and magnificent heather shades. It’s still graphic, but now the feeling is more tonal — matte against shine, various tones of one color. The prints remind me of the artist Brice Marden and there’s a little Ellsworth Kelly, a little Japanese feeling. In the end, I’m always thinking about what looks modern, and I know there are other people thinking about that ultimate result, too. That’s what makes the trends.”

Ralph Lauren: “There’s a mood that’s strong and architectural, with a Bauhaus sensibility. It started with the jewelry — strong, bold silver — and it continues with clothes that are clean and strong. But Bauhaus was just a vague inspiration. There’s no real theme, just simple, classy clothes, both man-tailored and lady suits.”

Richard Tyler: “This is a good time for us, because masculine/feminine is what we do. We know all about that. The Couture collection is very light and beautiful. For example, we’ve developed this feather fabric, feathers floating between layers of chiffon, which is very romantic. And this romance is played against the masculine tailoring, but it’s not as heavy-handed as in the past. “The Richard Tyler Collection is a different story. It’s strong, modern, with a crisp silhouette juxtaposed against a more feminine mood once again. But the look is more architectural. I don’t want to be redundant.”

Bill Blass: “This is a highly personal collection, a ‘collector’s collection.’ I think women buy what they don’t already own — they want special pieces. Women collect jackets, but they want newness. I’m doing a diagonal pinstripe made from one piece so the body of the jacket has no seams, and a group of four embroidered jackets, each done in a seasonal motif. I do think a looser shape looks smart after so many seasons of tight, tight, tight. But it’s a controlled looseness, nothing sloppy.”

Oscar de la Renta: “It’s very mannish in the structure, but it’s feminine at the same time, because the shapes contour the body. Power suits, strong shoulders? Yes, but the power lies in femininity.”

Todd Oldham: “This is a major hand-work season, with the most opulent embroideries we’ve ever done. Rizzoli is publishing a book on me, and visiting the archives for the book made me realize how much I love all that hand stuff — intricate yarn dyes and hand-dyed velvets. As for the mixes, it’s more about texture than pattern; for example, the plushness of a wild cat patterned coat with the regimen of pinstripes and an easy crepe turtleneck.”

Isaac Mizrahi: “I think clothes are younger-looking and more fabulous if they’re somehow off. This book ‘A House in Ireland’ inspired me: Water damage on the walls? Hang a tapestry and a painting. That’s how I feel about clothes — they don’t have to perfect. I’m using gray flannel that looks faded in places, and I’m using fur trims, but instead of new, they’re old, recycled furs. You have this million-dollar-a-yard cashmere and it has this old fur — it’s funny, elegant and sexy.”

Michael Kors: “These are definitely aggressive clothes — there’s nothing girly about them. And they couldn’t be lighter. Everything is about extremes — the smallest proportions or the biggest, often mixed. Graphic is the other thing. It looks intensely sharp, black with a slice of color and a little Mondrian action. There are butch elements and tarty elements, and the coolest thing is when they’re combined. The whole thing is a little dirty — chic dirty.”

Anna Sui: “Starting out, I was inspired by watching this wonderful old film Lola Montez, about this Victorian Englishwoman who became a Spanish dancer and eventually slept with all kinds of famous men, including King Ludwig of Bavaria, who made her a countess. What I love about her is how liberated she was for Victorian times — this young convent girl who social-climbed, slept around and ended up on the lecture circuit.
I wanted to suggest the opulence of that kind of life in fabrics and colors that are a little antique-looking, and in mixes of textures — all shown over fishnet catsuits to make it hip.”

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