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Marc Jacobs celebrated “youth and beauty” on the runway…Michael Kors worked Greek chic…and, for something completely different, there was Donna Karan.

Marc Jacobs: Is the fashion moment passé? One would be hard put to say yes after attending the Marc Jacobs show on Monday night, an event that took in more star power than a Galileo telescope. The Olsen duet. Lil’ Kim teetering by. J.Lo and Marc Anthony doing their bizarre separate arrivals bit. And on and on, all packed into a tent at Pier 54 on the West Side Highway. Yes, that pier, last visited by the Jacobs’ show entourage on September 10, 2001. “It was time for us to quit being scared,” said Robert Duffy, who fielded numerous calls of concern in the preceding days. “It felt right to send the message that we have to keep on going, embrace life and have a party.”

And a terrific party it was, on the runway and off. Jacobs’ festive clothes suited the gleeful mood, and not just the finale of poufed-out deb dresses. “I wanted to do something colorful and up,” he said after the show. “Youth and beauty, that’s it.” In fact, one could argue a bit too young at times in its giddy vibrance. “It reminded me of dressing my doll when I was little,” said one editor, her delight tempered slightly by concern for her own wardrobe. But while bow-necked sweaters in ginghams and dots had an intentional jeune prep buoyancy, the shapes anchoring the collection were ageless: a full, swishing skirt, cut in multiples and often edged in sequins; roomy trousers, rolled to midcalf. The dresses, too, were divine, starting with a magical micro-daisy printed tent, opened — and jeweled — on one side over a faux petticoat. And for those wondering what more Marc could possibly do with a “tweed” — suffice it to say there will be a waiting list for the giant herringbones woven from colorful organza strips.

For evening, Jacobs has only grudgingly done his part of late at the pleading of stores and editors, and here took back a little with nary a gown in sight. Instead, he focused on Sigma Chi sweethearts with frocks of tightly packed ruffles or silk poplin flaunting giant bows.

This story first appeared in the September 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Yet, when it comes to tossing a great party, decorative clothes just aren’t enough. To that end, Duffy recruited Raul Avila to create a botanical extravaganza, starting with the bower encircling the models’ entrance to the runway and extending to the party tent. Avila strung up 425,000 blooms, give or take a bouquet-full, acquired during a two-day siege of the garden district. “I like your flowers,” LVMH’s Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon told Duffy at the party. “No,” Duffy responded. “They’re your flowers.”

The blossoms were long gone by Tuesday afternoon — pilfered by appreciative party guests — when Jacobs presented Marc by Marc Jacobs in the same space. As it turned out, the carpe diem spirit of his 55 models was all that was needed, done up as they were in all sorts of adorable garb. Here, Jacobs sent a definite message, moving away from his now familiar jeans-centric presentations. He focused instead on casual dresses, feisty athletic elements and delightfully dizzying compilations of color and pattern.

Donna Karan: “If you like this, you won’t like collection,” Donna Karan cautioned at DKNY. “They’re totally different.”

And how. For her Donna Karan collection, the designer made one of the boldest moves of the season, one that, quite frankly, fell flat with many in her audience. To each his own, although few could deny that Karan deserves kudos for taking so audacious a leap. She, New York fashion’s great doyenne of a self-created New Age modernist-artisanal hybrid, came down definitively in favor of a dramatic, haute industrial motif. It was gutsy and very specific, and some of us, as Sally Field might say, really liked it.

In typical Donnaspeak, Karan called her collection “Constructing the Future,” citing in her program notes “rebirth with an industrial soul.” Out there, perhaps, but the message was more than daffy. Karan is one of the few designers in New York this season to have charged fearlessly into something new, albeit with nods to Azzedine Alaïa and Helmut Lang. So she bid at least a momentary adieu to all that back-to-nature, cross-cultural ornamentation she loves. Instead, she opted for a clean, authoritarian aesthetic, one that worked industrialist — and a few Starship Enterprise — influences into something well beyond cliché, as she leveraged them against ultrafeminine corsetry and draping. And different as it was, she kept it all within a context that was unmistakably Donna Karan.

Thus, Karan worked in all of her signatures: the razor-sharp suits, the languid jerseys, sportif sweats, shirtdresses, the cold shoulder, the elaborate boning on evening dresses. Only now, she rendered it all in versions that replaced the artsy with the industrial in insets of utilitarian netting and laces, even on the corset looks. And she worked mostly in a palette of cool grays, giving in to the occasional blast of cobalt and fuchsia. And naysayers aside, much of it was plenty sexy in an antigirly-girl kind of way. True, sometimes it all became too studied, and those balloon frocks were unfortunate by any measure, but what would fashion be without the occasional gamble?

Michael Kors: “Thank you, Michael Kors, for making me happy on a gray morning.” So said one fashion editor as she left the show on Tuesday. An apt sentiment, since making women happy is the reason Michael Kors does what he does. He has no aspirations toward designer-artiste, nor, for that matter, being the hippest guy in town. He just wants to make beautiful, lively sportswear, the kind that brightens up a dull day and makes a sunny day seem even more so.

This time Kors claims to have worked a Greek theme, a carryover from his Olympic fascination. Certainly his preoccupation with aquatic blues could take an Aegean turn, and his more-is-more approach to accessories — straw hats, major shades, bejeweled sandals and megatotes — suits a girl on the holiday go. But these are clothes that will look snappy anywhere — except perhaps some place as mundane as an office, as Kors really put the sport in sportswear, all the while ruching it up just so. Thus, he worked cashmere, jeans, hand-embroidery, mink and python in all sorts of combinations, his homage ranging from a tony sailor to Elizabeth Taylor. Jeans? They looked divine in white with a bright turquoise sweater, under the chill-chasing luxe of an ombréd mink jacket. But Michael, the pair with perfectly placed rips? Not your girl. For her, distress is a broken nail, not faux ratty denim. The nauticals, however, another story entirely, in spiffy sweaters over what might be the shortest skirts we’ll see from a major designer this season. In fact, this collection was all about the sportif piece — give or take a leggy minisuit or two — and Kors delivered plenty, ranging from utterly playful to the bold side of lady fare, in big black-and-white tropical prints. He also showed terrific dresses, going sexy in a slice of dark brown jersey with a jeweled illusion neckline and more demure in a peasanty blue silk print.

After dark, however, the peasant girl can take a hike. The night belongs to goddesses who can go long and drapy, or if they dare, delightfully indiscreet in short white jersey appropriately called La Liz.

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