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Donna Karan: Among the many intentions expressed in Donna Karan’s extensive program notes was her desire to create “effortless luxe.” And is there anything more effortless than a bathrobe? Yes, Karan opened her fall show with an ultraluxe version of the Holy Grail of loungewear in gorgeous olive-hued draped silk, cinched with a plummy sash. It fused high-end luxury with calm comfort and set a tone of easy glamour for what was one of Karan’s strongest collections of late.

Leave it to the Zen master of fashion to elevate a homey basic to a new level of chic, not to mention possibility. Simple as it seems, the robe inspired several inventive incarnations throughout the lineup. Consider the languid silk wrap dresses with extralong, pajama-like sleeves, and shimmery jersey styles that offered a new spin on evening. And, layered up, as in luscious velvet coats worn over a gauzy chiffon piece, it segued seamlessly into another Karan conceit: reveal and conceal. Sure, a shaggy ribbon coat worked the covered-up concept to a clumsy extreme, but when Karan mixed and matched chunky knits, like a terrific oversize alpaca sweater jacket, with wispy sheer silks, the effect was sexy but discreet for day. Less so for night, where she pumped up the peekaboos on exquisite evening gowns that were coiled and asymmetrically tied to show shoulders, backs and thighs. All that serene swathing called for a little glitz. Enter a few sheer tulle stunners draped with strands of beads, an embellishment set to the tune of the Twenties without a trace of kitschy costumery. After all, that would be very un-Zen.

Ralph Lauren: Forty years and counting, and Ralph Lauren is still the essence of refinement. Season after season he delivers, and we expect beautiful, high-polish clothes in which women can look sensational while feeling utterly themselves.

Such was the case with the collection Lauren presented on Friday, one filled with alluring clothes that drew upon some of his most iconic motifs. He showed under the glow of three imposing chandeliers with arms shaped like enormous gilded moose antlers. These hinted at the brigade of buffalo checks to come, but not before Lauren exhibited his more obviously urbane side in a slick play of lush black and charcoal cashmeres against leopard-print calfskin. This made for smart viewing, whether in a sleek herringbone dress, modish jumper or any number of terrific separates, their silhouettes kept reed-thin and racy. And he haute-ed it all up with chic feathered chapeaux.

This story first appeared in the February 11, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Lauren then moved on to his primary message, a citified variation on his beloved Southwestern chic. This meant outsized Navajo sweaters, fabulous blanket coats and those buffalo checks galore, sometimes combined with contrasting red-and-black graphics for extra pop, as in a shapely plaid jacket and short checkered shirt.

Lauren loved the theme enough to carry it into evening with a pair of floaty silk gowns. While this made for an interesting thought, chances are that Hollywood types and other glamour gals in search of that perfect big-event dress will prefer his glorious velvets: either a short, frothy number embroidered with gold or his languid siren gowns — an Oscar-worthy finale.


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