Here were Donna the urbane New Yorker, Donna the sophisticate, Donna the sartorial conversationalist speaking “woman to woman,” Donna the exacting colorist (you’ve got black and gold, you’re good), Donna the pragmatist, Donna the artistic soul, Donna the savvy designer who 30 years ago laid out a wardrobe platform for busy women who crave chic that works, and who has inspired legions of designers who followed her into this industry.
Missing were self-indulgent Donna, my-philanthropy-informs-my-runway Donna, pretend antifashion Donna, all of the Donnas who have at various times gotten into the head of the smart, gifted woman who made herself one of the most important designers in the history of American fashion by connecting so directly with her customer. This time, the brilliant Donna showed them the door.
The set sent a message of happily intense expectation: the New York skyline at night, the myriad windows aglow in support of that line about the place never sleeping. And when a woman’s up and about, Donna wants her dressed to the nines. The opening look might as well have been a chic sandwich board heralding, “I’m back!” The black and gold of the metallic coat referenced (for those old enough to know) Karan’s start, yet did so without a drop of retro, not in mood, cut or styling, certainly not in the combination of indulgent padded coat with sleek pin-striped bustier and trousers.
In fact, Karan seemed to have hit the refresh button on her tailoring — it rocked. Particularly impressive: the way in which she went back and forth between pure urbanity and a more artful take on chic, a nondissonant dichotomy established from the get-go. Look two spoke to the former, a sleek brocade jacket over poplin shirt and flannel-and-chiffon skirt, a belted shaved-shearling scarf intensifying the men’s wear reference. Look three represented the artist within: a strapless bustier of incongruous fabric layers (pinstripes, metallic, tulle) over trousers. Throughout, Donna worked the counterpoint with perfect balance; the yoga coach should be as tickled as her customers.
The high points were many, the low points, nonexistent. In the former category: spectacular outerwear, from richy-rich metallics and embroideries in mannish shapes to cocooning shearlings; dresses and blouses with volume where it doesn’t hurt, in graceful lantern sleeves; untricky layers, and — drumroll — two black strapless evening gowns that were better than beautiful. They were interesting, too.
But then, Donna Karan has never been lean on interesting. She’s just let it get out of hand at times. Not this time. New York’s finest? Yes, but why limit her? This season Donna’s Fashion’s Finest. How fine is that?