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New York • A flurry of assistants rushed to protect racks of clothes at New York Fashion Week from Saturday's sudden downpours perhaps as potent a reminder as any during these spring previews that seasons can be temperamental.
Maybe that's why leather is as common in these previews for spring and summer 2013 as the pops of color and chiffon you might expect.
"You can wear those leather jackets all year long," said stylist June Ambrose. "They're sleek enough to go under a parka or a vest and buttery enough for spring."
Designers have been moving away from seasonal dressing, meaning that models at Rag & Bone endured layers of leather in a roasting un-air conditioned preview on Friday.
"I'm not designing specifically for 'the show' or even for spring," said Tom Mora of J. Crew, which has a preview here on Tuesday. "We have deliveries once a month and we always want it to look new."
The crowd traded tank tops and open-toed shoes on Friday for long sleeves and boots on Saturday as rain leaked through the tents at Lincoln Center. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week previews for retailers, editors and stylists continue for eight days, before the fashion crowd heads for London, Milan and Paris.
Prabal Gurung is proposing a little more freedom in a woman's wardrobe.
The looser, less-constructed silhouette was seen from the first look, an ethereal white hand-embroidered jacket with beads and a trail of chiffon floating behind, to the last, a blush-colored strapless cocktail dress with ostrich feathers and "creeping sequins."
"Clothes are moving slightly away from the body. You know, especially what is happening around the world right now, especially in America with politics and everything, the idea of giving freedom to women sounds very, very exciting to me," he said backstage before the show.
Gurung didn't shy away from the heavily embellished path, even if it meant going his own way this round of previews, where other designers have pared down their looks.
He also took into account that women are always in motion. Maybe that explains the new take on "sweatpants" in printed silk.
One doesn't usually think of harsh military green as a color that will come off well on the fashion runway.
But at Edun, the label founded by U2 rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, the color is used by designer Sharon Wauchob to embody toughness. Along with designs like a camouflage print, cargo pants, and utility vests, it's part of a protective "outer layer" that envelops softer, sexier items in fabrics like silk and chiffon.
"That's the duality of the Edun girl soft but edgy," Hewson said after the show. "This time, we wanted to take the intimacy of the bedroom out to the street. So for example you have cargo pants but in silk."
Edun was founded in 2005 by Bono and Hewson to promote change through a trading relationship with Africa. The Edun shows are big draws for fellow celebs, often musicians. On Saturday, singer Alicia Keys was on hand, as well as R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.
"I love sexy clothes, so this was good for me," Keys said after the show.
Designer Jill Stuart says spring is her favorite season, and she tried to convey that in a runway collection that celebrated lightness and femininity.
That's what Stuart does these days: pretty clothes that don't reinvent the wheel. There was a delicate white lace tea-time dress, and lingerie-inspired silk tap pants with a bustier top covered by a trench. A high-neck, bone-colored blouse was made of lace and dotted with flower appliques, and a seafoam-green, one-shouldered dress with a keyhole cutout on the top and a pleated skirt gave the catwalk a shot of color.
She is aiming for "timeless, elegant dresses that are always capturing the season," Stuart said backstage, but that could really be worn anytime. "I want to wear the black lace dress that's opening the show right now, tonight." (She has a dinner date with her daughter.)
Rebecca Taylor's muse for the spring season is the city girl normally quite content where she is who allows herself to dream of that tropical vacation from time to time.
On the runway, Taylor transported her to Hawaii. Of course, this urban dweller doesn't have board shorts. She packs a coral-colored hibiscus print T-shirt dress with sexy cutouts.
The collection also included soft, washed denim pieces contrasted with silk ones studded with jewels. When this girl touches back home and is ready to return to work, Taylor offered her a textured turquoise leather jacket, black dotted bra top and flirty black knit skirt.
"I think sexy is changing. Strong is a good way for a woman to feel sexy not overtly feminine, but not the power shoulder of the '80s and '90s," Taylor said before the show. "I'm not quite going there."
Some of his fashionista fans and "Project Runway" followers may not know this, but Christian Siriano danced ballet when he was younger, as did his sister.
And so, when the designer was seeking inspiration for his latest collection, he found it in ballet, specifically in American Ballet Theatre's production of "The Dream," which evokes a sumptuous fairy-tale world filled with pastel-colored tulle. "I was feeling very romantic," he said in a backstage interview.
Siriano, who won the fourth season of "Project Runway" and has done more with that launching pad than any other winner, thrilled his audience with a series of graceful, delicate and sometimes dramatic designs, in colors like ballet pink, sea foam, mint, ivory, champagne and watercolor (that last color looked exactly like it had been mixed at Monet's easel.)
He saved the most dramatic gesture for the end: There was an audible gasp when not one but three models came out to show the final look, striding three across with one slightly in front, as if in a ballet sequence. They wore flowing tulle applique dresses, one in watercolor, one in pink and one in sea foam.
The town met the country when designer Billy Reid infused his men's and women's collections with some of his Alabama charm.
Ascots, pelican prints and fishing shirts took over a very urban space Friday night sandwiched between art galleries in Chelsea. He offered a coated cotton utility jacket paired with high-waisted trousers and a gold linen shirtdress with exaggerated pockets for women, and a leather peak-lapel jacket, worn with a linen mock turtleneck and sharkskin-texture trouser for men.
When Reid's two worlds come together, the audience sees charm, good taste and a bit of wit. Perhaps more importantly, though, there's a sense of reality here: There are stylish linen sportcoats, luxe and on-trend leather looks, and well-tailored suits, including chic, slim pantsuits for women, that one could imagine being worn by the finicky fashion crowd and everyone else.
The warning should come that while the styles have broad appeal, the price tags might not. Reid seems to favor rich fabrics and materials, especially suedes, lambskin and leather in beige, bone and tobacco.
CUSHNIE ET OCHS
The Cushnie et Ochs spring collection was full of chic, sharp lines, but designers Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs didn't use a razor's edge to get them.
It was clean without the mean on this runway at the downtown Milk Studios at New York Fashion Week on Friday.
A group of white dresses one a slinky jersey, one with butterfly sleeves and another with skin-baring slits on the bodice and seemingly held together at the bustline by a metal triangle set the tone of relaxed elegance, while a parade of black dresses, dressier in silk faille and satin that emphasized sheath shapes and high waists, sealed the no-nonsense deal.
Sandwiched in between the black and white were the shades of ocean blue that have proved popular along with black and white at these seasonal previews.
Charlotte Ronson said it with fishnet accents and see-through vinyl varsity jackets during a runway show filled with flouncy dresses in sea greens, ocean blues, lemonade and mint.
To the beat of her DJ twin, Samantha, the designer on Friday also sent out a water lily print in black, blue and taupe for dresses, skirts and bralettes.
Dresses were girly, some with pleated bottoms above the knee. Others were done with sheer panels also used in peplum blouses and with a denim stripe print.
Paris Hilton, Rachel Zoe, Kimora Lee Simmons and her ex-husband, Russell Simmons, sat in the front row with their daughters.
Tommy Hilfiger wants men to put some prep in their step with his varsity-inspired collection, fit for an afternoon cricket match or a leisurely day on the yacht.
Seersucker blazers and shorts in Hilfiger's signature red, white and blue were adorned with college emblems and gold insignia buttons. Slim-fitted suits were paired with crisp, button-down shirts or V-neck cashmere sweaters. And there were stripes lots and lots of stripes in a collection inspired by Hilfiger's style icons: James Dean, Paul Newman and the Kennedys.
"We think that stripes are really going to be the rule of the spring/summer for men," Hilfiger said before the show.
Gold-medalist swimmer Nathan Adrian sat front row alongside Joshua Bowman and Gabriel Mann, stars of ABC's "Revenge."
"I've been wearing Tommy since high school and it's just so sharp," said Mann. "I think that's my favorite style actually: prep with edge."
AP Writers Jocelyn Noveck, Leanne Italie and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.
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