Significant designers in New York turned their back on the red carpet dressing that has dominated the millennium, and keeping it simple proved that fabric and cut can make a difference
Given that the Emmy Awards 2016 take place in the United States on Sunday, red carpet dresses were surprisingly absent from the New York fashion shows that closed the week.
Of course there are brands that are dedicated to attention-seeking party wear. But while evening clothes have long been the traditional ending at shows of major brands, that just isn't happening this time.
What's more, there is now almost a sense of fun and joking about fancy clothes. A look at varied names on the American calendar suggests that the reverence to the awards ceremonies that has grown steadily since the new millennium may now be on the wane.
Marchesa: The Final Hoorah!
The feather light tulle, the sunrise/sunset theme bringing pale, washed colours, showed designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig following their traditional route of grand gowns.
But for the spring/summer 2016 season they had a lighter tone. The colours were almost iridescent, the nude and blush shades blending with the body.
Perhaps it was that sense of nature — the wispy tones of the sky and a deliberate focus on lightness — that made essentially grand dresses seem gentler and more modern. The design duo themselves wore, respectively, lace pattern or embroidery inspired by birds or butterfly.
A wheatsheaf pattern — a recurring motif of the season for jewellery and embroidery — took Marchesa from the sultry red carpet to fresh country air.
Jeremy Scott: Camping Up In Showbiz
He is known for his showmanship, but Jeremy Scott made fun of himself by raiding historic closets of the 1980's to invent a cartoon version of dressing up that the Los Angeles-based designer called "Slime City".
Stretch dresses with "X-Rated" written on the front, digital faces blown up to cover both cropped top and mini skirt, and a black dress held together with underwear accoutrements were just a few of Jeremy Scott's way of laughing off Hollywood. The show was calmer and more realistic than some of the designer's previous presentations.
But there were the two Hilton sisters — Paris and Nicky — to give an aura of the red carpet.
DKNY: Streetwise New York
Holding a show on the High Line pathway and lighting its greenery with funky patterns was a strong statement for a New York sort of mind.
That has always been the spirit of the street in the ideas of Donna Karan, now retired from her brand. So designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne seemed to be on the right track.
Since Paris-based luxury conglomerate LVMH sold the Donna Karan brand, it has been searching for a definitive new image. Did a ribbed viscose hooded sweater or a floaty bomber jacket or raw edge cotton sweater do the trick? The duo organised a spirited show, but the link of the founder's zen spirit with street style seemed like a yawning fashion gap.
Anna Sui: Tribal Fashion Fair
"Carving Tribes" was the name that Anna Sui gave to the accessories in her collection. Even after all these years, she had a cute way of showing cool couples down Mexico way - suede fringing, ankle-length floral dresses and a country cottage as the backdrop gave the Anna Sui tribe a sense of dynamism and place.
Of course, all these people in their hippie deluxe clothes, such as maxi coats patterned with flowers, mini dresses sprinkled with stars or in colourful platform sandals, are all based in downtown Manhattan.
But Anna Sui has a way of expanding her reach, so that a graphic cottage painted on the back drop might have been seen as a little house on the prairie, and patterned sweaters and shorts had a thrift shop feel.
Above all, this designer exudes happiness, which is a bonus in a fashion world obsessed with being the first and the fastest.
3.1 Phillip Lim: Flowers On The Floor
Phillip Lim is a designer who can create a poetic universe by strewing dying flowers on a dusty floor.
His presentation included models wandering across the large space and then lining up, the better to understand groups of pattern and shape — a maxi cotton coat casually open over floral bra and skirt or stiff Python mixed with soft satin.
The most striking fact about the show was its evident effort to make clothes for real women — whether shorts, dresses, cut away jump suits or classic floral silk wrap dresses. They were all convincing as part of a modern wardrobe.
The difficulty was in understanding the overall theme. But maybe in this period of retail turmoil, as shops are deciding when and where to deliver, the Phillip Lim approach of offering a something-for-everyone collection, with a thread of modernity, is a smart way to go.
Derek Lam's: Georgia Inspired
More than any other designer in New York, Derek Lam seems able to talk the talk as his models do the walk.
Taking as his muse Georgia O'Keeffe — the artist famous for the sexualization of flowers imagery — Lam chose to focus on her monastic way of dressing and her sense of solitude, rather than attempting to re-launch the blown-up flowers.
"Selecting an object and reexplaining it with clarity", in the artist's own words. But in Lam's spirit was the thought process behind plain lines in "simple cottons, linens and a beautifully coloured suede". The designer described as "a very American way of doing embellishment" using crumpled fabrics in a "wash-and-wear" concept.
In fact, after all the talk about Georgia O'Keeffe, it was the inspiration on Derek of Robert Ryman's work that impressed me. By taking one theme and concept and re-working it again and again, the designer mimed the artist with the use of white paint over colour.
"It poses its challenges because it can easily look too plain and simple," said Lam. "I felt that spring was a challenge to go beyond that."