Originally created 02/11/06

Lauren, Posen and Klein unveil showstoppers

NEW YORK - New York Fashion Week saved the best for last, with Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Zac Posen sending out showstopping designs for fall.

Lauren led a Friday lineup that also included Donna Karan and Karl Lagerfeld; Zac Posen and Calvin Klein debuted some stunning attention-grabbing looks Thursday night.

Ralph Lauren: Lauren created a complete wardrobe, pieces for every day of the week and just about every occasion, for the elegant woman who wants to look stylish, but wants to do it subtly. She dresses to impress herself, not anyone who keeps a tally of trends or trendy labels.

Hmmm. Could this woman be Halle Berry? The actress graced Lauren's front row Friday morning in a crisp gray pinstripe suit; her hair tied loosely in a ponytail.

After the parade of leggings paired with cozy sweaters, trim suits and metallic evening skirts, Berry gushed that she "loved the cashmere pieces."

Zac Posen: Posen, now a Fashion Week veteran after four years on the catwalks, exhibits more confidence each time out. It's most noticeable at the end of the shows when he takes his bow. Instead of a quick wave, Posen now soaks in the applause from the audience, which is always one of the most star-studded crowds. (Uma Thurman, LeAnn Rimes and old pal Claire Danes were in the front row this season.)

Posen has something to be proud of. While his clothes are not always the most wearable, he pushes the envelope, and that's what moves fashion forward. For example, there probably is not room in most closets for the white satin gown with a pouffy bottom covered in feathers and topped with an ivory metallic chenille coat he sent down the runway, but it made one heck of a finale dress.

Outfits one could imagine on the backs of Posen's trendsetting customers included a navy python pant and navy peacoat, a navy cotton blouse with sheer wide-leg pants in tartan plaid, and a cozy, long black angora vest with skinny black jeans.

An ivory metallic jumper and a cropped embossed leather blouse with dressy wide-leg trousers were edgy, but not too much so.

Calvin Klein: It's no surprise that Francisco Costa's newest looks for Calvin Klein had a quiet coolness to them - that's the brand's signature. But amid the almost entirely black architectural collection was one of the best bright dresses seen on the runways: an ivory, black and red spaghetti-strap dress with vertical strips of chevron- and rectangle-shaped beads.

If only a celebrity would be bold enough to step out of that classic Hollywood glamour look and take this risk on the red carpet, she'd be rewarded for reinvigorating what's become a tired parade of satin, glamourpuss gowns.

Actually, there were more details - however subtle they might have been - on this runway than on most others. Pleats on dresses revealed sheer insets as models took their steps and a wool jacket, also featuring a chevron pattern, had subtle metallic threads to give just a bit of sparkle.

Vera Wang: Wang used the 1950s as a starting point for a collection that she decorated with either corsages in chunky fabrics or trench coat belts on almost every piece.

Wang said she was exploring the darkness and sophistication of Mark Rothko's paintings and the film noir "The Talented Mr. Ripley." That translated to a black-and-gray color-blocked cardigan coat with a black slip dress and handkerchief ruffle and a loose belted column dress with a dark purple tulle neck ruffle that framed the model's face.

No Vera Wang show would be complete without evening gowns, and a white draped chiffon gown with a beaded strap over one shoulder, worn with ballet flats, was positively Greek goddess.

J. Mendel: Bonnie - as in the 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde" - was designer Gilles Mendel's muse for this collection. She's cool and tough, and his Bonnie "gets to keep all of the money," Mendel said in his notes.

Mendel is a furrier at heart, so instead of the leather that many designers use to invoke toughness, he used sheared fur, which was sleek and contemporary.

A gray broadtail blazer was definitely part of an outfit, not an outerwear afterthought. But the best and most inventive piece was a white knitted mink cardigan, belted at the waist; the ultimate example of dressed-up casual.

Temperley: London-based designer Alice Temperley named her dresses and daywear for Hollywood screen sirens of the 1940s, and she successfully recreated the glamour of the era.

The black Olivia de Havilland dress and a jacket with sequins around the collar would be a welcome addition to the red carpet anytime, as would the ocean-blue Ava Gardner gown, with its gathered bust and V straps. A leather jacket named for Vivien Leigh had quilting on the cuffs and around the waist - and was very chic.

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