At NY Fashion Week, white is the new black _ showing a new optimism among designers

By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, AP
Saturday, September 11, 2010

White is the new black at NY Fashion Week

NEW YORK — If fashion is any guide, better days may be ahead.

Designers flocked to an optimistic white on Saturday at New York Fashion Week. It was a far cry from the blacks and grays that have come to dominate the runways.

The look was a softer, summery white with plenty of linen, eyelet and macrame. Alexander Wang used it in a modern way, while Jill Stuart went clean and polished. Cynthia Rowley and Vivienne Tam turned to a soft ivory.

It seems the warrior muse that stormed the runway through the darkest days of the economic meltdown is ready to plan a vacation, relax and plan a sunny future.

Saturday was the third day of spring previews at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.


Alexander Wang hardly seems a frustrated artist, but he certainly showed an interest in other mediums — painters’ coveralls and doodlers’ prints fit nicely onto the mostly white pieces that covered the runway like a dropcloth.

The loose silhouettes and mixed textures hit the easy, more relaxed vibe that’s taken hold at the first major fashion previews for next season. The flashes of color here were straight out of a sherbet container — a little mint, a little lemon and a hint of strawberry in the print. Copper patches gave some edge to some looks that were otherwise all white.

Wang, named earlier this year as the top womenswear designer by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, is moving his downtown customer into more tweaked classics, instead of going for the shock factor.

Not that a wrap-style robe coat in that scribble print is an everyday item, nor a parachute shirt with cut out shoulders, but elements of each piece were relatable, perhaps opening up the brand to more than his usual model-heavy crowd.

Seasoned catwalkers Agyness Deyn, Karolina Kurkova and Omahyra Mota, all of whom make few runway appearances, did turn out for Wang with their hair styled in what looked liked dried Wite-Out.


Jill Stuart plans on starting next spring with a clean slate. The new look she debuted was a drastic shift from the goth-slash-Stevie Nicks-inspired styles of seasons past.

Stuart turned out a collection of ladylike-yet-youthful pieces. Her feminine, dreamy muse was still there, but she’s done some growing up.

The white, ivory and sandy shades forwarded the optimism that has emerged in this round of seasonal previews for retailers, editors and stylists — and so did the peek-a-boo sheers (of particular note was a white-tipped, sheer-black ’50s-style party dress), shifts and shorts suits. And Stuart offered some chic spring outerwear, including a navy evening cape, and the trend-right tuxedo and satiny high-neck blouses.

Apparently, Stuart is a woman with many fans from the world of reality TV. Kim and Kourtney Kardashian had seats in the front row, setting off a frenzy, and Tinsley Mortimer and “The City” stars took their places nearby.


Nicole Miller went for an elegant, layered look.

Thin fabrics were used in a subdued palette ranging from ivory to gray to black.

An ivory jacket was worn over a long khaki silk georgette blouse and a satin chiffon dress. A pair of black shorts were cut just above the knee, giving them a very city chic look.

But there were also long flowy gowns. A chiffon dress had a prism print on it, while a jacket had cutout shoulders revealing the skin.


Fashion label Edun took to the streets to show its spring/summer 2011 collection — literally.

Saturday’s show was the first collection for designer Sharon Wauchob. It was held outside in a covered alley with models walking down a gravel catwalk.

Edun founder Ali Hewson, who is the wife of Bono from U2, said she started the company because she felt there is a real demand from consumers to look good, but also to feel good about what they are wearing.

“I think it was an opportunity to do something on the ground and to see how business worked on the continent of Africa and Bono was working in a very macro way, and we wanted to do something on the ground in a micro way,” she said.

The clothes exuded an earthy kind of natural feel with colors that included, white, indigo, sand, black and copper. There was also a geometric animal print. Hewson said not all the clothes are organic and not all are made in Africa, but they are mindful of making the items in an ethical way.


Vivienne Tam looked east for inspiration for her spring 2011 collection, a line she dubbed “the new silk road.”

The collection was heavy on lace and patchwork in a slouchy, loose style that gave off a modern bohemian vibe.

Tam’s clothes were fit for a global traveler — the cotton lace patchwork minidresses and jackets that opened the show would have been as at home in a Parisian market as on the Silk Road.

In notes left for editors, stylists and retailers gathered for New York Fashion Week, Tam dedicated the show to the people who survived devastating floods this summer in China and Pakistan.


Lacoste turned to its tennis-design past, outfitting models in a modern take on decades-old tennis pants. The high-waisted pants were baggy in the thigh and tapered at the ankle.

“I was thinking of always this 1930s, 20s tennis look of Rene Lacoste, with pleated flannel white pants, tennis pants … and making it contemporary,” designer Christophe Lemaire said.

Lemaire’s show, his final one for the brand, featured boxy, geometric, clean shapes with a lot of white, cream, orange, tan, red and black. He also used different textures like net, cotton and nylon.


Georges Chakra’s Editions show was all gowns, many with lines of satin straps inspired by the undulating curves and wraparound bands of the Absolute Towers in Mississauga, Canada.

Chakra said he made the collection of short-short and long designs for all ages, “especially now everybody wants to be young.” A model wore a striking black strapless dress with satin strap and crystal detailing over a nude lining. Another wore a purple charmeuse gown with a basket weave corset and a satin strap neckline. There was an ivory long gown with billowing sleeves, and gold and silver dresses, perhaps for women who like a little flash.

Chakra said his look for spring is focused on the body, so he kept the shoes nude.


Michael Angel brought his minimalist vision of Italy, inspired by a recent trip.

“I was inspired by the texture. I was inspired by the colors. I was inspired by the religion,” he said before his Friday show at Lincoln Center.

On the runway, many looks were accented by sleeveless collared shirt peeking out at the neck. Some had bare stomachs. There were many wraparound skirts and dresses with asymmetrical hemlines. Some had high slits that revealed a lot of leg when walking. Others put latex over printed, multicolored pattern skirts and dresses.

AP writers Lisa Orkin Emmanuel and Lisa Tolin contributed to this report.

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