NEW YORK: Fashion insiders love to dress celebrities for big splashy Hollywood events, but they don’t necessarily want them at their own big splashy event: New York Fashion Week.
As spring previews slid into their fifth day, there has been fewer boldface names in the coveted front row seats where they can steal some of the thunder from designers.
Oscar de la Renta limited his guest list, telling Women’s Wear Daily he was focusing on the people who had a real reason to be there, not “20 million people with zero connection to the clothes.”
Tommy Hilfiger, once a celebrity magnet, said Monday he wanted to return the focus to fashion.
“I don’t like the drama in the fashion world,” he said backstage.
There were still plenty of tabloid favorites – such as Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan – but they are more of a rarity than in years past, when they were invited en masse and thrown in front of paparazzi.
How many people were really focused on the Herve Leger dresses on the runway Saturday when Nicki Minaj was right in front of them? At least designer Max Azria was smart enough to put her in a new look from the spring collection.
For the celebrities-turned-designers, it’s an even more careful dance. Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have all made long-term commitments to their fashion brands, slowly and delicately courting editors, stylists and retailers, instead of the paparazzi.
The Olsen twins moved their show from the Upper East Side to Soho downtown, far from the Lincoln Center tents, for their intimate unveiling.
Holmes and her partner, Jeanne Yang, invited no photographers – save one house cameraman – and only a couple of dozen top-tier editors and stylists for their show in a Chelsea gallery space close to the Garment District.
“It’s in my neighborhood. We walked here,” Holmes said.
TOMMY HILFIGERHilfiger filled a West Side hangarlike venue with sand and built his own boardwalk for surf-inspired styles.
“It’s really from the inspiration of Melrose to Malibu, and we brought Malibu to New York,” he said. “It’s about surfing and skating, sporty lifestyles, about color and the modern cool woman.”
There were color-blocked neoprene pieces – one of the biggest trends emerging from these seasonal previews – shown alongside denim and olive surplus styles.
Top model Joan Smalls had on a leather basketball jersey (No. 1, of course) paired with denim track pants.
THE ROWThe Olsens draped their gallery space with gauzy fabric and showed clothes apparently for a woman of means, but one who shuns the spotlight or fuss, to take on safari.
Two years ago, they won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s top prize in womenswear and continue with the aesthetic that got them there. Shapes are long, lean and worn in lots of layers. Some of the clothes were purposely crinkled or with unfinished edges.
CAROLINA HERRERAHerrera was among the exceptions to the low-key celebrity trend.
Her guests included Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, rhythm and blues singer Ne-Yo, “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks and “Downton Abbey” star Michelle Dockery.
The packed crowd was regaled with elegant, ethereal gowns featuring geometric motifs enhanced by the layering of fabrics, which gave them the appearance of constant movement.
“It’s the reaction of two layers – I find that this is totally kinetic,” Herrera said in a postshow interview. “It creates its own movement.”
DONNA KARANThe best of her spring collection was classic Karan: day-to-night stretch dresses (especially a one-shouldered, block-print number); coats that you wouldn’t want to take off; a man-tailored shirt definitively cut for a woman.
There were rich colors of tobacco and terra-cotta, and it seemed navy was Karan’s new black. She opened the show with a series of indigo-colored viscose dresses. There also were beaded, wrap miniskirts with silk tunics barely tucked into the waistband.
But the key piece was the scarf skirt, which was light and had a lot of life.
“It was all about a search for a scarf. I think ... what Donna Karan is about is a bodysuit and a scarf and the tailoring,” Karan said.
“If somebody would say to me, ‘What’s the most important item to own?’ It’s a scarf ... because it covers up what you don’t want to show, and it shows what you want to show, and it just flows with the body.”
PHILLIP LIMLim said he was inspired to explore “different terrains, landscapes and rocks” in search of “something stable, sturdy and elementary to stand on.”
There were even salt crystals that crunched underfoot at his show.
The designer proved better than many in expressing his theme clearly and forcefully, best of all in the embroidery that evoked intricate and colorful rock formations.
It’s been a busy few months for Lim. In June, he won a Council of Fashion Designers of America award for his accessories. And on Sept. 15 he debuts his new line for Target – what he calls a “modern-day wardrobe for citizens on the go.”
ZAC POSENZac Posen started draping his collection almost three months ago, and he was still doing it right up until the first look appeared on the runway.
It wasn’t a last-minute rush – in fact, everything seemed incredibly quiet just before his show Sunday night. It simply takes that long to hand-pleat chiffon and hand-paint organza.
“Given the intensity of this collection, it has all been very calm,” he said.
Posen even took a nap for almost an hour after the final sound and lighting checks, and before receiving a pep talk by phone from friend Naomi Campbell.
Models are important to Posen: Their loyalty and enthusiasm launched his career. Coco Rocha wore the first look on the catwalk, a pale-pink chiffon cape dress. Lindsey Wixson wore an ivory-colored bustier gown and go-to Posen muse Crystal Renn wore a lemon-colored frock with a wisteria print and fluttery short sleeves.
HOLMES & YANGHolmes and Yang said their spring collection was about wearable elegance. The mix they offered included a black silk V-neck gown with leather trim and a khaki camp-style shirtdress with a lace-up V at the neck.
DEREK LAMDerek Lam’s clothes always have a pronounced urban edge. For spring, he wanted to be playful, too.
His show had some unexpected nuances such as sparks of bright yellow, breaking up his usual crisp color palette of black, white and navy. An elegant yellow crepe strapless gown came in sharp contrast to the series of bold plaids, in black and white or blue and white, that began the show.
“My work has always been rooted in American sportswear. So I’m just loosening it up, relaxing a bit,” Lam said.
EDUNThere was more than big, bold graphics on display at Edun, the label founded by rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.
There was also the debut of a new designer – Danielle Sherman – and a front row where Bono and Hewson were joined by Trudie Styler, Gina Gershon and Christy Turlington Burns.
The collection was heavy on black-and-white pieces in bold geometric prints: skirts, coats, roomy pants and short tanks over longer, flowing tops.
There were also some large, soft gray sweaters and leather pieces in white, black and a rich cayenne color.
Edun was founded in 2005 by Bono and Hewson to promote change through a trading relationship with Africa. Many of its garments are traditionally produced in Africa or made from fabrics sourced there.