Black and white, leather and fur, prim and edgy — these are some of the trends you will be looking for when fall comes back around.
Fashion Week was full of innovative design from a swelling number of designers — so many that it was impossible to see them all. It was also the fabulous backdrop for many celebrities, including Miss J. Alexander, Star Jones, Angela Simmons, June Ambrose, Aisha Tyler, André Leon Talley and plenty more.
Beyond the glitz is the bellwether nature of fashion. If Fashion Week this go-round is any indication of where we are headed — which I believe it is — good times are on the horizon. For Fall/Winter 2012, many fashion designers continued a trend that was in full effect for spring — vibrant color. Add to that luxe fabrics and plenty of whimsy and it just seems like things are getting better. Here are a few of the trends that you can look for when planning your fall wardrobe.
Prim With an Edge
Good girls (well …) were on the runway wearing simple sleek sheaths, retro shoulders and slim skirts but somehow the look wasn't so innocent after all — in a good way. Designers who took on this look remembered that it's 2012, and pure innocence may not exist anymore. The more appealing woman has a bit of edge to her that makes her all the more alluring. Charlotte Ronson featured a schoolgirl look in many silhouettes, one with a collegiate-esque sweater in black, yellow and tan, coupled with a slim leather skirt. Better yet was a sheer natural lace dress with a prim black collar. Sweet and sexy at once.
Ladylike bow blouses, high-waisted skirts, coats with precision tailoring, bell-sleeved blouses all dominated the Ruffian collection that was precisely for this prim-ish woman.
Tracy Reese has always drawn out the lady in her collection. This season was no different. She combined bright colors with sparkle for many looks. One red sleeveless dress with a flirty skirt was classic pretty Reese. Also pretty was a periwinkle knit jacket over a turquoise skirt with matching wedge shoes.
Lela Rose owns the prim and modern woman. She has kept them with her collection of sheath dresses with cap sleeves, several made fresh with sheer chiffon. A look that's both prim and retro is a gray sweater with black three-quarter sleeves and a black-and-white zigzag print in the center, paired with a mustard-colored slim skirt.
For several seasons now we have seen hand-knit and crocheted pieces incorporated into designers' collections. This season handwork is everywhere. Rachel Roy featured a group with sumptuous infinity circles as well as a perfectly streamlined leather dress that was skirted by chunky knit.
Spanish designer Custo Barcelona went wild with color and texture, incorporating hand-knit hems with fur inlays on sleeves and waistlines. Never afraid of color, he served up plenty with mixed patterns and textures. There was even a pair of lace-up boots with hand-knit leggings. Hot.
Marc Jacobs took drama to a new level with oversize hats and extra-wide sumptuous coats. Many of these looks were topped with large, hand-crocheted stoles finished with huge shawl pins.
3.1 Phillip Lim featured slim pants and bulky sweaters with tons of black and white. One of his standout sweaters was a gray, hand-knit drapey cape-coat. (There were lots of capes around, likely indicative of global warming eliminating the need for heavy coats.)
Project Runway's Korto Momolu presented a few key looks, primarily evening gowns that she says represent "the clothes I want to wear that I don't see in the stores." On several pieces, she presented oversize handmade infinity circles.
For when women want to stay warm or just furrily fabulous, there was plenty of fur to behold. Celebrity stylist Carlton Jones pointed out, "Fur was absolutely everywhere, more than I've seen in years." And so it was. In insets on suits and jackets to decadent coats and jackets, in every color under the sun. A few standouts: Dennis Basso served up his classic pieces, most notably a chunky red-dyed chinchilla jacket topping a charcoal-grey wool sheath. His tiny shrug jackets were pretty. And Basso's oversize fur bags were yummy to behold.
DKNY showed a wine-dyed fur jacket with an oversize matching leather belt and skirt. Young and edgy.
Tracy Reese presented faux fur in a form-fitting coat with fur inlays on the sleeves.
Skins are in. Alexander Wang brought them with cuts that dare you to defy the woman wearing it. Long, fitted, black leather skirts and coats paired with web-knitted sheer turtlenecks made for a modern look.
Tommy Hilfiger embraced a military mood for his collection. Among the double-breasted jackets and coats was a beautiful mustard-colored leather coat with black trim. He also put leather inserts on skirted suits.
DKNY brought leather to the masses with flirty black leather skirts, as well as a mock-neck wool dress with leather sleeves.
Tory Burch made a mean blue leather skirt suit with a peplum jacket. (Peplum is everywhere.)
In true Diesel Black Gold style, this line presented rocker-chic leather, best in a long coat with a low-slung belt.
With leather, Derek Lam combined prim with edge. One skirt was black leather with a feminine colorful floral pattern. He also showed a burgundy leather sheath dress — to die for.
The whole Mad Men-Pan Am-Marilyn look back in time has once again found its way onto the runway. In this case, it's likely part fantasy to go backward but the beautifully tailored suits with sheer hose and super-high heels say, "strong woman of style and class" in any time. It may be argued that women back in the '60s weren't as free as women are today, but the elegant power look that is reflected in many of this season's suiting is compelling. Oscar de la Renta captured the look stunningly with a black-and-white group of ensemble dresses that kept a prim appeal but had a decidedly urban edge. Pretty much the entire collection has that retro appeal, perfect for ladies who lunch and more.
Donna Karan brought the look forward by actually looking back at a classic time in her design history, when she crafted menswear-inspired suits for women. This time she presented a charcoal-gray double-breasted suit with a full shoulder pad and an asymmetrical skirt, and, of course, a fierce fedora.
An appeal toward the Asian-inspired asymmetrical as well as precision architectural cuts on bodices and hemlines was apparent this season, sometimes through sheer garments that gave the look a sexy edge. Vera Wang proved expert at sculpting edgy, sheer and architecturally inspired shapes with a flourish of sheer chiffon topped by fur. Many of her peekaboo looks invoked the image of a powerful, urban, elegant 21st-century woman.
Narciso Rodriguez presented beautiful slim dresses with asymmetrical hemlines and necklines. Subtle sophistication was his message, best revealed in a sleeveless red sheath and an olive-green sleeveless dress with an on-the-bias belt.
Doo.Ri is a master at contemporary draping. Using neutral colors and jersey fabrics, this designer captured an easeful elegance from a modern point of view.
The New Frontier
There is a search for new terrain, especially with designers who are invoking the Wild, Wild West in a modern nomadic way. Big floppy hats, long flowing skirts, Western-inspired fabrics. And not just from Ralph Lauren, who always has that Americana edge to his collection.
Mara Hoffman presented what I call "urban nomad." Long, flowing, prairie-printed dresses topped by oversize floppy hats that cradled desert-protecting flowing scarves. Chunky sweaters juxtaposed with sheer dresses and Western boots made for quite a statement about finding the future.
Carlos Miele looked to the great beyond with a collection of prairie-influenced garments, among them an oversize poncho — perfect for the desert.
A few designers always know their customer and always deliver. Two of them are worth mentioning:
Diane von Furstenberg captured in a perfect way an off-the-shoulder sheath dress, a glazed, burgundy leather coat topping slim fuchsia leggings and tons of black-and-white, whimsically patterned dresses, including one featuring hands overlaying each other in black and white.
Michael Kors did not disappoint. He touched on many trends — sumptuous fur jackets, frontier-inspired plaids with a modern twist, of course, and ladylike leathers as well as demure tops and sheer skirts, stunning yet simple evening gowns. Très American.
Envisioning today's woman in the position of ultimate power found its way to the runway, albeit much more elegantly that what you might imagine in an S&M club. Most notable was Herve Leger, where Max and Lubov Azria brought a new interpretation to the bandage dress. Stellar (and not scary at all) was a delicate white chiffon evening gown topped by a black leather series of straps cum corset. The model didn't even need a whip to make it clear who was in charge.
Christian Siriano gave a nod to this trend with a gown made of a black leather fitted halter with a full chiffon skirt.
Badgley Mischka presented a beautiful collection of evening wear, much of it simply elegant. They also paid homage to the edge of this woman, with a gold leather bustier dress coupled with a fur cowl.
Harriette Cole is the president of Harriette Cole Media and a contributing editor to The Root. Follow her on Twitter.