Models at the Thakoon show (Getty Images)

For Spring 2012, the fashion world is urging fashion fans to cheer up and chase the blues away.

Light, bright and breezy were the themes of the week as designers displayed their Spring 2012 collections on the catwalks of New York's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which began Sept. 8 and ended Thursday. The semiannual event featured almost 300 collections in runway shows and presentations around New York City, including the special Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center.

Designers included heavyweights such as Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, Chado Ralph Rucci, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. Popular labels β€” Rachel Roy, L.A.M.B., BCBG Max Azria and Badgley Mischka β€” were also part of the mix. And the contingent of newer but increasingly influential designers like Prabal Gurung, Thakoon Panichgul and Christian Siriano continued to show a remarkable awareness of what suits women best.

The schedule also saw a number of leading black designers weigh in with their visions for spring, including Tracy Reese, Cushnie et Ochs, Duro Olowu, B. Michael America, Stephen Burrows and newer designers like Project Runway alumni Korto Momolu and Mychael Knight. Also showing collections were several small, regionally known designers like Thomas Lavone Woodard, Ray Vincent Menswear and Willie Hall.

Bright colors and breezy dresses and skirts that emphasized movement were just two of the popular themes seen throughout the week.


Other key trends included a continuation of the lower hemline that first started appearing on runways about a year ago, color blocking, skinny pants, pleated skirts, horizontal stripes and jumpsuits. The drawstring waist was also popular. And several designers played with cutouts, employing everything from thin layers of tulle and crocheted panels to plastic to show flashes of skin.

But of all of these trends, it was the bold colors on the runway that stood out most. Clearly, designers have determined that color is the key to women's hearts and wallets.

Shades of orange β€” from coral to pumpkin β€” battled for prominence with purple, hot pink, turquoise and mint. While some designers went for pale, most went for bold, with some designers even opting for neon shades. Both Korto Momolu and B. Michael America went for bold orange β€” Momolu in flowing silk charmeuse and Michael in fitted silk shantung. Tracy Reese featured a bright coral in both a boatneck top and a flounced, flyaway dress.


Florals sprouted on many runways as well. But while dresses dominated this trend, designers didn't stop there. Many designers splashed florals on skinny pants and roomier jumpsuits and overalls. How many women will actually wear brightly colored floral pants is another issue. But with so many designers offering versions of the look, it seems inevitable that this trend will end up in stores at every price point.

Prabal Gurung's collection, which was an exciting blend of the exotic and erotic, included an opal, floral-print silk and wool pants with ankle zippers, and another pair of pants in wool crepe with floral guipure-lace graphic inserts. Douglas Hannant's fun and funky new Pink line included a hot-pink, floral-print jacquard capri pant with a matching blazer.

Diane von Furstenberg, queen of the pattern, contributed to the riot of color with her always vibrant prints. This time the series included one pattern with large green flowers punctuated with purple.


Neutrals certainly made their presence known, with most designers utilizing a variation of tan or white.Β Β 

In a nod perhaps to last winter's popular film Black Swan, many designers presented at least one ballerina-esque dress β€” fitted bodice and a short, slightly bell-shaped skirt. B. Michael did his in black edged with black embroidery. Tracy Reese did her ballerina interpretation in greige with a big bow at the waist. Prabal Gurung did his in a white ombre filigree cloque with a drop waist.

Designers also toyed with creative ways to reveal flashes of other colors or bare skin. Chado Ralph Rucci incorporated bands and panels of plastic. Gurung teased with thin layers of tulle. Rachel Roy was one of several designers to employ an open-weave knit. Sheer white blouses were also popular.


Shape will play a big role for next spring. Free and easy shapes dominated throughout, with many designers, like BCBG and Elie Tahari, presenting dresses with wispy skirts, sleeves or attached drapes that floated in the breeze as the models walked down the runway. Unlike the caftans from a couple of seasons ago, these are more fitted constructions.

That sense of freedom also carried over to pants. Indeed, for every skinny jean, there seemed to be a slouch pant offered as an alternative β€” as if designers were offering customers the fashion version of an olive branch, or just another reason to feel good about themselves. Rachel Roy's version of this trend was particularly effective β€” slouchy without being sloppy.

While most of the emphasis this time around was on sportswear β€” always a hallmark of American fashion β€” several designers turned out unabashed celebrations of red carpet glamour. Here, the look was fitted, sleek and dazzling. Standouts in this category included Pamella Roland's gunmetal-gray sequined gown, a series of fully beaded gowns from Farah Angsana β€” who has returned to her trademark modulated elegance β€” and extravagantly beaded gowns in burnished gold from Reem Acra.


Karyn D. Collins is a contributor to The Root.