Designers at New York Fashion Week had a new tactic to woo back wary customers: flowers.
Those lovely symbols of spring renewal emerged through rain-drizzled gloom on Sunday as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week entered its fourth day. But that doesn't mean everything was roses - the floral patterns looked like flowers after the rain, a little worse for wear.
Muted florals - seen at Derek Lam, Adam, Cynthia Rowley, BCBG and Cynthis Steffe - were blurred as if they had been caught in a downpour. The sense was one of transition: Spring is coming, but not undaunted.
Retailers should be satisfied with the pops of color, something they want to draw customers into stores. Yet the colors aren't so bright they require sunglasses - designers are aware of the gloomy context, too.DEREK LAM
It was time for Derek Lam to have some fun, so he turned to a bit of retro carnival atmosphere.
His spring collection was a departure for the designer, who is known for sophisticated and elegant clothes. He went so far in his notes to describe them as a little "tawdry," borrowing details from summer fun destinations.
Tawdry, though, seems to be on a sliding scale: For Lam, there still needs to be luxury - and his customer is that woman who prefers glamour to gimmicks. She got what she was looking for in a wheat suede jacket with a leather back, worn with a jade-colored corset that had black strips of boning.
The palette and prints were all over the place - greens and blues, purple and gold, oversized island florals and star prints - the kind of mix you'd see along the boardwalk.Photos: Derek Lam CollectionLELA ROSE
The skies cleared and it was like Lela Rose made it happen. Her spring collection was upbeat, wearable and, dare we say it, pretty.
She drew inspiration from the waves, surfers and scuba divers of Venice Beach, Calif., with colors borrowed from daybreak and sunset. There were a few pieces, including a green one-shoulder dress with rows of vertical blue laser-cut fabric, that mimicked the rolling tide.
Rose showed a knack for chic daytime dresses (actress Mariska Hargitay was wearing one in the front row). A sea-glass blue cotton dress with an open neck, drawstring waist and zip front would have been perfect on this Indian summer Sunday in New York.
A few ecru-colored jacquard pieces were a little dressier, but the yellow splash floral pattern on them made them versatile for more casual occasions.Photos: Lela RoseVIVIENNE TAM
The butterfly that had a large part in the new Vivienne Tam spring collection made for a bohemian moment that seems rare these days as the industry seems singularly focused on breaking out of the retail-sales rut.
But Tam's light, delicate touch on the runway is most likely an easy-to-sell look. That probably wasn't an accident: Tam seems to have no problem mixing the art of fashion with the business of consumerism. She opened her show with a brief video commercial for technology company HP. Models carried butterfly-decorated handheld computers like clutch purses.
You know what? They looked good, a seamless fit for the clothes that gave a modern twist to the hippie.
The butterfly prints she used were feminine but not too delicate or corny. They worked best on printed silk jersey dresses and blouses.CHADO RALPH RUCCI
What's makes a Chado Ralph Rucci black cocktail dress different from the countless other lovely black cocktail dresses presented at New York Fashion Week? It's all in the craftsmanship.
Rucci, the only American to be invited to show Haute Couture in Paris under his own name, is a stickler for details, resulting in fine clothes that need to be seen, felt - and probably even better, worn - to be fully appreciated.
For evening, Rucci's interest in the human body was brought to a handful of artsy prints - prints that would be hard to imagine at a socialite gala. A museum opening party, perhaps?
The black-tie pieces that showed Rucci's fascination with Japanese culture fared better. ("Chado" was added to his company name in 1994 after a tea ceremony.) A black-and-gold kabuki gown with an obi waist and checkerboard shawl and a strapless vanilla-silk gown with elaborate gold-wing arms were the kinds of pieces that make a positive, long-lasting impression.BENHAZ SARAFPOUR
Behnaz Sarafpour tied up her spring collection with ribbons, bows and a little lace.
The tan georgette ribbon dress shown as a finale made for effortless eveningwear, and above-the-knee pleated dresses with knots of ribbons at one shoulder were perfect for cocktails. But on two lace dresses, hot pink and yellow ribbons looked like afterthoughts - neon prison bars on otherwise very wearable outfits yearning to break free.
A better bet were crepe de chine pleated shorts, with a wide, swingy feel. Also on trend were blue georgette dresses in a wispy feather print that fit nicely with the muted florals seen on other runways.Photos: Behnaz Sarafpour Associated Press writer Lisa Tolin contributed to this report.
By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL