NEW YORK During every season of designer previews at New York Fashion Week a few key, quirky items seem to pop up on different runways. They're not quite trends since one has to think they're partly for runway effect and not retail orders, but they're part of the style zeitgeist nonetheless.
This time there were fur mittens -- oversized like boxer mitts -- at Alexander Wang and Altuzarra. What were the odds? And how does the ball start rolling on items such as oversized fur mittens, harnesses or sleeveless coats?
It's safe to say designers don't take a meeting together to decide what direction to go in.
"The honest answer is some of it is plain and simple coincidence," said Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine. "These designers are creating hundreds of looks over the course of a season. It would be more unusual if there were no overlap."
Still, she said, there also are fashion cycles and sociological factors to consider as catwalk collections are prepared.
Take fur -- both real and fake. Leive said Sunday it has been on every runway so far on this fourth of eight days of fashion week.
After the recession, no one was touching fur, she said, but it has slowly made a comeback as people feel a little more comfortable about spending money. The interpretation this go-around has been impactful, with an emphasis on oversized unexpected fur touches such as hoods, handbags and boots, but they're not as expensive as a full-length coat.
It's important for fashion insiders to be aware of what's happening in other parts of culture, including politics and art, said Marie Claire executive editor Nina Garcia earlier in the week as she prepared to judge aspiring designers at "Project Runway."
"Successful designers soak it all in," she said.
Fashion week continues in New York through Thursday, when the influential Marc Jacobs closes out things. Runway previews then move on to London, Milan and Paris.
The opening look at Victoria Beckham's show was a windowpane plaid coat. She also incorporated more sweaters and knits into her collection, with a nod to mod with some geometric, colorblocked shift dresses.
The most unexpected looks were the flashes of bright yellow, including a sleeveless trench; the techno shine she added to pleated skirts that the audience could only see as the models walked; and the long cape-style tuxedo coat.
One of the important evolutions for fall is the softer shoulder, which she used to tweak one of her popular zip-back, slim-fit dress silhouettes.
For shoes, she put models in lower kitten heels, made in collaboration with Manolo Blahnik, which was a bit of a surprise for a woman known for skyscraper stilettos.
"I'm always designing what I want to wear," she said.
Donna Karan's DKNY label features a lot of lipstick red and hot pink looks for fall.
Yes, there were tough-girl looks, including a long quilted bomber jacket and a long silk-and-jersey dress with sheer panels in black. But it was the brights, and especially the animal-print brights, that lit up the runway
There was a "heartthrob red" quilted crop top worn over a flowing, long silk dress and a tailored, peak-lapel blazer in "pop pink" over a button-down shirtdress. The animal prints showed off a long tunic-length sweater silhouette.
Colorblocking was freshest when Karan used sophisticated camel, crisp white and downtown black on a paneled parka, and when she mixed gray herringbone, white and black on a flirty dress with a slim bodice, full skirt and soft shoulders.
Derek Lam says a navy-black mix is one of his favorite combinations.
"There's something very unpretentious about navy, and black is very crisp and stark. The navy breaks up the black. And black gives the navy an urban feel," the designer said backstage after his fall-winter preview.
Lam paired a navy-and-white satin top with a black wool trouser. A navy-and-gray wool jersey T-shirt came with a navy-and-black jacquard trouser, plus black shoes and bag. A felt coat came in navy, black and white wool, covering an ivory lace dress.
Another big color on Lam's runway this season: luxurious camel. A classic, loose coat in camel cashmere opened the show, and a roomy cashmere duffel coat looked glamorous with sunglasses of the same color. Camel was also used for a wool cashmere pullover, a wool-and-cashmere dress and a big boucle cape.
Capes in general were a popular item. One particularly nice look was an elbow-length black leather cape that tied in front.
A red, knee-length fox fur vest, paired with wine-colored flat boots, was by far the most flamboyant item in the show. A shorter, navy fox vest was more understated and in line with the rest of the collection. It was paired with a navy crochet dress and brown ankle boots.
The "Project Runway" alum used the Russian opera as the inspiration for his fall runway show, using a book of Russian opera houses as reference.
The girl wearing this collection, he said, was on her way to see the Russian opera.
"I wanted it to be a story of what she wears during the day, what she'll wear for a cocktail dress, what she'll wear to the opera," he said.
His vintage-inspired day looks evoke many eras, from the 1940s to the 1960s, and were mostly separates of turtlenecks paired with loose leather trousers and faux fur vests in muted colors such as white, black and camel.
One ensemble included a pointed-toe flat in a penny loafer style, a surprise inclusion given fashion's love for the high heel. Siriano explained it as a way to ensure its wearability, and also because he "wanted it to be a bit more demure, a bit simple."
Other shoes in the collection included bootie heels and heeled penny loafers with gold trim, echoing the filigree that anchored many of the evening dresses that closed the show.
Joseph Altuzarra's urban, confident, fashion-forward customer wears graphic black-and-white leather - layers it on, in fact - and then there's the fox or mink fur on top. She's not shy about drawing attention in fur mittens, shiny grommet embellishment and strategically placed zippers. She wears her high-waisted trousers with a low-slung belt.
His fall-winter collection also includes optic white pants and a khaki cotton sleeveless trench worn with a khaki four-button tailored skirt.
The silhouette he offers his customers is strong and slim, sometimes with a little bump at the hip.
"The design and construction emphasize the nip of the waist and exaggerate the hip, while shrunken proportions mixed with a bolder shoulder volume sharpen the classic silhouette," he says in describing the shape.