New York Fashion Week is fading to black.
Fall previews wrap up Thursday night, with the rescheduled Marc Jacobs show, but there's been a steady parade of dark clothes straight on through to Wednesday, Day 7.
Black is basic, right? Black also is the color most likely to be worn by the front row of editors, retailers and stylists filling the Lincoln Center tents and venues around the city.
For the past few seasons, however, the insiders had been buzzing about brights. It was a trend that easily translated to a variety of consumers and price points.
It seemed just about everyone tried the colored-denim look over the past year -- and that's exactly what makes black, and the other wearable, classic styles dominating Fashion Week, feel new, said Brandon Holley, editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine.
"It's going to be a good season to shop for things you'll keep a long time," she said.
Narciso Rodriguez said he favors a black season, though you can't do every season in all black (he's come close sometimes) and it really doesn't work for an entire collection. But it's the quickest route to chic.
Rodriguez often sets off black with white for a graphic effect.
"I love working with black, and I open and close this collection with it, but in the middle I added a color statement," he said. "I like color as long as you can do clear, modern color."
He dotted his catwalk with shades of orange and pink.
Michael Kors went heavy on the black, in fur camouflage coats and mixed with safety orange and bright blue in dresses and other pieces. Rachel Zoe put on a parade of black, in a set of shaggy sleeves and a leather skirt, along with looks in white, gray and navy.
Numerous other designers also went to black, also pairing it with navy.
Jacobs gets the last word Thursday night, before the fashion crowd moves to London, then Milan and Paris.
Equestrian portraits from the 17th century helped inspire a new season of red-carpet artistry by designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig.
In particular, a painting by Francisco de Goya called "Portrait of Maria Teresa de Vallabriga on Horseback."
"Highlighting Goya's influential style of dark shaded color applied in layers, the techniques used to craft this collection are derived from the same grandeur of exquisite detail and romance," the designers said in their notes.
But Chapman also fancied a red equestrian jacket, and Craig was ready to step up the already elaborate threadwork.
Unlike some designers who are quite literal in their interpretations, Marchesa aims for artistry. That "jacket" ended up as a satin coat with an embroidered high collar and floral embroidery.
They must have scores of yards of tulle to create an illusion effect to envelope entire gowns and for sheer shirts that were worn with corset-style dresses.
Kors went for "chic survival mode" on his runway for men and women, inspired by October's Superstorm Sandy.
A black rubberized shaker-knit sweatshirt was worn with taxicab yellow track pants that had tuxedo stripes made of more black leather. For those who need to make it to the office during a storm -- literal or figurative -- there was a gabardine-leather toggle coat and rubberized pullover sweater with black cotton trousers.
Kors said in a backstage interview he aimed for styles with "endurance, speed and strength, but I love elegance and glamour, and I don't want to give it up."
His house was full, including Michael Douglas, Hilary Swank, Jada Pinkett Smith and Zoe Saldana.
Stars aligned for Lepore in a collection with a cosmic theme.
She said she found herself intrigued by the surfaces and textures beamed back from Mars by the Exploration rover over the past few months. She was drawn to prints that looked like manipulated images of Earth's land and water from far away.
Lepore worried it would come off as too close to camouflage.
"I always panic about things that can go wrong, but then I try to think about what's right about the collection," she said.
So what went right? "I love the coats. Take the black coat and a hologram handbag, and you're good to go," she said.
A starburst-embellished T-shirt with brushed deep-olive pants, and a violet-colored asymmetric peacoat with an iridescent striped sweater deserved some kudos, too.
A Khan gown makes a grand entrance. Maybe that's why first lady Michelle Obama seems to like them so much for big events.
On Khan's runway was a silver-and-navy crystal gown with a tulip top and cape effect. And an embroidered black-and-white evening coat with a fox-fur cuff worn with an all-over lace blouse and trim tuxedo trouser.
Khan said in his notes that the collection was "modern opulence." He found inspiration in all things grand and glamorous from the Byzantine Empire to the Art Deco era.
The looks were weighed down by Khan's affinity for beading. The crystal-covered slip dresses seemed a particular feat.
Remember Chewbacca in "Star Wars"? Now imagine his get-up had a train, like a bridal gown. Now imagine it was dyed bright yellow. Now imagine some human skin showing through, about thigh level.
"That was a fantasy piece," quipped designer Jeremy Scott after this striking ensemble closed out his show. "I always wanted to do a coat with a tail."
Many designers have fantasies that make it to the runway, but few so entertainingly as Scott, a cheerful bad boy of the fashion world.
This show was ostensibly about fall and winter wear, which explains the furry Chewbacca look, but what about the bikini tops, paired with tiny minis? Well, it's always hot somewhere in the world.
There were plenty of big, Scott-style graphics on display -- lots of teeth and eyeballs, for example, on sweaters or in a green leathery ensemble that recalled a vintage pinup poster.
The Mendel customer will still have her gala gowns, her furs and her lunch-date looks come fall, but she'll be serving them with a spicier attitude.
"I felt like it was time for leaner shapes, a little fierce," designer Gilles Mendel said backstage. "She's still feminine, but she's not an angry woman."
Who could be when her closet is full of a quilted mink motorcycle jacket with a clever detachable bottom (two coats in one!) or a pearl-colored mink turtleneck sweater that she can wear with a slim tailored pant?
"I'm just a big fan. ... I really sort of respond to the ladylike, feminine sort of clothing," said front-row guest Katherine Heigl, who has worn his dresses on the red carpet.
The runway show staged by Ken Kaufman and Isaac Franco was sheer Hollywood. And we do mean sheer.
The sexiest looks for sure were the beaded gowns that had skillful and strategic cutouts, to places that would normally defy gravity, that were then filled in with powder-colored tulle.
Even in the daytime, their muse has an edge, though it seems she likes her luxury, too. What better for her than a shearling vest over a tech-fabric raincoat, or a fox-trimmed peacoat?
Was it you who inspired Narciso Rodriguez?
He saw two women -- not dressed particularly fancy or fashion forward -- who crossed each other on the street one day at just the right moment of a winter solstice.
The women-on-the-street influence was seen mostly in the orange-tinged outfits, such as a tangerine-colored fleece jacket paired with cognac-colored crepe skinny pants and a high-neck tangerine sheath dress.
But, said Rodriguez, he also drew a lot of inspiration from the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, having recently visited a Sao Paulo exhibit dedicated in her honor. That's where the graphic black and white - among his favorite colors to work with - came in.
The overarching vibe of the clothes was clean and modern, but not restrictive.
Many designers have very specific themes or inspirations for their collections - a painting, an ancient scroll, a mountain -- but Reed Krakoff finds all that a bit contrived. For him, it's a matter of a mood, or several moods, that he tries to explore.
Krakoff's "moods" were, he said, "utilitarian and functional, combined with fluidity, combined with sensuality."
The utilitarian part came via tailored coats and jackets, in colors of classic navy, charcoal and military green.
The feminine and sensual elements came in flowing skirts, an occasional silky dress -- like a black-and-ivory "liquid satin" frock - or blouses that looked functional in front but were sheer, filmy and delicate at the back.
Zoe went a little more tailored -- and a little tougher -- for the new season, shaking off some of her bohemian rock-star girlfriend.
But she did lend a nod to "rock 'n' roll underground London." She clearly likes music and the 1970s style, too, but she said in her notes she also found inspiration in "the equestrian lifestyle."
That translated into lovely shades of caramel chocolate brown and dark green, especially rich in leather. A pair of pleated leather pants was paired with a cozy fisherman sweater.
For dressing up, the stylist-designer-reality TV star offered a white beaded cocktail dress, and a black jersey maxi dress with a keyhole opening on both the front and back. A sweatshirt-shaped gray sweater with embellished sleeves looked sharp with wide-legged gray flannel pants.
Most people know J. Crew, and many can afford to buy the clothes. The company's presence shows how New York Fashion Week has become a bit more democratic.
Insiders might place a few advance orders for key pieces, such as the rose-gold camp shirt, metallic floral polo shirt and sweatshirt-style cashmere sweaters and skinny pants that featured silver brocade on a purple background.
Most people in the crowd probably rarely visit a mall or even Main Street, but they were buzzing about the J. Crew outfits.
The luxury of working for J. Crew, said womenswear designer Tom Mora, is that there's room to offer new inspiring pieces that mix with the classics the brand is built on.
Cool and wearable aren't always complementary, especially in the fickle fashion world. Somehow, though, Belstaff, which attracted the hipster crowd, bridged that gap.
Designer Martin Cooper made it look easy.
The coats were the easy winners, especially the three-tone shearlings, offered in long and short lengths -- and car length, too. Another mid-length coat had more going on with fur pockets and a checkered pattern. Considering the company's history as a British brand that specializes in leather outerwear, it's sort of what you'd expect.
But whether it was a racing-green, quilted down jacket with a waxed cotton skirt, or layers of merino wool sweaters with a short, pleated leather skirt, you could imagine the most stylish woman at the hot sidewalk cafe sipping her tea on the first chilly day of fall.