NEW YORK Rain, snow, ice. There's a lot of grumbling about the stiletto-adverse weather as New York Fashion Week hit Day 5 on Monday. But there's a silver lining: cozy coats, especially styles with oversized fur hoods, never looked better.
Phillip Lim, for his 3.1 brand, sent out his big coats in navy and black during a show in a cavernous space south of the Lincoln Center tents.
Houndstooth set off one of Tommy Hilfiger's coats for women. On a bomber jacket, he moved the comfy lining to the outside, putting the traditional Prince of Wales plaid on the inside.
In a romantic violet, Ralph Rucci sent out a coat in sable, while Alexander Wang stayed mostly with grays for big coats paired with fur hand warmers to the elbow.
Belstaff's coats were tempting in earth-tone shearlings for every lifestyle, and KaufmanFranco wrapped a tough-girl muse in a little luxury, lining a black leather driving coat with mink.
There were some yummy coats at Carolina Herrera. One of the nicest came in angora, with a fox collar. It was paired with a sandstone wool jacket and matching pant. She also had a set of fox fur sleeves -- just the sleeves -- worn over a wool and silk blouse and silk skirt.
Brandon Holley, editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine, said she has never seen so much fur in a runway season -- and New York is only halfway done with its previews.
Ultimately, the consumer will likely wind up with some great outerwear outfits, including military jackets, traditional wool coats and some edgier leather bombers. "And the beautiful fur on hoods will be an accent on many of them," she added.
"Coats are very strong," agreed Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar. "It's something everyone wants to buy and will spend money on."
Top of her list so far is the black leather and fur one by Wang.
The eight days of previews end Feb. 14, when the crowds head to London, then Milan and on to Paris.
Her entire fall collection was inspired, she said, by a piece of classical music that she specifically commissioned for the show, by the English composer Tom Hodge.
"I started out light, just like the piece, and I reached a crescendo with my more dramatic clothes," Herrerra explained. The piece, "Capriccio for Carolina," was in turn inspired by Beethoven's Kreutzer Violin Sonata.
As for the clothes, Herrera said she was inspired by the 1940s, especially in the shapes of sleeves and in the small waists of the garments.
Fur was a constant theme, even small bits of it. Whatever you're wearing, the designer seemed to be saying, even if it's not a coat or a jacket, there's a spot for some luxurious fur.
A strapless silk cocktail dress had some fox trim across the top. A long silky flowing skirt had fur trim around the bottom. Many garments had fur collars.
The designer herself test drove pieces of her fall collection before she sent them down the catwalk.
"I took it last night. I couldn't wait to wear it," Karan said in a post-show interview after greeting guests Uma Thurman, Gretchen Mol and longtime friend Bernadette Peters.
The goal, she explained, was clothes that work for the woman always on the go, with many interests, demands and pleasures. That sure sounds like Karan.
She called the collection "Sensual, Soulful, Sculptural," and there's an emphasis on sculptural, making a dedication in her notes to her late husband, sculptor Stephan Weiss. "His art and soul - is a part of me."
There was a rawness to the collection, and it seemed like it came from the heart.
The opening look -- one of the best -- was a black draped "bodydress" with a fluid, almost liquidlike, cape on top. It was modern yet timeless, and wearable to the large base Karan appeals to.
There were a lot of body-conscious stretch and jersey looks, as there usually are on this runway, many topped with coats that were textured and interesting, and had a lot of design packed in.
3.1 PHILLIP LIM
You always have a feeling at one of Lim's shows that you're at one of the hipper events of New York Fashion Week. You can feel it in the audience, which has a decidedly downtown, indie-music vibe, and you can see it in the clothes.
A big sartorial theme was embossed neoprene. Lim began with an overcoat in that fabric, in a fresh grapefruit color. Like many of his inventive creations it had something detachable, in this case a leather bib.
Motorcycle jackets were big, too, and Lim showed a peplum version, paired with a gray pullover, a khaki shirt, and shorts - again in grapefruit neoprene.
Lim seemingly agrees with many designers this season that coats should be big - as in oversized - and comfy, and he showed a few. One was in a nice teal color, paired with a black leather jacket underneath, with a "bike snap" detail.
Nubby, shiny material familiar to varsity athletes surprisingly made sense on a coat that was paired with a goatskin collar shawl, lace-inset blouse and stretch-wool seamed pants.
But Thakoon Panichgul put together a cohesive catwalk of seemingly unrelated modern neoprene, a space-age dandelion print, beaded dragonfly embroidery and wallpaper-inspired florals.
He hit on a few of the trends that seem to be emerging from these previews, including peplums and structured rounded shoulders, but his collection was not done with a heavy hand, leaving a pleasant trail of almost vintagelike looks.
Posen presented his smallest show in years, taking a breath from a whirlwind few months that included joining the TV fashion designer competition show "Project Runway" as a judge.
For a designer who thrives on flashbulbs, cameras and frenzy, the change might seem odd, but he said his intimate show at the Plaza Hotel was the best way to sharpen his focus in a collection that was thoughtful and intellectual.
"My fantasies about glamour or about society, about travel, all took place here growing up in New York. When you drive by great historical backgrounds, this is where Halston did his first shows, where Oscar de la Renta used to show," Posen said.
Part of Posen's signature are red-carpet gowns, such as the strapless, draped bustier ballgown worn by Crystal Renn and the architectural peplum gown with cutouts and sharp shoulders worn by Coco Rocha.
The tireless 71-year-old designer, best known for punky prom dresses and a lot of pink, introduced her fall collection as a theatrical exercise video for the Style Network program "Betsey and Lulu," which follows the lives of Johnson and her daughter.
It was a catwalk of energetic, giggly models in active wear chatting on cellphones as they waved to attendees, then an exercise routine led by the designer that included running in place, yoga and pull-ups. Rows of pink yoga mats were strewn on the runway, each accompanied by a pair of high-top sneakers, towels and wine bottles.
The collection, named "BJ Kicks A," veered from the high school dance party looks that she has championed for decades, running toward a junior high school gym class with a lot of cheek. It was an explosion of neon pink and yellow, animal prints and plaids on mini dresses worn over leggings, a veritable visual feast piled over one another.
As a whole, branching out beyond prom dresses was a smart move for the brand, which filed for bankruptcy protection more than a year ago and is now owned by Steve Madden.
At first, Hilfiger's looks, staged like a movie-set library, looked like they were built on the Savile Row-styled menswear and Ivy League prep-school uniforms he has played with for almost 30 years.
There were houndstooth prints in every scale imaginable -- on a coat, turtleneck, tuxedo pants and even a dickie -- and probably even more plaid.
"Classics receive an unexpected twist," was Hilfiger's mantra, putting some newness on the catwalk while maintaining a relatable ease that would appeal to his broad audience.
Together on the runway, the collection evoked mod for 2013. The leather argyle pattern shifts and shirtdresses could reintroduce his muses -- and fashion icons -- Twiggy, Mary Quant and Marianne Faithfull to a new generation.
Romantic violet is the base of Ralph Rucci's new collection.
"It's a personal reference," he explained. Pried yet further, he added: "It's the eye color of someone in my life."
Rucci's brilliant shade of violet appeared in a "mink pullover" -- the mere term a clear sign of how he is attempting to meld his signature luxury into more casual garments.
The same color returned in dresses of wool jersey or crepe, in a silk raincoat, in a sable coat, in a particularly well-proportioned cashmere suit, in a cashmere coat with leather embroidery, and even in filmy lace pajamas.
And it appeared once more for the final, show-ending garment: a long wool gown with tulle insets.
Rucci, famous for his intricate couture techniques, has a high-profile following. Guests included Martha Stewart and Sandra Bernhard.