By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
AP Fashion Writer
NEW YORK - Fashion Week injected some color into a city drowning in gray slush, waking up the basic-black fashion crowd on opening day with shades of neon pink and poppy orange.
Pantone, which sets professional color standards, reported Thursday that the most requested shades for the fall collections being previewed at New York Fashion Week include bamboo, deep teal, an eggplant purple called phlox, and the melonlike honeysuckle.
Based on that, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, predicts a painterly feeling to the clothes shown over the next eight days, with a balance of bright colors against staple neutrals.
Max Azria's BCBG collection balanced flashes of yellow and cobalt against fall classics like navy and gray. Jenni Kayne used a neon pink, with models in bright pink lipstick.
Retailers, editors and stylists get a preview of more than 100 runway collections over eight days in New York, which kicks off the catwalk season that will then move on to London, Milan, Italy, and Paris.
Luca Luca creative director Raul Melgoza brought the deep woods to center stage, previewing looks that mimicked nature's seasonal gifts.
"This season was inspired by the adventures to be discovered in the deep woods - the beauty, the color, the fantasy," he told The Associated Press.
Of course, Mother Nature is full of contradictions, he added, and that's where the juxtaposition of lace and wool, or feminine sheers with tough, barklike fabrics come in. There also were opposing silhouettes of slim, pencil skirts versus exaggerated A-lines. Trousers moved back and forth between skinny and wide-leg.
Melgoza captured the colors of the season with rich shades of orange, olive and fuchsia, and a creamy white pleated skirt paired with a delicate silk-inset blouse was the calm after the big, early-season storm.
The best moments of the show were the quiet, delicate ones - a leaf-print sheath or the silver "birdseed" cocktail dress with a black beaded overlay.
With a collection inspired by the moody, dramatic orchid, Christian Siriano showed how much he has blossomed as a designer since his novice days on "Project Runway."
Sure, there was the giant pouf of a ruffled ball gown as his finale, and a misguided cocktail dress that seemed an explosion of fabric petals, but most of the outfits showed restraint and, in turn, sophistication.
Black was the dominant color, but to keep things interesting, Siriano mixed textures. A cashmere and leather double-lapel coat worn with a slim knit turtleneck and skinny silk trousers was an example of how he mastered the multiple mediums.
The silk draped sheath dress with just a hint of a leather underskirt was user-friendly yet fashion-forward, and the zip-front shawl collar jacket could be the workhorse of a wardrobe.
One couldn't ignore the chunky, towering platform shoes with metal embellishment that Siriano created for Payless. They were a nice contrast to the clothes, but the models had some difficulty walking in them so mall shoppers, consider yourselves warned.
Max Azria's BCBG fall collection revealed many layers of the layered look with nary a chunky piece, vintagelike silhouette nor - heaven forbid - anything messy on the runway.
Almost every single outfit, from the opening taupe coat dress with reversible black flap front to a poppy red strapless gown, was built on a whisper-thin white turtleneck.
The silhouette was long and fluid, with some delicate details but nothing frilly. The palette featured the fall classics of navy, wine, gray and chocolate brown, but flashes of yellow and cobalt were used most effectively on colorblocked pieces.
Azria shares design duties with his wife Lubov, often the most effective spokesmodel for the brand, taking her bow in one of the drop-waist navy numbers.
BCBG was the first major label to debut next fall's styles in eight days of previews based at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, so the question is: Were these modern-yet-modest outfits a hint of what's to come?
Vena Cava resurrected the '90s with a palette of black underscored by electric blue for the label's fall 2011 collection at New York Fashion Week.
Designers Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai included polkadot prints in a dress and flowy palazzo pants, among half a dozen wide trousers on the downtown runway.
Models walked with long hair down and heavy, multicolored glitter encircling their eyes, many in leather and suede jackets and platform shoes.
"Vena Cava speaks to the young downtown hip girl, who has a cool edge," said Stephanie Solomon, fashion director for Bloomingdale's.
Crescent-shape cutouts at the stomach stood out on the Cava runway, along with rayon gowns that fit close up top and flowed at the floor. Buhai and Mayock also went with rayon in a fringe jacket and a black cropped jacket with shoulder pads and fringe.
Tadashi Shoji relied on neutral hues and rich jewel tones for flowing silk chiffon dresses.
The Japanese designer included hand-cut floral organza detailing and showcased one-shoulder, off-the-shoulder and strapless dresses in purple, green and deep navy blues.
Shoji said he found inspiration in ancient moss gardens of the Far East. The collection had an airy, willowy feel. Some pieces were trimmed with feathers or had tiered fringe.
"I've always loved the simplicity of the design," said figure skater and reality TV star Johnny Weir, who sat in the front row and wore a long lynx fur coat. "Classic, clean and simple, and easy to wear for any woman."
Shoji also featured separates for the season. An ivory feathered top was paired with a black floor-length skirt embellished with floral detailing. A black pleated strapless gown had a ruffled train and a purple, off-shoulder gown offered peaks of red under tiered fringe.
Jenni Kayne balanced dressy and sporty with a standout dose of neon pink and bright gemstone tones in silk skirts and chunky sweaters. Pink popped in a long skirt with a front slit and a sleeveless mini-dress. Short skirts and dresses were made of white lace and a glittery deep mustard material.
"Our challenge is to give the customer something really chic at a great price point," said the label's president, Chris Arambul. "This is a collection for women who like to dress up a little bit."
Models walked the runway in bright pink lipstick and dark pointy flats.
More casual, comfortable sportswear included a white cardigan and Henley in thermal knit. Sweaters were in neutral colors, some cropped or cabled.
The California-raised Kayne launched her line in 2003 and calls her look subtle and refined.
AP writer Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.