NEW YORK - An easy spring elegance, deceitfully simple but never sloppy, brought a bit of good clean fun to New York Fashion Week as the twice-annual round of frenzied runway shows moved into the fifth day Monday.
The secret, Carolina Herrera said, is in the details. Look to tailoring that appears simple, when it really isn't, or loose without crossing into '70s redux or boho slouch.
"Fashion has to have details and it's a way of doing them in a very simple way that they look effortless," she said. "That's what fashion should be: effortless and fun."
Rachel Roy reimagined the easy elegance of the 1992 film "The Lover," set in steamy, 1929 French Indochina. She wondered, with the sound turned down, how the teen lover would have looked in the summer suits of her wealthy paramour.
"I wanted the look to be loose but not sloppy," she said. "Something felt classy about how he put himself together but it was never too buttoned up."
She offered pajama pieces, like the Olsen twins at The Row, and loose trousers as many designers did this time around. Roy also offered cascading skirts that looked as if the fabric was wrapped around the body and pinned ever so lightly at the waist.
Fashion Week moves to London, then Milan and Paris when it wraps up in New York on Thursday.
Herrera, who seems to never have a wrinkle in her skirt, not a hair out of place, has a playful side, too.
A shirtdress got oversized pockets and a delicate red cocktail dress was made of seersucker silk.
It's not Herrera's way to make things too fussy, even when there's a lot going on. A black-and-blue gown was as soft and pretty as you'd expect from the designer, even though it was covered in sharp-edge embroidery.
Making things look simple can be one of the hardest things to do, she said.
There's something romantic about women in men's clothes. Even more so with an unexpected feminine touch.
That's what Roy set out to do. Tailored menswear styles ooze power, she said, and she likes that. For evening, there was a sculptural, folded gown with an open neckline in a floral print that was feminine without being prissy.
Roy's life as a working mother requires work clothes, weekend wear and black-tie gowns. She tries to offer all of that to her customer.
"In doing so I really want the woman to feel comfortable," she said. "If you're not comfortable, you're not confident, and if you're not confident, you're not looking powerful and smart, and, ultimately I want to look powerful and smart."
A little Brigitte Bardot. A little St. Tropez. A little easy chic. It all adds up to "a lot of "effortless glamour," according to Rachel Zoe.
The red carpet stylist-turned-designer said she'd like to dress the woman "who wants to stand with the attitude of 'I'm chill.' 'I'm relaxed,"'
Zoe herself wore a long black maxi dress that's part of her line. There was a similar black mousseline ribbon dress with cascading strips at the hemline.
Other looks include a men's style, white-canvas pantsuit with a yellow tie-collar blouse, a halter-neck, all-beaded shift dress and an off-the-shoulder long dress in a Matisse-inspired floral print in black, yellow and white that she styled with a floppy hat.
To a soundtrack of tribal drums, Karan turned out clothes inspired by her trips to Haiti working on earthquake relief.
Many of the dresses were form-fitting patchworks of canvas, linen, jersey and stretch silk. They were sexy without being flashy. The palette was grounded in earthy browns and the collection adorned with wood and gold-stud embellishments.
It was the full, swirl-skirt silhouette, however, that really grabbed the retailers and editors attention.
Wyclef Jean sat in the front row, adding to the authenticity of the Haitian journey.
Big comfortable pieces like an oversize knit sweater in neon yellow was paired with a tight leather skirt, and a bright white form fitting, belted dress had a soft ruffle at the hemline just above the knee.
His jungle print with bright red, purple, green and pink flowers stood out. It appeared in a print, zip-front halter quilted vest paired with matching long pants and as an accent on a pair of skinny white crop pants and leather jacket.
She let her models slip into something more comfortable but left them runway ready.
The looks were all cocktail frocks, gala gowns and the occasional lace tap pant, with intricate beading and a sporadic train, but there was an underlying delicacy and simplicity born from the lingerie-like layers.
"I love the crossover from lingerie," Packham said.
A white, tea-length lace overlay topped a satin slip, and a lace-trimmed teddy was covered in floral beading. A long white lace dress boasted a beaded cascade of flowers in blue, yellow and coral - among the hottest colors of the season.
Panichgul's easy breezy spring comes with cowboy hats.
He mixed Old West and Indian paisley in a silk georgette shirt. Hatted models had hot pink and purple hair.
Turquoise must be Thakoon's favorite color right now. A standout in the color was a cotton poplin gathered waist shirtdress with a black paisley overlay.
Gold was added to nearly every piece.
She used silk for texture, including an optic T-shirt and periwinkle color blocked shorts that could be worn inside while reading a book or just as easily out to brunch with friends.
One outfit that jumped out was the electric orange half-zip coat paired with the electric orange cotton lace-overlay shell and swirl-print skirt.
Rose turned up the sparkle factor with a metallic organza seamed bustier dress that shimmered and added feminine white fabric flowers to a gorgeous lemon-colored silk dress.
The line felt like it was for a young working girl who knows what she wants. It's not afraid, yet conservative enough to be worn in an office, save for the sheer dresses, but that's what slips are for.
Posen expressed a restrained, respectful sensibility in a parade of old Hollywood-style gowns.
No loud music, swarms of paparazzi or jostling for seats. He let the dresses own the drama.
Coco Rocha wore the first and last looks: a snug ivory silk-faille, double-lapel daytime dress with a trumpet hem, and a molded gown made of lustrous, gray satin with a huge mermaid hemline.
Little easy elegance here. Rocha, like many of the models, struggled to get down the long catwalk because the many dresses were cut like second skins with narrow pencil skirts - even underneath those huge flares of fabric at the bottom.
But anyone wearing these gowns probably doesn't have to do much but stand there and look good.
Associated Press Writer Summer Moore in New York contributed to this report.
Samantha Critchell's tweets fashion on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ap-fashion