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End Of An Era: Fashion Week Ends Bryant Park Run

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NEW YORK — The tents that have billowed over fashion's elite at New York Fashion Week for 17 years went dark forever after a finale show on Thursday night by Tommy Hilfiger.

Hilfiger's fall 2010 collection was the last presented in the tents, which hold most of the dozens of previews put on by top designers. The semiannual event moves from the park near Times Square to the Upper West Side in September.

"It's onward and upward to Lincoln Center," Hilfiger said after he took his bow. After that, Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind (Part II)" played and the photographers' pit erupted in cheers.

Before the show, the photographers – many of whom have covered these shows for more than a decade – sang along to "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond and did a collective request of the front row to uncross their legs so runway photos would be uncluttered.

"It's the end of an era. The tents have been a great experience," Hilfiger said in an interview Wednesday. "It's an honor to close fashion week, but it's bittersweet."

Bryant Park was close enough to the garment district that designers could be seen wheeling racks of clothes to the tents. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg maintained that Fashion Week had outgrown the tents, and the garment district also changed from its manufacturing heyday, with banks, fast-food restaurants and chain retailers moving in as factories moved out, primarily to Asia.

TOMMY HILFIGER

Nostalgia had its place at the Tommy Hilfiger runway show that closed Fashion Week, but the main message was about looking forward.

He imagined, he said, a woman who was a "rosy-cheeked coed turned successful entrepreneur," and the man who needs a wardrobe for town and country.

Women wore chunky, ribbed sweaters with exaggerated turtlenecks and schoolgirl skirts trimmed in leather, and sleeveless trenchcoats over skinny tailored pants. Men alternated between suit pieces and collegiate sweaters. It's was Hilfiger's "preppy heritage from 1985 for a dynamic new decade."

Surely some items that will be buzzed about moving forward were the thigh-high, high-heel duck boots, and the cashmere smoke rings around the neck – sort of the evolution of the winter scarf – for men and women.

CALVIN KLEIN

Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa wasn't going to let the fashion crowd move on to Europe without putting his two cents in. As always, Costa showed a very modern collection, focusing on textures and structure, yet, while the rounded shoulders and occasional flash of metallic gave the impression of being fashion forward, there was a whiff of conservativeness to the clothes.

And maybe that's fashion's future.

"The times demand a more elegant presence," said InStyle fashion director Cindy Weber Cleary, who noted the knee-length and lower hemlines at Klein – as well as at Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta and Michael Kors.

Coats and dresses with exaggerated draping – inspired by the calla lily, Costa explained – looked sophisticated and stylish on the models. But more shapely silhouettes, such as black drop-waist dress with a cashmere skirt, and a series of shift dresses with vertical pintucking, could be more wearable long-term stars.

RALPH LAUREN

You know the look: It's pretty, it's elegant, it's all-American. The label has got to be Ralph Lauren.

The fall collection captured in 50 outfits a hit parade of Lauren's signature styles. The fashion A-listers who make their way to a remote downtown studio every season saw menswear-inspired suit pieces; delicate, simple gowns; beautiful knits; and nods to the country-club life so familiar to wearers of Lauren's collections.

Like many other designers this season Lauren stayed close to the core message of the brand instead of experimenting with something that may or may not resonate with customers as the economy shows signs of shaky recovery.

But while the feel of this runway was familiar, there was nothing boring about an olive-colored Chesterfield coat over an ultra-feminine, floral-print georgette gown, or the chic black turtleneck worn under a delicate flutter-sleeve dress – also in a floral. A black, beaded crochet-style capelet paired with a blousoned brown velvet blouse had a vintage feel.

A handful of looks, though, took the whole Stevie Nicks theme – and all those handkerchief hems – just a little too far, especially with a Nicks soundtrack in the background.

ISAAC MIZRAHI

Isaac Mizrahi can't resist a good story.

He likes a narrative – hence the faux newspaper article serving as notes to his fall collection.

He likes a setting – explaining the indoor sidewalk that served as his catwalk, covered in pretend snow.

He likes drama – especially the kind you get from a leather parka with a sequin hood or a peach tulle gown, nicknamed "polypuff," with leaf-pattern beading and an explosion of uneven tiers of tulle. Those were the contrasts that were representative of Mizrahi's fall "Central Park Story Book" collection.

"The fable begins with a kind of Cinderella tale of girls trying on glass slippers, glass coats, glass skirts and it ends with evening clothes that might be confused with camping gear," Mizrahi said.

OK, so a quilted vest over a sparkly skirt suit will probably never be worn anywhere wilder than the Upper East Side, but anyone who's a follower of Mizrahi knows that you have to give in to the vision. If you do, then you'll see a skyscraper-print gown for its sophisticated graphic and a body-hugging, cashmere polar-fleece for the sexy silhouette it creates. And leather toggles on a strapless evening dress actually look pretty cool.

PROENZA SCHOULER

Just when the crowd at New York Fashion Week began drawing conclusions about the trends consumers will be wearing in the fall, Proenza Schouler had to go shake things up.

Design duo Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez's colorful, sassy vision was a far cry from the more serious silhouettes and mostly black palette seen elsewhere.

One similarity, however, was the schoolgirl muse that has had a heavy presence on the catwalk.

Proenza Schouler kicked off their collection with a graphic, graffiti-inspired, rubber-printed pant that was paired with a toggle-closure boiled wool jacket. More of those pants came – in black, in electric blue – worn with crisp white shirts, alpine sweaters and more boiled wool jackets.

NAEEM KHAN

It was all about high shine on the Naeem Khan runway, with one gown glitzier than the next. The most eye-catching one featured one-inch circular mirrors on a sheath silhouette that reflected all the photographers' flashbulbs.

Khan's work is no stranger to the spotlight: He designed the gown first lady Michelle Obama wore to the first state dinner hosted by this administration.

The designer, in his notes left for the crowd at New York Fashion Week that included front-row guest Brooke Shields, said he was aiming for a celebration of glamour (he succeeded!) but also noted a touch of classic American sportswear. That was hard to see in these red-carpet gowns that gained a standing ovation from a section of socialites.

That doesn't take away from Khan's achievement with very elaborate embellishment, especially an ostrich feather-and-pailette skirt that practically lit up when the model shimmied down the runway. It was worn with a metallic brocade motorcycle vest.

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