NEW YORK — Summer's not over just yet, and some designers at New York Fashion Week were clearly focused on the beach Friday, the second of eight days of spring previews for editors, stylists and retailers.
Peter Som said he was all about the "surfer girl," while Carmen Marc Valvo took sportswear uptown, using athletic mesh and scuba stripes for fitted cocktail dresses.
"I'm a beach bum at heart," Som said in an interview. "I cannot surf, though. I'm too accident prone."
If Som has his way, his customers will be comfortable but sophisticated – and treated to luxury. His collection was bathed in ocean blues against white, with a touch of neoprene in bikini tops paired with skirts, along with some actual bathing suits.
Valvo, known for red carpet and eveningwear, also availed himself of neoprene on a runway dominated by black and white at the Mercedes-Benz tents at Lincoln Center. Black dresses inspired by wetsuits fit snugly, with skin exposed through strategic slashes.
Desigual, the Spanish-based retailer that debuted on the New York catwalks Thursday, went with loose palazzo pants and breezy dresses in bold prints worthy of fun in the sand. Some looks were topped with floppy sun hats.
Other shows Friday included Jason Wu, Rebecca Minkoff, Nicole Miller and Helmut Lang. The fashion world then moves on to previews in London, Milan and Paris.
Wu crafted spring styles that emphasized ease. A bias-cut, gold-beaded dress Karen Elson wore to open the show was a sign of his delicate touch, followed up with feather-light and sometimes sheer slip dresses, some covered in tiny beads. They impressed tennis star Maria Sharapova, who sat in the front row. Other celebrity guests included Alicia Keys and Jessica Pare of "Mad Men" fame. "Jason has a remarkable talent of creating a feminine and romantic look through the use of drapery and unique tailoring," Sharapova said.
Som paired the sportswear pieces with sateen tuxedo jackets, snakeskin coatS and eyelet cocktail dresses. A blue wave pattern in a neoprene sweatshirt dress was worn with a crisp, white button-down tux shirt, showing how to cross that bridge in style. Floral prints were graphic, almost jarring, and tailored Bermuda shorts had unfinished edges. The juxtaposition of seemingly opposite themes – a slouchy shirt with a feminine eyelet back worn with a tweed skirt – is what makes fashion interesting. "That tension is sexy," he said. "I'm never not interested then."
There was a glamorous whiff of scandal – make that "Scandal" – with Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington as guest judge for the "Project Runway" season finale. Washington, who plays a wily political strategist in her red-hot series, is a fast-growing fashion luminary – a development she described as an "occupational hazard," though a happy one. She joined regular judges Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen at the Lincoln Center tents to watch eight final contestants display their wares. But actually, there remain only three finalists. Their names will remain a secret to the rest of us until the "Runway" finale airs Oct. 17.
Fashionistas gushed not only over the creative casual clothes and the striking patterned gladiator heels, but also the entertainment: live music from singer Janelle Monae. Minkoff, a designer especially popular with younger women, has long used live music at her runway shows. This time, she partnered with American Express as part of their American Express Unstaged program, which pairs artists and makes their collaborations available through digital media. The runway show with Monae was live streamed, as was another mini-concert afterward in a private room nearby in the Lincoln Center tents, where Monae performed songs from her new album, "The Electric Lady," to be released next week.
CARMEN MARC VALVO
Valvo dove into fashion week with sequins and scuba influences. The opening look was a bright pink scuba stripe and leather cocktail dress with a black hemline. Bathing suits were more like loungewear. Whatever you want to call it, sign up Vanessa Williams, who was picking outfits from the front row.
Loose boyfriend trousers and slouchy, sleeveless tops came – surprise! – mostly in black and white. Design duo Nicole and Michael Colovos called the spring collection "an exercise in modern minimalism," which is familiar ground for the label. This time around, the clothes were both sharply tailored and deconstructed, inspired by the works of contemporary artist Wade Guyton, according to the designers' notes. Sheer overlays in modernist block patterns with a touch more color lent energy to some dresses and other looks. Bright fuchsia was the pop of color in chintzed silk organza dresses and skimpy shorts with tops in the same fabric.
CUSHNIE ET OCHS
Sleek and slim is nothing new for Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, but throw in all the cutouts, harnesses and bra tops and their latest collection might cause a craze for crunches. The clothes were fresh, chic and cool – in a ladylike way. But all that skin would make them hard to wear for the masses. The Cushnie et Ochs label is really for starlet types, anyway.
This show was largely a media – and social media – frenzy. The collection wasn't couture craftsmanship, and it wasn't visionary. It was commercial, and there were plenty of bloggers taking selfies in the front row. But the clothes were cute, wearable and affordable in a price range similar to Top Shop or Zara. Dresses on its website, for example, are priced from $100 to $200.
Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt in New York contributed to this report.