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Confident NY Fashion Week kicks off

New York's Autumn-Winter Fashion Week kicked off Thursday in New York with designer clothing houses and the luxury sector feeling well heeled in a resurgent economy.

Putting the threadbare days of the global recession behind them, global fashionistas began gathering at Manhattan catwalks as earnings reports pointed to renewed good times.

Italy's Prada announced turnover of 2.04 billion euros in 2010, up 31 percent on the previous year. Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Levi's and other pret-a-porter labels also saw an upswing, mostly thanks to Asian-based consumers.

Prada alone saw sales in Asia rise by 48 percent over the year, the industry publication Women's Wear Daily reported.

At Lincoln Center, home of the New York fashion weeks, Asian fashionistas had a big presence, with South Korean, Japanese and Chinese bloggers, journalists and clients taking shelter from freezing cold outside.

In what is a tradition now, BCBG Max Azria opened proceedings, displaying next year's fall colors of mustard, Bordeaux and grey, with white dots bringing definition to otherwise sheer bodysuits.

Long looks - sometimes with long slits to show off long legs - came in crepe dresses with pleats and ending in white turtleneck bodies. The preview also featured fur-lined flannel, ready for next year's cold season.

Even if access to the shows themselves remains highly restricted, fashion lovers can take advantage of the now nearly standard live streaming on the Internet of most collections.

The official calendar announces the broadcast of runway action, in contrast to last year when just a few designers took part in the experiment and most shows only appeared online hours after the event.

Broadcasts appear on labels' houses, their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

Following BCBG came Korean-American Richard Chai, a former collaborator with Marc Jacobs, also showing long lines and pleated schoolgirl skirts.

Fashion Week, as always, is as much about the people as what they wear, and this year the father of fashion bloggers, Bill Cunningham of the New York Times, sees himself in the limelight.

The photographer, famous for extravagant snaps of fashionistas on the streets of New York, will be the subject of a documentary "Bill Cunningham New York" out March 16.

Meanwhile, green was the new black at an environmentally minded New York design school.

Students at the Parsons The New School for Design have come up with "zero waste" fashion, a pun on the controversial popularity on catwalks of skeletal, zero-size models.

"The goal was to create an organic garment with no scraps," said Janelle Abbott, 21, who was a finalist in the student exhibition organized jointly with Loomstate, an eco-friendly label.

Timo Rissanen, 35, assistant professor in Fashion Design and Sustainability, said the average wastage in clothes making is 15 percent. Although recycling is possible, it is also costly.

The idea of "zero waste is as old as clothing," he said. "The Japanese kimono is zero waste, the old underwear in 19th century Europe was mostly zero waste, and American Indians used everything too. It's the industrial revolution which is the cause of the huge waste."

What's hard is making the clothes beautiful as well as virtuous.

"It is very easy to do ugly zero waste," Rissanen said.