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American dreams: New York designers in the mood for romance

Floral prints, floaty Seventies chic, Gothic glamour – New York designers were in the mood for romance at the autumn shows, says Harvey Nichols' Averyl Oates


Alexander Wang

He's done it again! This relatively new designer on the scene has become the prince of cool.

He continues to evolve and mature, without forgetting to give us an element of surprise. In a Gothic romantic mood, Wang took a more polished direction this season. Grey flannels and pinstripe tailoring were deconstructed to give his girls edge and sex appeal, and mini flared leggings are sure to be sought after. He has also brought back the backpack in that "I must have it" way that only he can do.

Elise Overland

Peaches Geldof, Heidi Klum, Genevieve Jones (Quincy's daughter), Henry Holland, and model Maggie Rizer were all here to see Overland's rock-and-roll take on sexy mini-dresses. Not forgetting her roots designing stretch leather leggings, she has moved on to give us the perfect LBD in draped fabric or zipped leather.


This newcomer to the fashion scene was a hot ticket. The third collection from Joseph Altuzarra, former design assistant to Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, and winner of the Ecco Domani prize this year (for emerging designers), was a bold show of sexy dresses and fierce outerwear. The S&M, Draculean theme in New York was in full effect; witness the dramatic black leather and goat-hair coats. Sexy slashed dresses came with plunging necklines; think Robert Palmer meets rock Alaïa.



Thakoon presented a beautiful romantic collection in muted shades of creams with whites, and blacks with greys. His message? Volume. To the sound of what seemed like a beating heart, models came out in layered dresses and coats which showed off his craftsmanship. Thakoon's signature shift dresses – soft and fluid – came in patched, shaven and crocheted wool. Rumpled velvets, matelasse cable jackets and cardigans with fringes, pom-poms or ruffle-trim details, topped with fur gilets, added up to a wonderfully wearable collection.


A beautifully put together, flirty show with many essential pieces. Muted separates, mini-skirts, sweater dresses and coats all featured in contrasting textures. Jumpers and dresses came with colour blocking and geometric patterns, while the tailoring was slightly androgynous, with slouchy tops, boyfriend jackets and pea coats all making an appearance. Will the riding cap be a must-have for next winter?

Diane Von Furstenberg

Another upbeat collection which started to the strains of Je T'aime. The show notes quoted DVF herself: "I always wanted to live a man's life in a woman's body." This set the scene for the continuation of the androgynous trend, again featuring boyfriend cardigans and knit coats shown with pom-pom caps. A range of textures was in focus, from furry-looking knits to feathery, laser-cut chiffon.


Zac Posen

Always glamorous, Posen's party dresses were short and sassy. The collection exuded a Seventies vibe with flared trousers and caped jackets; grown-up tailoring with an edge.

Donna Karan

Black is back as Donna Karan presented a standout, architecturally inspired collection to mark her 25th anniversary. With only a few shots of colour, Donna showed us what she calls "the power of a woman". Volume and texture were key, highlighting sculptured and rounded silhouettes in wools, brocades and matelasse. In a strong season for coats, she showed powerful cocoon shapes in printed shearling, organza tweed and weightless wool over figure-hugging jersey bodysuits.


Marios Schwab's first collection for Halston was inspired by the Seventies thriller Eyes of Laura Mars, and there was more than a nod to Halston's own archives. Long, lean evening gowns came in jersey, alongside mini-dresses in jersey, satin and leather. Designed to flatter, they came in petrol blue and classic Halston red. A very clean, beautiful debut.

Marc Jacobs

Always my favourite show in New York, Marc Jacobs did not disappoint. The New York State Armoury was covered in stapled wooden crates and models stood by a plinth before walking out to the strains of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The collection was beautifully elegant, picking up on that vintage inspiration that Jacobs does so well. Another theme coming through here is the Fifties; long, tailored skirts with A-line jackets, trouser suits and pretty, feminine dresses. Knitwear was embellished with silver sequins and sparkles, while the final long dresses in pale nudes, pearls and greys made the models look like modern mermaids.


A day of constant snowfall and the risk of broken bones as we run to shows, negotiating icy pavements...

Derek Lam

Lam showed a beautiful collection of simple yet luxurious pieces in rich neutrals, and the stage setting, featuring snow drifting down from the ceiling, romantically mirrored the flakes falling outside. Bare-legged models wearing chunky ankle boots and furs echoed one of the major trends of the season – refined luxury sportswear, something American designers are known for. A modern urban cowgirl theme informed dresses and blouses with fringing, but the overall impression that Lam left us with was a wardrobe of investment daywear and outerwear.


Romance is in the air, and with the sprinkling of white paper pailettes on the runway, the scene was set for a dreamy, ethereal show. It was all about pastels this time for Rodarte, a departure from their traditional Gothic themes. Models resembled ghostly, sleepwalking goddesses, in beautiful, floral-printed chiffon and lace dresses. Signature knits still featured heavily but in much softer colours this season. Macramé, (a key trend), was layered on dresses, blouses and sheer leggings, while Navajo patterns appeared on blanket coats and fringed skirts. As always, the detailing was exquisite, even couture-like.

Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs is a bi-annual trend barometer and this season was no different. With the usual modern-vintage feel, the show delivered cool, cleverly styled pieces. There was a strong military theme with army cargo pants, olive green ponchos, and coats and jackets with medal-like stripes and flap utility pockets. There were plenty of dresses, more macramé, and white crocheted fabric played a big part. The Fifties theme was also in the mix with an A-line silhouette on jackets and skirts, and belted skirt and trouser suits. You can see why these pieces always fly out of the store.

The Row

The first catwalk show from (a nervous) Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen was strong and sophisticated. Born out of Ashley's desire to create the perfect T-shirt, this line of staple pieces is one of the most successful celebrity labels. Simple elegance was the message from the 20 looks. In rich creams and blacks: chic sweaters, dresses, and coats could all be dressed up or down, while flowing skirts conveyed grace and ease.


Proenza Schouler

Wow: with a front row that included Mary-Kate Olsen, Chloé Sevigny, Selma Blair and Nicole Ritchie, the Milk Studios venue was buzzing before the first look even came down the runway. The look, a cropped toggle jacket was reminiscent of Proenza's debut show, but the high-waist graffiti print skinny jeans (made with J Brand) brought this look straight into 2010.

Photocopied and manipulated plaids were engineered into the jacquard patterns used on their mini babydoll and A-line dresses, while a stark colour palette of black and charcoal was brought to life with jewel-like pops of sapphire, emerald and citrine. This is always one of my favourite shows; it didn't disappoint.

3.1 Philip Lim

Returning to the late Seventies, when disco collided with punk, Lim showed a strong collection inspired by the Studio 54 era. Think high-waisted, flared trousers in black suede, silk and a heavy animal print. There was a pared-down sensibility to Halston-esque jersey capes and silk asymmetric dresses, while sheepskin biker jackets and buckled capes added the new wave punk edge.

Michael Kors

New York Fashion Week has been all about wearable, luxe American sportswear for autumn and this is where Michael Kors reigns.

This show was a luxurious explosion of butter- soft camel suede jackets, chunky cashmere knits and sensuous jersey gowns. Mr Kors knows how to the dress the well-heeled girl about town. The perfect jet-set wardrobe for a long weekend in the Hamptons or a sojourn to Martha's Vineyard.

Averyl Oates is Buying Director of Harvey Nichols