Knightsbridge to New York: A fashion buyers diary

As fashion buying director of Harvey Nichols, Averyl Oates is always on the trail of the hottest designers, the most desirable clothes and the freshest looks. Here's her hectic diary of last week's collections in the US...
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SATURDAY

We arrive dramatically in the late afternoon, amid torrential rain and hurricane warnings, and then race to Alexander Wang, one of the coolest "not to be missed" tickets in town. Wang's vision was a kaleidoscope of 1980s neon-brights, although he still retained elements of the grunge-girl aesthetic for which he is best known. He showed plenty of super-short, draped jersey pieces, body-con dresses and oversized cobweb-knits, plus leather shorts and Swarovski-encrusted sweatpants. This was a strong offering from Wang, who just seems to get better and better.



I end my first day on a high by seeing the hot, up-and-coming Elise Overland. As a former stylist for bands such as Aerosmith, she combines her rock'n'roll background with a soft touch. My favourite look was a pale green biker jacket worn over a soft pleated chiffon dress. In true Hollywood fashion, Overland recruited her friends to accessorise her presentation by adding bold bangles and oversized rings by Genevieve Jones (daughter of Quincy).

SUNDAY

I thought I was ready for the long day ahead, but I was not expecting my seat next to Winona Ryder and Nicole Richie at the first show of the day, DKNY. The label is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the clothes were young, fun and sporty, with a strong 1980s influence. Next, we race to the Waldorf Astoria for the 10 beautifully structured dresses by Victoria Beckham. In her words, "they epitomise my style and what I would wear".

Diane von Furstenberg had a strong gypsy-boho influence, with candyfloss colours and prints and floral hairbands adding a feminine touch; a theme of the season. Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton of Preen gave us their best collection yet; sexy, modern and cool, with silhouettes ranging from their hard body-con dresses to ethereal chiffon dresses with fantastic prints or ruffled detailing, and denim-washed, parachute silk skinny trousers.

Evening, and on to the infamous party for Calvin Klein's anniversary. On arrival, I understand why the evening has been such a closely guarded secret; the old railroad track in Chelsea (the high line) had been transformed into a garden of perfumed white roses, a vision of paradise by the architect John Pawson. I'm reminded I need to be at William Rast, the label from Justin Timberlake and his partner Trace Ayala. Key looks were washed denim, tasselled leather jackets, tartan and studded wrist-bands. Take note – boyfriend jackets are back!

MONDAY

All glamour aside, we hit today with the reality check of a run of buying appointments, most significant of which is Vera Wang Lavender Label. With Connie Darrow now at the helm as creative director, the line has evolved with a masterful contemporary edge.

There was a buzz at Thakoon, with buyers eagerly awaiting his vision of SS09, and we were not disappointed. The designer tempered the strong prints and feminine detailing with what he described as a "tough" edge.

If there were any doubts that the 1980s is a strong theme coming out of New York, then Proenza Schouler put them to bed. Huge Claude Montana-esque padded shoulders, nipped-waist jackets (were you around for those?), jumpsuits and exposed midriffs in leather croptops teamed with high-waisted, fitted silk trousers. Think Grace Jones!

Still keen to prove a point, Marc Jacobs started his show dead on 9pm amidst the panic of front-row stragglers! Clearly J-Lo and Victoria had been warned not to be late. To Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", Marc presented one of his most beautiful collections, with kaleidoscopic references and signature layering. Forties-style padded and extended shoulder details with high-waisted 1980s leather skirts, Victoriana decadence, rich brocades, Japanese prints and obi-belts contrasted with ginghams and lamé. Marc took his bow in skirt culottes, reinforcing the importance of this shape this season! It was romantic and dramatic, and now it's time for our nightcap at the Gramercy Park bar.

TUESDAY

No time for lunch as we run through the rain... The shows started with a trip to Ibiza courtesy of Matthew Williamson, whose vivid clash of deep reds and jewel purples on tailored trousers, waistcoats and jackets contrasted with micro bustier dresses in starburst salmon pink prints, and of course kaftans.

Next, the much-hyped newcomer Sophie Theallet, who worked with Azzedine Alaia for more than a decade. Hamish Bowles, Michael Roberts, Cathy Horyn and Grace Coddington were there to admire the Riviera chic (crisp white shirting, frothy white chiffon dresses and hibiscus prints) and scribbling a lot! Someone to keep an eye on...

Derek Lam's show was inspired by Coco Chanel in Venice 1939 and Venice Beach 2009. With a focus on fluidity and naturalness, Lam gave us (another) collection of effortless, slightly utilitarian, pieces in a beautifully subtle palette consisting mainly of nudes, blacks and whites. How can he go wrong?

The highlight of the week so far (next to Marc Jacobs) has to be Rodarte – a blend of Narnia and rock/romantic warrior. I could wax lyrical... The feel was of richness and depth, yet with the Mulleavy sisters' trademark fragility throughout. Tough leather perforated leggings and leather bras provided the underpinnings to intricately woven knits, fluted skirts and fantastic tailored trousers. The sculpted yet flowing gowns that closed the show, however, were the true masterpieces.

In need of light entertainment, we run into the hip Opening Ceremony store to buy the much-hyped must-have navy jumpsuit for next spring! On a roll, we hit Barneys and find the Current/Elliot skinny slouch and boyfriend jeans (sold out at Harvey Nichols).

On to Halston, whose set recreated the original Halston townhouse in 1967. Jersey and chiffon-draped fabrics in poppy, lemon, red, sapphire and tangerine were a great combination.

Thom Browne's catwalk was a (topical!) floodlit tennis court and my souvenir a ball from the US Open. Thom took us on a vivid journey of printed jumpsuits, tutu skirts and cropped trouser suits.

WEDNESDAY

Thank goodness I'm staying at the Royalton, barely three blocks from the tents at Bryant Park – I'm late and hobble in my Charlotte Olympia shoes to Michael Kors. Portofino glamour meets Malibu sportswear: Kors showed a graphic collection of bold stripes, spots and gingham with a mix of full-skirted, strapless Fifties silhouettes and sporty sculptured forms. Colour blocking is a recurring theme. For the lady who lunches, Oscar de la Renta turned out a great collection of dresses. One would be spoilt for choice – from chic, simple yet beautiful structured dresses to softer silhouettes.

THURSDAY

The Calvin Klein show was beautiful: airy and light, capturing both a space age and Eighties feel through a pale palette and volume. It was a very clever collection using skilled cutting and seaming techniques, almost making the garments cubic in form – as though designer Francisco Costa himself had scrunched them up and then re-pressed and seamed the fabrics.

KEY TRENDS

*Boho/hippie with psychedelic rainbow prints

*Short skirts

*Pelmet-bottomed jackets or layered tulip shaped skirts

*The Eighties. DayGlo sports inspiration, or shoulder pads and power dressing à la Grace Jones

*Key items – jumpsuits, minis, harem trousers, waisted jackets

*Bustier dresses

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