New York Fashion Week: The brights of spring

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At the New York shows Averyl Oates, the buying director of Harvey Nichols, finds feminine shapes, floral prints and ice-cream colours

Even though it's been depressingly cold in the UK, it's been sweltering here in New York. Relentless traffic and a packed schedule proved challenging at times, but the energy, colour and positive all-American "can-do" attitude are always an inspiring element to New York Fashion Week. Luxe sport offerings and animated avant-garde digitised prints have proved key, as has the colour yellow and fetish impulses. Particularly impressive are the young American designers.

Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung is proving to be one of fashion's "new guard" designers. After Sarah Jessica Parker wore one of the designer's gowns during Fashion's Night Out a couple of weeks ago, the front row was packed with the beautiful and fabulous, from outlandish rapper Nicki Minaj to model Elettra Wiedemann. Structured whimsy and an abundance of amazing graphics and prints were inspired by Nobuyoshi Araki's Sensual Flowers.

Helmut Lang

Next, it was on to one of my favourite brands, Helmut Lang, and design duo Nicole and Michael Colovos' first runway appearance. Actress Rose McGowan and Misshapes DJ Leigh Lezark sat front row in the currently disused Hudson River Park Pier 57, an enormous ex-cargo transport pier in the middle of a construction site. Models wore sharply cut tailoring, washed prints, jersey drapes, asymmetric cuts, all in a simple yet striking colour palette of black, white, grey and yellow.



Alexander Wang

Wang has trademarked the glossy-grunge-streetwear-meets-sport aesthetic. Perforated leather bombers, iridescent city shorts, sleeveless laser-cut blazers, pumped-up silk shirts and slick, black pants teamed with "just out of the shower" hair, will appeal. BMX/motocross influences combined delicate floral watercolour prints with tight pants, cropped jackets, leather bandanas, industrial-sized zips and even the odd motorcycle helmet.

Altuzarra

Another leading talent of the new generation, Joseph Altuzarra, really proved himself this season. The designer explored his grunge, fetish and utilitarian inspirations, initially with monochromatic, tailored combinations which then hit a curve with psychedelic Hawaiian prints splashed across silk shifts, trousers and jumpsuits and peeking through slits carved into fluted hems and cinched waists, piped down the leg of a cigarette pant or decorating a sleeve.

Victoria Beckham

This season saw Victoria Beckham's first fully fledged runway show. Held in the New York Public Library, it showcased her recurring signature of elegant, hourglass silhouettes with structured cocoon wool coats, and form-fitting full-length dresses. Ms Beckham also capitalised on the sporty aesthetic that has been popping up all over New York this week. Hats off to her for somehow managing to achieve the impossible and designing two collections, having a baby and still being a poster girl for the glamorous side of fashion – all without seemingly batting an eyelid! Her second line – Victoria by Victoria Beckham – is a feminine, pretty collection and one that we are extremely excited to launch.

DVF

Susan Sarandon, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino all turned out for Diane von Furstenberg's show, where designer Yvan Mispelaere showed his best collection for the label thus far. Clean, crisp and sophisticated, it was called Beginnings, as a tribute to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 that day.

Preen

Designer couple Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton's inspiration was literary heroine Virginia Woolf. Aside from some flashes of virginal white lace, however, the execution was far more avant-garde, including hi-tech, pixelated, pastel geometrics, trompe l'oeil prints and glitterball sequins.

Donna Karan

At Donna Karan we were treated to a show of luxe sportswear. Everything was soft, raw and rugged, and swept from the Hamptons to Parrot Cay and the NYC streets. After travelling to Haiti, she brought these two worlds together with a vibrant, sophisticated and sexy collection.

Ralph Lauren

The release of the remake of The Great Gatsby is imminent, and Ralph Lauren's show was a taster. The venue was an idyllic English garden of sorts. Models wore silk pyjama pants, pretty bias-cut tea dresses and the designer's riff on Daisy Buchanan's summer hat. Androgynous tailoring contrasted with full-length gowns that swooshed down the runway and had red-carpet dressing written all over them.

Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs cited the 1920s as the influence for his collection too. In this case, though, it was mashed up in an abstract, space-age fashion. Futuristic flapper girls wore cloche hats, tailored separates and drop-waist dresses embellished with high-shine fringing, sequins and cellophane. For the designer's second line – Marc by Marc Jacobs – grown-up cuts with a youthful outlook was the story: sleeveless silk shirts, oversized yet crisp cocoon shirt-dresses, full-length jumpsuits, A-line drawstring skirts and colour-pop holdalls.

Rodarte

The Mulleavy sisters treated us to a mash-up of Walt Disney's original 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty and Van Gogh's Sunflowers. Burnished golds and yellows were used across a collection that featured structured separates – including cigarette pants and sleeveless jackets with sci-fi triangular shoulders – juxtaposed with boho full-length dresses. My favourite was a retro-1970s full-length gown with tulle overlay and Van Gogh-inspired sunflower print.

Theyskens' Theory

Olivier Theyskens creates the perfect wardrobe mix for the cool, downtown girls of NY, and to this end he surely satisfied. Slick, wet-look T-shirts teamed with cropped leather waistcoats, boxy tweed jackets worn with high-waisted denim shorts that could certainly pass muster in the office, and louche, stylish knits were all standout elements for me.

Proenza Schouler

The designers' inspiration was space-age Googie architecture and the stylistic details of the 1940s, including neat A-line dresses and nipped-in waists. New York's fascination with print rumbled on as we were treated to glimpses of 1950s Hawaii and swirling florals. The sexy sophistication for which the duo are known and the detail and intricacies of the workmanship shone through. Burnt orange, cobalt blue and sunshine yellow left the audience on a happy high.

L'Wren Scott

This show opened with an upbeat assortment of beaming and buoyant 1940s-inspired shift dresses, Capri pants and snappy jackets in sky blues and sunny yellows. The glamorous French Riviera set were cited as the inspiration behind sweeping silk, silver-screen gowns and jewels, sequins and sparkle scattered across the collection. A particularly beautiful poppy-print gown hugged the model's figure in all the right places.

Calvin Klein

Opting for a delicately sensuous approach, Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa sent models meandering down the catwalk in a selection of wispy, glossy, silk slips, some balanced with elongated tailored jackets. An all-black sequence was more moody but such things are relative and in no way disrupted the pared-back elegance and beauty of it all.

Showroom Appointments

J Brand After setting denim trends with skinny styles, cargo silhouettes and bright colours, J Brand branched into sportswear. From next spring, the company will offer a new collection to complement the denim of easygoing, uncomplicated and subtly sophisticated minimal jackets to toss over jeans, cropped khaki macs cinched at the waist and hand-knitted bolero sweaters.

The Row Harvey Nichols exclusively launched The Row with the Olsen twins back in 2007 and it was an immediate hit. Best described as relaxed minimalist luxe, it's clear that the girls work hard on the cut and shape of each of their pieces. From oversized kaftans to maxis with sheer hems, their latest collection was swathed in clean-coloured silk and looked just as beautiful on the hanger as it had at the show.

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