New York stories: Highlights from the Spring 2011 shows

Everything from cool minimalism to colourful Seventies retro appeared at the New York shows for spring 2011. Averyl Oates, buying director for Harvey Nichols, shares her highlights
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Altuzarra

Despite being just 27, the Paris-born designer Joseph Altuzarra shows a mature precision and this was his strongest collection so far, inspired by everything from the Sixties through to urban street culture.

Cool metallic collars appeared on sexy sheath dresses, while sleek jersey gowns were given an edge with snakeskin inserts, although the cone-shaped bras will be reserved for only the most daring customers. The result was a uniquely modern collection, and the patchworked dresses are a definite must for next season. We will be watching this new creative talent for a long time to come.

Alexander Wang

At Alexander Wang, the model's favourite designer and purveyor of all things black surprised us with a well-executed collection of mostly white looks. (White, incidentally, is shaping up as the colour of the spring/summer 2011 season.) Wang's smart interpretation of the judo jacket and parachute pants showed him using Japanese and martial-arts-style themes to achieve a much softer, cleaner silhouette. A new direction and one that adds to our conviction that he is an influential force in fashion. The designer went on to tease the audience with a dash of mint, coral and outstanding graffiti prints for the finale. I loved his wide-legged carpenter pants, which could be worn with one of the vests from his more reasonably priced T by Alexander Wang line.

Marc Jacobs

A homage to the Seventies, inspired by the New York Dolls and Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs' collection also had a distinct Studio 54 feel about it. While everyone else is exploring pale shades and white, Jacobs embraced strong colour in a big way: cerise, pink and orange were all there. There were trouser suits, Missoni-esque zig-zag knit dresses and jumpers, sexy halterneck, chiffon and silk/jersey dresses, hot pants and strapless jumpsuits with daring, thigh-high splits. As always, the styling was impeccable, and sure to set the trends. Look out for gold, glitter platforms, chain bags and wide-brimmed hats à la Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver.

Marc by Marc Jacobs

For his diffusion label, Marc by Marc Jacobs, the tattooed designer showed a cleaner, sportier take on the Seventies theme. There were slouchy jumpsuits, some in parachute silk – a key fabric for next season – striped jersey tank dresses, shorts (which are still big news, especially on the streets of New York), and T-shirts. High-waisted and mid-length skirts were worn with tight sweaters, and trousers were teamed with polka-dot pussy-bow blouses. Dresses were key and there were so many to choose from: a pretty grey jersey dress, flirty halterneck dress and embroidered dresses that will fly off the shelves.

Rodarte

Possibly one of the most beautiful shows I have ever seen. As models walked out to the sound of "The End" by the Doors, the Seventies influence that has been sweeping New York was apparent yet again. So too was a Navajo theme, but there was also something so romantic about this show, in the jackets with cut-out shoulders, embroidered dresses worn with draped skirts over the top (layering is another key trend), pleated trousers, shorts, and Chinese-inspired tops all in shades of brown and gold. The Ming-vase-print dresses added a flash of bright colour to the collection as a whole and offered a soft contrast to some of the harder looks. The gold lame gladiator-style dresses were exquisite. You can see why LVMH is rumoured to have its eyes on these girls.

Donna Karan

Donna Karan's latest collection is called "Raw Romance" and it was exactly that; there was not even a hint of her signature black. Instead the palette was all gold, tan, cream and honey, and jackets came in crumpled, stretched satin or silk, washed linen and leather – all very natural. The collection had a sensual feel to it, with crepe bias-cut slip dresses caressing the body and a vintage-style long nubuck skirt. The finale of delicately embroidered bronze evening dresses in liquid silk were to die for. As Karan herself says: "These clothes are modern, weightless and effortless – ready to romance the urban nomad wherever she goes." Over at DKNY, there was a definite New York theme coming through, from the invitation through to the backdrop spelling out "tongue-in-chic" New York-style slogans such as "Big Apple of My Eye".

Diane Von Furstenberg

This was ex-Gucci designer Yvan Mispelaere's first collection for the glamorous Ms Von Furstenberg – watched by the Sex in the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker in the front row – and it was an incredibly polished one with a goddess theme. "It started when we took our first walk together through Paris to see the Isadora Duncan show," Von Furstenberg said, and this influence came through in the draped dresses. The classic DVF prints were there, but were bolder and stronger, and again tailoring was paramount in the form of pant suits and skinny trousers. Sleeveless hooded jumpsuits made me yearn for next summer. Now.

Phillip Lim

Keeping with his familiar theme of simple, wearable clothes, this season Phillip Lim introduced layering and geometric shapes to the mix. Pieces such as a black laser-edged T-shirt were very pretty and there were little skirts with peplums and jumpers over the top. The neutral colour palette saw nude tulle mixed with black to give the illusion of bare skin. My favourite piece was the classic trench, which looked particularly chic in organza. Sheer was also a big story, on the backs of T-shirts and shift dresses. Although the show seemed simple and pared down, it had a strong luxury feel about it. Lim's very loyal customer base won't be disappointed next season.

Preen

With a front row that included models Kelly Brook and Liberty Ross, stylist Caroline Seiber and actress Margo Stilley, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi from Preen followed a Back To The Future theme. Models were dressed in futuristic Sixties-influenced mini skirts, dresses and beautiful trouser suits where the only structure was the peplum detailing. There was a definite contrast between hard and soft, and the palette, here once again, was predominantly pale. Beautiful broderie anglaise prom-style dresses were belted under the bust, and draped dresses came with cut-out backs.

Proenza Schouler

The Proenza Schouler girl is a lady next season. This was a grown-up collection in which hemlines dropped for a more mature silhouette. Coco Chanel-inspired tweed jackets – sure to attract a waiting list – were worn with knee-length skirts and Chanel-style pumps, and ruffles featured on slip dresses. A truly feminine collection.

Ralph Lauren

Navajo meets Victoriana seemed to be the look for Ralph Lauren next season, making for a strong show, while upholding the DNA of the brand. White crochet, crisp cotton and voile appeared on ruffled sleeves and poet's blouses, while the pale theme continued into off-white or tan, fringed, leather jackets. Fluid and dressed down, each look was worn with antique cowboy belts and tan ornamental chokers with Navajo cross-body bags. My favourite look was the faded green plaid cotton work shirt, refreshingly combined with a platinum lamé beaded skirt and antique silver woven chain sandals.

Trends – Need to know

Seventies, a return to femininity, romance, utilitarian, peplums and an emphasis on the hips. Scarves, draping, simplicity, shorts, high waists and flares. Cleansing the palette, monochrome with a nod to colour blocking. Texture, layering, parachute silk.

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