K-factor provides a grand finale

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The Independent Online

Fashion Editor

The ready-to-wear collections for autumn/winter '96 ended yesterday in New York with Ralph Lauren, who had moved his show at the last minute from a spacious tent to his more intimate showroom.

Donna Karan started the trend for a more selective presentation; Calvin Klein, wisely, did not see the point of further restricting numbers who could see his show. Venues aside, both Karan and Klein presented strong collections, a relief after a low-key season.

Karan went back to doing what she does best - comfortable, functional clothes for the working woman. The designer has created the bodyhose unitard - a stretch wool catsuit with a back panel made of thick stocking fabric to ensure a close body-hugging fit. There was also the bodyshirt, the bodysweater and the shirtsweater.

For evening, Karan had a few options: a satin halter-neck catsuit, a crushed velvet evening coat, a strapless dress made of ribbed cashmere, or a long velvet devore column dress where flecks of jewel coloured velvet hung suspended on silk chiffon.

Klein's collection was similarly long and lean, with an emphasis on knitwear. The spare minimalism of the past few seasons was softened with draping necklines, bell-shaped sleeves, optical prints and jersey dresses with asymmetric blocks of colour.